India woos foreign film-makers with faster approvals

NEW DELHI (AFP) - India has simplified rules for foreign moviemakers wanting to film in the country and is promising speedy approval of projects, after frustrating redtape and delays were blamed for crews shooting elsewhere.

The ministry of information and broadcasting said it was "inviting" foreign film-makers to make their movies in India - "a country with locations of untold beauty".

"We have simplified the procedure for shooting of films by foreigners in India," the ministry of information and broadcasting said on its website.

"Your permission to shoot should not take more than three weeks to process," an undated notice on the website said on Wednesday.

The move comes after global business consultancy Ernst and Young in a report last year called India's lack of simplified clearance for filming a "primary obstacle" to attracting foreign moviemakers.

Under the old rules, foreign film-makers needed 70 approvals and licences from different Indian government authorities to shoot movies in the country, the Ernst and Young report said.

The new rules tell applicants to send a letter with proposed dates and sites for shooting the movie as well as cast member names and a US$225 (S$285) cheque, the website said.

Bureaucratic red-tape was blamed for India losing at least 18 big-budget foreign movies over four years to 2012, the report by Ernst and Young said.

Special approval, in consultation with India's home ministry, is still needed to shoot movies in the picturesque, revolt-hit regions of Indian Kashmir and the northeast as well as in sensitive border belts.

Despite the simplification, it was not clear whether the new rules would change India's sensitivity to scenes that it feels show the country in an unfavourable light.

In 2012, India hit the headlines when it asked makers of the recent James Bond hit "Skyfall" to change a stunt showing people travelling on train rooftops, saying it would depict the state-run railway in a poor light.

The film in the end was not made in India due to various problems including bureaucratic delays, according to media reports, and was shot in Turkey, Japan and Scotland among other locations, reports said.

Broadcasting minister Manish Tewari flagged plans last October to change the rules in a bid to attract more foreigners, saying "any lost opportunity is a revenue loss for the country".

Even under the old system, a number of recent Hollywood box office hits were filmed in India including "Eat, Pray and Love, and "Life of Pi".

India also plans to update its 1952 Cinematographic Act which governs censorship and assigns classifications to films that critics say is outdated.

India is seeking to compete with other countries which are offering incentives to attract movie producers to shoot films there.

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