Her film resume is long enough to be the envy of any struggling starlet. With daily earnings that cross five digits, you could call her a true veteran of the film industry. That’s Sophia College for Women for you — currently the top-rated college in Bollywood. From Ishq Vishq (2003) to Murder (2004) and Lage Raho Munnabhai (2006), not to mention every second advertisement on TV, the college reportedly rakes in a cool Rs 35,000 a day.
Competing with Sophia’s in the ad film category is St Xavier’s College, which reportedly charges up to Rs 60,000 a day. It doesn’t allow feature films to be shot on campus, Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na being the only exception.“Most ad shoots take place in St Xavier’s if a script demands a college or school vibe,” explains Piyush Pandey, chairman of ad agency Ogilvy and Mather, South Asia. “The architectural quality of buildings, like Wilson and Sophia, makes them stand out. These locations help establish, in just one shot, that the place is a college. Modern school buildings look too generic.”
Yogesh Tevatiya, executive producer of Tees Maar Khan, explains why some colleges win over others. “Sophia College is most accessible and easy to work with. They take a sum of Rs 60,000 and half of it is refundable. They only charge 35,000 per day, which is why most production houses prefer shooting there.”He is currently shooting Tees Maar Khan in a banquet hall in Rajiv Gandhi Engineering College, which costs about Rs 70,000 a day. “Riteish Deshmukh was instrumental in getting us the location,” he reveals.
In all cases, the money earned from film shoots is used to support the upkeep of the buildings. Principal Fr Fraser Mascarenhas says, “Being a heritage structure, we spend a huge sum in maintaining the beauty of St Xavier’s College. The money earned from shoots only covers a small portion of that.” Wilson College used to be another favourite, having featured in Dil Chahta Hai. Explaining why Wilson and St Xavier’s are now off the movie map, Tevatiya says that shooting in heritage structures might require additional permissions from archaeological societies.
Also, films need a controlled environment to avoid any disturbances in the schedule. He says, “Old English structures with greenery are preferred. The campus must be big enough to accommodate the entire crew, so colleges like St Andrew’s, Bandra or Jai Hind, Churchgate don’t fit the bill. As for Mithibai or Rizvi, you don’t even know that there’s a college there unless you see a signboard.”
Some colleges play harder to get than others. The lead up to the Dil Chahta Hai (2001) climax was shot in Wilson College, Chowpatty. But the location, Bollywood’s favourite, no longer allows shoots on their premises.
St Xavier’s College probably features in more advertisements than Amitabh Bachchan does, but the college has only played host to Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na (2008) when it comes to films. Principal Fr Fraser Mascarenhas reveals that the college was only let out because the director was an alumnus. “We only allow short ad films to be shot on our campus. The film Jaane Tu… was being directed by a former student, so we made an exception.” Though industry sources claim that Aamir Khan had to personally request the college to let out their premises, director Abbas Tyrewala insists that it was his “impassioned letter” to the college that did the convincing.
“We knew that nobody else has shot in St Xavier’s recently, but as an ex-student, I really wanted to capture my memories there. I laid it on thick in my letter, begging them to allow us to shoot. Between my assurances and the credibility of Aamir Khan productions, we were granted permission.” Even then, Tyrewala’s access to the sprawling campus was restricted. “We couldn’t shoot in the library, perhaps because the books are so painstakingly catalogued, and they didn’t want to risk any disruption. We also had to make sure that the crew did not smoke on campus. The chapel stairs were off limits to us even as students, and it remained that way during the shoot.”
Making an exception for Wake Up Sid, HR College of Commerce and Economics, Churchgate finds it too inconvenient to give out their campus for film shoots. “It is only because Karan Johar is an alumnus of our institution and was the producer of the film, that we allowed him to use the campus, free of cost,” reveals principal Rekha Bahadur.
Jai Hind College in Churchgate doesn’t allow any shoots on their college campus either. Principal Kirti Narain explains, “Ours is a very small campus and it is impractical for film shoots. It is open to our students, but we do not give it out commercially.”
Follow the rules
Just because the members of the film crew aren’t college students, doesn’t mean they don’t have to follow rules. Most institutions have a heavy checklist that production teams must adhere to, or they risk being expelled.
Most colleges ask for written applications to be made, including the basic skeleton of the script. Says the principal of Sophia’s College, “If we feel that the script promotes ideas or products that counter the values of the institution, we don’t allow the shoot.”
No smoking on campus — This rule applies to absolutely everyone. Abbas Tyrewala recalls that during the shoot of his film, Jaane Tu… in St. Xavier’s College, he had to make sure that nobody smoked within the walls of the college. “The principal would drop by, every now and then, just to check on what we were up to. Luckily, we only got a smile and a pat on the back.”
Shoots are only allowed on Sundays or on holidays so that regular academic schedules are not disturbed.
No loud music or noise of any sort is allowed, especially in colleges situated in residential areas.
Students are discouraged from participating in shoots, even as extras. According to the principal of Sophia’s College, “We can only allow students to participate once they get parental permission, and that is very difficult to verify. So we have made a blanket rule not allowing students to participate at all.”
Some colleges don’t allow photographs to be taken inside the campus. Only video shoots are allowed.