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Capital's own 'shooting' star

Ravi Sarin is Bollywood dream merchants' favourite Delhiite, especially when they have to shoot their films in the Capital. Sarin is the man they turn to for making all their shooting arrangements here. For them, he seeks mandatory permissions, gets lighting and camera arrangements done, scouts for locations, junior artistes and accommodation for crew…

delhi Updated: Apr 29, 2012 00:23 IST
Manoj Sharma

Ravi Sarin is Bollywood dream merchants' favourite Delhiite, especially when they have to shoot their films in the Capital. Sarin is the man they turn to for making all their shooting arrangements here. For them, he seeks mandatory permissions, gets lighting and camera arrangements done, scouts for locations, junior artistes and accommodation for crew…

"Most filmmakers now feel that Delhi is the key to their film's success. They give me a call when they want to shoot in the Capital," says Sarin.

So far, the 40-year-old has managed the shoots of over 100 Bollywood films in Delhi, including Chak De! India, Delhi-6, Dev.D, No One Killed Jessica, Band Baaja Baaraat, 3 Idiots, Agent Vinod, and the recently released Hate Story, among others.

In real life, Bollywood's favourite Delhiite is a stout, pleasant man, more comfortable with Hindi than English. He was born in UP's Moradabad and grew up in Jabalpur in Madhya Pradesh, where his father worked in an ordnance factory. His first brush with tinsel town took place in 1996.

"I had no film background and was looking for work when I got the job of a production executive at Marwah Studios in Noida. I was soon assigned to coordinate for the shooting of the film Sirf Tum in Delhi. Those days, Bollywood was least interested in Delhi. There was no infrastructure. We had to use four fire brigade vans to create a rain scene," recalls Sarin, who terms producer Boney Kapoor and Sandeep Marwah, the owner of Marwah Studios, his godfathers.

Today, Sarin makes arrangements for the shoot of roughly 15 to 25 films in Delhi every year. He says his job has become easier as many Mumbai-based companies, that provide film production equipment, have shifted base to Delhi in the past few years as more outdoor film shoots happen here than in Mumbai. "I have shoots of big films lined up in Delhi till February next year," says Sarin, who lives in Noida with his wife and two sons.

In 2003, Sarin for the first time arranged for a film shoot in Delhi Metro for Bewafaa. He says he had a hard time convincing Metro officials about the fee. "They had quoted a steep figure R5 lakh per hour. I showed them the charges for shooting in Kolkata Metro which was R20,000 per hour then. Finally, they settled for R1.2 lakh per hour," says Sarin.

But why is Delhi attracting so many filmmakers of late? Sarin, who floated Ravi Sarin Productions in 2006, says Mumbai has been used as a backdrop in too many films and has become over-exposed. Moreover, the city is too congested now for outdoor shoots. Delhi, with its diverse cityscape dotted with ancient monuments, malls, gardens and Metro, provides the perfect backdrop for films aimed at multiplex audiences. "Also, shooting here is cheaper. Renting a bungalow in Mumbai will cost at least R1.5 lakh for a day compared to R25,000 here," he adds.

Chandni Chowk is the top shooting destination of most filmmakers, Sarin says, adding that India Gate and Humayun's Tomb too are popular. "I have shot 18 films in Chandni Chowk. Also, I arrange a lot of shoots at farmhouses and bungalows in Mehrauli. We shoot scenes of ministerial bungalows at Arya Orphanage building on Barakhamba Road," he says.

Sarin also lauds the fact that Delhi behaves nicely during shoots, though he does get a lot of requests from fans who want to be photographed with the stars. "While actors like Aamir Khan and Saif Ali Khan do not mind, others like Salman Khan do not entertain such requests. I deploy bouncers to keep over-enthusiastic fans at bay," says Sarin.

He also arranges for accommodation for the crew from Mumbai, which usually has about 70 members. The lead stars, directors, executive producers and cameramen fall in A category and are given five-star accommodation. Others are put up in Karol Bagh hotels during the shoot, which can stretch to even two months.

Sarin also points to the fact that these days Bollywood is scouting for most of its junior artistes in Delhi and not in Mumbai. "They get more good-looking junior artistes here. I often send junior artistes from Delhi to other parts of the country," he says.

Sarin, who chooses potential locations for film shoots, says permissions are not always easy to come by. He has to apply at the local DCP office, civic body and the traffic police for shooting permissions. "These days, I am unable to secure permission to shoot in Connaught Place though the colonial shopping arcade is the heart of the city and essential to any Delhi-centric film. Also, authorities do not give us permission to shoot at India Gate easily. In fact, I have all lost all my hair due to all this running around for permissions," rues Sarin, pointing to his bald head.

And what do the stars do when they are in Delhi? Sarin says he takes them, and sometimes, their families to Dilli Haat, DLF Emporio and Karim's restaurant for outings. "Mumbai does not have a luxury mall like Emporio. Many A-category crew members like to shop there and want to eat at Karim's," says Sarin, who counts Abhishek Bachchan, Jackie Shroff, Ajay Devgn and Saif among his friends.

"In fact, many directors have offered me bit roles in their films. But I have politely turned them down, saying I'm happy arranging for the lights and cameras rather than be a part of the action," quips Sarin, who is presently busy arranging for the shoot of Pahlaj Nihalani's Avatar in May.