Indian film location guru Natarajan Ramji explores opportunities in Sri Lanka

Thursday, 17 August 2023 00:26 –      – 41

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  •  Location expert famous for Oscar-winning song of RRR using Ukraine’s Presidential palace as backdrop says movie shoots attract visitors and can be a catalyst for boosting Sri Lanka’s tourism sector
‘The Location Guru’ Natarajan Ramji

– Pic by Upul Abayasekara

By Charumini de Silva

Sri Lanka has caught the attention of renowned film industry veteran, also known as the ‘location guru of Indian cinema’ Natarajan Ramji who has embarked on a quest to tap into the country’s potential for movie settings.

In an exclusive interview with the Daily FT, the industry expert expressed a strong desire to explore the country’s diverse locations for potential film projects. “The possibilities are endless and that is the reason I am here in Sri Lanka,” he added.

Ramji’s latest mega project was S.S. Rajamouli’s Telugu-language film ‘RRR’ which made history by becoming the first Indian film song to win an Oscar. He was the location expert that found a suitable place to shoot the song for the movie at a personal request by the famed Director Rajamouli.

Ramji’s illustrious career includes collaborating with three generations of film stars across various languages and industries. He has had the privilege of working with icons such as Sivaji Ganesan, Rajinikanth, Kamal Hassan, Raj Kumar, Mohan Lal, and superstars like Shah Rukh Khan and Salman Khan. His expertise extends beyond South Indian cinema, encompassing Bollywood as well.

As a location expert, Ramji’s responsibilities cover a broad spectrum, from finding suitable locations to executing and wrapping up shoots. He acts as a crucial bridge between directors, producers, and the film industry.

With a keen eye for aesthetics and a deep understanding of budget constraints, Ramji advises on location selection, ensuring a perfect match between creative vision and economic feasibility.

His expertise in replicating historical settings or adapting locations to fit specific requirements has been pivotal in delivering exceptional cinematic experiences. Notably, he shared an example of a recent project where they replicated the 1920s Delhi set in Ukraine, using the palace of President Zelensky as the backdrop.

When it comes to finding locations, Ramji collaborates with production houses and directors, drawing on his extensive network and experience.

“Many countries have their own setups, and I work closely with local partners to ensure smooth operations. Understanding the vision of directors and producers, while keeping budgetary considerations in mind, I have managed to provide valuable insights on location selection. My ability to quickly grasp requirements and provide suitable suggestions has been instrumental in successful collaborations,” he explained.

Reflecting on his journey and offering advice for success, Ramji emphasises the importance of passion, adventure, and innovation in any field. He shares his personal experience of being a dyslexic student and struggling academically, but finding his calling in the film industry, where he has thrived.

“My mantra is that ‘life is not just about what you do, but what life does for you’. With my boundless passion and a thirst for exploration, I continue to undertake around 25 to 30 trips annually,” he quipped.

He recognises the potential of filmmaking as a catalyst for tourism growth and advocates for countries to provide incentives and rebates to attract film productions.

“Given the enchanting landscapes and rich cultural heritage, I believe that Sri Lanka can benefit immensely from this strategy,” he said.

Ramji believes that by offering incentives and making the process easier, countries can leverage the power of filmmaking to attract tourists and drive economic growth.

“Many countries give hefty rebates and tax incentives for Indian filmmakers to come to their destinations because they know it has helped many countries like Thailand, Malaysia, Switzerland, and the UK. However, as Sri Lanka recovers from the economic downturn, if the Government can make policies and processes a bit easier, it can go a long way,” he said.

His expertise in film tourism, where movie shoots attract visitors, can be a catalyst for boosting Sri Lanka’s tourism sector.

Ramji also plans to meet with the Tourism Minister to discuss collaboration opportunities and ascertain the reasons behind Sri Lanka’s untapped potential as a filming destination.

Expressing his enthusiasm for Sri Lanka, Ramji sees endless possibilities in the country’s scenic landscapes.

“Now is the best time for Sri Lanka to shine on and grab the opportunities coming its way for faster economic revival. I am particularly interested in exploring Sri Lanka’s jungles, including Sinharaja, Yala, and Kithulgala, as well as the captivating hill country. The British structures and stately mansions also hold potential as versatile filming locations,” he added.

With more than 14 projects already finished this year and more on the horizon, Ramji’s presence in Sri Lanka is poised to significantly influence the country’s reputation as a favoured filming location.

“With the proximity and connectivity, it holds great potential for Sri Lanka to be part of the Indian cinema industry that makes over 3,000 films per year,” he pointed out.

With his vision and knack for identifying unique locations, Ramji’s exploration of Sri Lanka’s potential promises to unlock new possibilities and shine a spotlight on the country’s rich cultural heritage and natural beauty.

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