On location in Rajasthan, India with local fixer Yusuf Khurram
Rajasthan (known as the Land of Kings) is India’s largest state and particularly popular with filmmakers. TLG met up with Yusuf Khurram, a local actor, fixer, producer and line producer to hear what the region can offer to the international production community.
How did you become involved in the film business and providing location fixing services in Rajasthan.
I was Born in Jodhpur (the Blue City) and brought up in different villages of the Thar Desert, allowing me to observe the varied and authentic culture of Rajasthan from an early age. I am presently based in Jaipur and am very well connected with professional filmmakers, theatre directors, actors, cultural educators as well as many cultural organisations in Rajasthan and India which helps me with my location and production fixing work. I started my career as a theatre actor and learned acting and stagecraft at the National School of Drama in New Delhi. I also studied a film appreciation course at the Film and Television Institute of India in Pune.
I specialised in folk theatre in Rajasthan. As an actor I have worked with some renowned international directors in over 80 productions, Indian TV serials and feature films, including Viceroy's House from acclaimed British filmmaker, Gurinder Chada. I also acted in In Custody, produced and directed by the late Ismail Merchant of Merchant Ivory Productions. I have my own small production house where I produce and direct documentaries and short films. This varied background in the entertainment industry has evolved with me becoming a production researcher/fixer and line producer in recent years.
How do you assist both Indian and foreign producers and production professionals considering Rajasthan as a location filming destination?
Being a filmmaker myself I know the technical issues that can arise when I work as a fixer, researcher or line producer, so I focus on the production's needs and whether it is a foreign or domestic project. My local knowledge and contacts have proved very useful to foreign producers and production professionals shooting here.
You have a fellowship on folk art and culture of Rajasthan and have done extensive work on the cultural heritage of Rajasthan. Please tell us about your work.
I have done extensive work on the cultural heritage of Rajasthan - I have even created 150 episodes on local folk culture called Lok Yatra for the Indian TV channel, ETV. I have recorded an archive of more than 1,000 Rajasthani folk songs and conducted extensive research on nomad gypsy culture of the Thar desert.
I specialise in the Kalbeliya gypsy community of the Thar desert, which allowed me to design gypsy costumes and jewellery for the Gregory Hancock Dance Theatre repertory company based in the USA.
What locations does Rajasthan have to offer?
Rajasthan is particularly noteworthy for filmmakers due to the sheer variety of locations available. We have silver and gold deserts, forts, palaces, mountains, lakes and fantastic examples of old townships. Our Government and local people are also very friendly and helpful to film units. The Government recently started an independent film permit office for shooting in Rajasthan.
When are the best months to shoot in Rajasthan ?
October through to March.
What are the locations that can be found in Jaipur?
Jaipur is the first planned city in ancient Indian history, it was made in the style of vastu shastra (a traditional Hindu system of architecture). Jaipur is full of famous forts, enchanting palaces and lovely temples.
What foreign productions have filmed in Jaipur/Rajasthan in the past few years.
In the fast few years we’ve had The Wedding Guest from Michael Winterbottom, Viceroy’s House from Gurinder Chadha and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel from John Madden.
What has been your most difficult location assignment or request to date and why?
Definitely a production for MTV India called Girls Night Out where I scouted and organised filming at 10 ‘haunted’ locations in Rajasthan. It was quite an experience, I could write a book about it!
What do you like to do after a long shoot in Jaipur?
Sit by the pool with friends at the Samode Haveli Hotel in Jaipur and drink a long cool mango lassi.
Thank you Yusuf. It has been a pleasure talking to you.
Thank you Murray and I hope to see you in Rajasthan again soon.
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