Shooting a big-budget American picture in Calcutta is anything but dull, the producers of “City Of Joy” discovered last week when an angry crowd brought the production to a standstill.
But after some adroit diplomacy with both the Indian government and the malcontents, director Roland Joffe resumed filming the next day.
Film, which stars Patrick Swayze as an American doctor who finds humanity and purpose among the slums of Calcutta and is based on Dominique Lapierre’s novel, has aroused local passions.
“There is some sensitivity to the book, which in the rest of the world is seen as a tribute to Calcutta. Some people thought we were trying to demean the city, which is not our intention; the film is not about poverty, it’s about the human spirit,” said co-producer Iain Smith, a phlegmatic Scot who is used to toiling in grueling locations after working with Joffe on “The Mission” in the jungles of Colombia.
On Feb. 19, the crew was filming a scene with popular Indian actors when a crowd gathered and began what Smith, reached by telephone from Calcutta, described as well-organized political agitation.
“They stood where we wanted to shoot,” he said. Adopting a Gandhian pose, Smith averred: “Our policy is always passivity. Rather than get into a confrontation, we felt it was wise to back away and talk things through properly.”
In talks with reps of the state government, facilitated by the British Deputy High Commission, it was reaffirmed that the producers had all the necessary permission to continue filming.
Lensing of the $28 million production, which began Feb. 9, is on schedule, Smith said. Tri-Star prebought domestic rights after Warner Bros, put the film into turnaround, and WB Intl. grabbed a slew of territories (VARIETY, Feb. 11).