Lucknow is well-known for majestic monuments, lip-smacking cuisine and an active political scene, so it’s hardly surprising that the capital of Uttar Pradesh is also in high demand by Hindi filmmakers. Bollywood has been in and out of Lucknow, from Mere Huzoor, Umrao Jaan and Shatranj Ke Khiladi in the past to Sehar and Umrao Jaan in the 2000s. Several films have been shot here in the recent past. Habib Faisal has based his third film in the city after Daawat-e-Ishq and Ishaqzaade. Dedh Ishqiya, Youngistan, Bullet Raja, Ya Rabb, Tanu Weds Manu and Always Kabhie Kabhie have all featured Lucknow locations.

Apart from the city’s greenery, picturesque locations and hassle-free shooting, what brings Mumbai to Lucknow is the incentive of Rs two crores offered by the state government to productions with at least 50% locations in the state. Nearly 30 films been shot in Lucknow alone in the past one year, and the state government is handling requests for 40 new shooting permissions across Uttar Pradesh. According to the Department of Information and Public Relations, prominent filmmakers such as Boney Kapoor, Anurag Kashyap and Sudhir Mishra have shown an interest in bringing their projects to Lucknow. Forthcoming movies to be shot in the historic city include Tigmanshu Dhulia’s Milan Talkies and Sudhir Mishra’s 1940s-set Mehrunissa. It’s hardly surprising, then, that line producer Arun Singh “Dicky” has been extremely busy scouting for locations and getting shooting permissions. Dicky, who knows Lucknow well and truly beyond the camera, reveals the reason for its popularity.

Why is Lucknow so much in demand?
The subsidy is one reason, but otherwise too, most Bollywood scripts are coming up with backgrounds that are suited to locations in Lucknow and other parts of Uttar Pradesh. Lucknow is also very shooting friendly.

How easy is it to secure permission for shoots?
Sometimes, permissions can get time-consuming, but it mostly works out. The current state government has completely changed the scenario. Securing permissions from them is much easier. In Old Lucknow, people even give us permission to shoot in their homes without charging a single penny.

Which locations do you recommend the most to filmmakers?
I keep doing recces for different locations for every new project, but directors have their own preferences as well. Directors mostly look for old and heritage Lucknow, and for that l recommend our old imambadas, the old markets and the by-lanes of Chowk. Sometimes, we create the city as another city. For Youngistan, we created a bit of Old Delhi in Lucknow.

Any personal favourites?
Yes, the Imambada road near Rumi Gate in Old Lucknow. That is my favourite, since that one-kilometre stretch reveals the true Lucknow with its wide roads and monuments in the backdrop and gives a feel of the old city. That stretch has appeared in many films like Ladies Vs Ricky Bahl, Tanu Weds Manu, Daawat-e-Ishq.

‘Rangreli’ from ‘Daawat-e-Ishq’.

Has the depiction of Lucknow changed from ‘Umrao Jaan’ to ‘Ishaqzaade’ and ‘Bullet Raja?’
With time, the movies shoots have changed. Earlier, the movies shot in Lucknow were based on local stories, such as Umrao Jaan and a few like Sehar and Anwar. However, other cities are now being recreated in Lucknow as well, and the directors are also exploring the new Lucknow. Example, in Ishaqzaade, Lucknow was recreated as another city. Similarly, in Bullet Raja and Dabangg, a lot of shooting was done in the new city and not near the monuments. Also, because of Lucknow, nearby towns and villages have received some attention as well, such as Faizabad, Malihabad and Kakori.

‘Yeh Kya Jagah Hai Doston’ from ‘Umrao Jaan’ (1981).

What is next for you and for Lucknow?
There many enquiries from small and big film houses for Uttar Pradesh and, most importantly, for Lucknow. However, with the state elections in 2017, the film fraternity is a little hesitant about what is in store. I am pretty sure that whoever comes to the power will continue to be friendly towards Mumbai, as it will not only help establish Lucknow as one of the prominent locations for shooting but will also boost our businesses.

The writer is an independent multimedia journalist based in Lucknow. He tweets @rizviuzair.