Screen: Italian Roadmap
Vicenza, a small town in Italy’s Veneto region, courtesy the government’s initiative, could soon find itself on the Bollywood map. Here’s looking at what’s in store. Kambakkht Ishq Villa, no less, is what the magnificent Villa Cordellina in Vicenza has been christened as the film of that name that starred Akshay Kumar and Kareena Kapoor was shot there. It is just a small step towards promoting tourism through films in Vicenza, an industrial city in the Veneto province in north-eastern Italy.
Several film productions including Casino Royale (that was shot in Venice and Lake Como), The Fakir (shot in Venice) and Disney Picture’s Casanova (Venice) have done the rounds. As we walk towards the Tourism Ministry office in Venice, an ad commercial is being shot. The sky is a bright blue and Vido, who heads Mestiere Cinema, a production company with offices in Venice and Rome, as he traverses the Venetian maze of streets says that domestic cinema production makes for a small slice of the revenue pie.
For most part, foreign productions contribute significantly in terms of tourism revenue. Hollywood, French and German films are frequent but increasingly, Bollywood is being courted and wooed. And then there are South Indian films too that are being shot in foreign locations, but Rengarajan Jaiprakash, Head of Marketing and Film Tourism (Travel Masters India Cooperation) who organises film shoots in foreign locations says that Switzerland counts among the best destinations for shoots because of its easy and flexible approach to permissions for foreign productions.
In a bid to encourage such efforts, the government in the region is willing to fund such initiatives from 50 thousand to 200 thousand Euros provided they are shot in the region. The proposals put to the government are assessed by an expert committee comprising film critics, professors of films or a film expert from the region. The Italian Regional Law No 25 that deals with methods and criteria for allotment of funds is still stringent. However, competition from neighbouring countries may change that. The government is keenly re-looking its course of action and with good reasons. Switzerland, Amsterdam and South Africa are keen rivals with active initiatives in place. Egypt has deputed Celina Jaitly as its brand ambassador while Switzerland recently conferred the Swiss Ambassador Award on Yash Chopra, and the Italians are following suit, ardently wooing the Bollywood brigade.
Among the current initiatives is to promote the Venito region that has cities such as Vicenza, Verona and Padua and of course, the romantic city of Venice.
According to Vladimiro Riva, who heads the Convention & Visitor Bureau,Vicenza, the city has a lot to offer. In addition to its proximity to Venice, it has a generous sprinkling of villas such as the above-mentioned Villa Cordellina and the magnificent Teatro Olimpico that lend themselves very well to film shoots in particular. Neighbouring Vicenza is the scenic Bassano Del Grappa famous for ceramic art and elegant palaces and the famous Old Bridge (of Roman origin according to our guide) with bullet-ridden facades that make for a charming picture.
There is also Marostica wall town with impressive Upper and Lower castles, the walls of which end at the old town centre with the chessboard square where the annual chess match takes place.
A short distance away from Vicenza are the mountain towns. Recoaro is one such town with snow-capped mountains perfect for skiing or Nordic walking. Good roads make the place accessible, except during winter months when the snow can make mobility difficult. Bordering Austria, the Vicenza mountains or Dolomites are picture-perfect with its temperate climate and charming trattorias.
And then of course, there is Venice, with its popularly known Canal Grande, Piazza San Marco and Basilica of St Mary among other attractions. But the lesser-known charm of the city lies in its maze-like lanes linking the destination dots.
At present Akshay Kumar, Kareena Kapoor and Sajid Nadiadwala are the best-known Bollywood names in this region. With the present initiatives to attract footfalls from the Hindi film industry, the government is hoping that more names follow.