A day-long shoot of a Salman Khan-Katrina Kaif film at the tomb of Isa Khan inside the Humayun’s Tomb complex Wednesday led to public frenzy, and became a cause of worry for historians and conservation experts. An open-air gym was set up at the garden complex of the tomb of Isa Khan, as a 200-plus crew shot a sequence for Ali Abbas Zafar’s upcoming film Bharat from 10:30 am to 3:30 pm.
The letter of licence granted by Archeological Survey of India (ASI)stated: “No crane or heavy equipment should be used, track trolley should be away from the monument and the interior of the monument cannot be filmed.” According to Swapna Liddle, convener, Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage: “The biggest worry is such shoots can damage the monument… what is the definition of ‘heavy equipment’? Who’s monitoring it?”
Najaf Haider, professor of Medieval History at JNU, suggested that “third-party involvement, such as scholars and conservation experts, on such occasions can help assess the extent of shoot or the damage that can happen. It’s not a dogmatic approach, it’s merely tilting towards caution.”
The structure was dismantled Wednesday afternoon, with the crew moving out the lights, camera and gym equipment through the narrow doorway that leads to the tomb of Isa Khan. Historian Sohail Hashmi, who was present at the complex at the time, told The Indian Express, “If a gym has to be set up, go to a park… this is a heritage structure which can be damaged. Today, a huge crowd gathered as Salman Khan cycled on the path. There wasn’t enough police to control them. They don’t easily allow a gathering of poets and musicians…”
A senior ASI official said, “Permission for cycling and pitching gym equipment was ‘possibly’ not given… we will get a report from the in-charge to see if any violations took place.” For the purpose of a shoot in the premises of a national monument, Rs 50,000 is charged as daily fees and Rs 50,000 is kept as a security deposit. The sum doubles for world heritage sites.
In April 2016, ASI hiked the filming charges at heritage sites from Rs 5,000 to Rs 50,000 a day. Haider said, “We thought this would be deterrent but that clearly didn’t happen… even Rs 50,000 is a pittance.”
JNU professor Rajan Datta suggested that “the fees and security deposit be further hiked so that those shooting will be even more careful”.