Agra: Agra is attracting a lot of filmmakers and TV serial producers, thanks to its exotic locales, advanced studios, budding local talent and, of course, the iconic 17th century monument to love, the Taj Mahal.
"A significantly large number of young local artists have impressed Bollywood in the past few years, as Agra is now emerging as a happening cultural centre," Jitendra Raghvanshi, national general secretary of the Indian People`s Theatre Association, told reporters.
"I think one reason is the growth of the hospitality industry with better class hotels. Then you have a variety of exciting locations for shooting. The general ambience of the city has also improved, particularly in the tourist complex area."
Of late films like "Mere Brother Ki Dulhan", "Mausam" and "Ekk Deewana Tha" among others have been extensively shot in Agra.
"Aisa Desh Hai Mera" was the first television show to be shot at the Taj Mahal in 2006 and now Sony TV is coming with another show "Shubh Vivah", again with Agra as a backdrop.
The show is currently being shot in the city. The shooting has created a stir as hordes of fans have been flocking the locations to see comedian and actor Rakesh Bedi. The story revolves around a girl from Agra and a boy from Vrindavan.
Kalakriti Cultural and Convention Centre`s play "Mohabbat the Taj", which talks about the eternal love between emperor Shah Jahan and his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal, has attracted many junior artists to Agra.
The city also now boasts of a world-class sound studio run by Bollywood`s ace sound engineer Satish Gupta.
According to Surendra Sharma, senior tourism industry leader, a slight improvement in the connectivity of the city with Mumbai can work wonders.
"If air connectivity from Mumbai could be restored, Agra will benefit a lot. Right now people have to make a road trip to Agra, which takes a lot of time and energy. But perhaps when the super Yamuna Expressway opens in March, there is bound to be a significant improvement in the logistics situation," said Sharma.
Culture critic Mahesh Dhakar credits local talent for making Agra a popular destination.
"From fashion photographer Pravin Talaan to actors Archna Gupta, Yuvraj Parashar, Satyavrat Mudgal to eminent poet Neeraj," said Dhakar citing some Agra natives who have made a name for themselves.
Agra-based Sparsh Srivastav, who walked away with the winner`s trophy in children`s dance reality show "Chak Dhoom Dhoom", "Indian Idol 5" contestant Rakesh Maini and "X-Factor" participant Kartar Singh Yadav are also shining stars of the Taj city.
Dance guru Anil Diwakar, who also hails from the city, has already made a global impact with his 60-member troupe in the US. And Diwakar says he is planning to conduct a dance camp in Agra in June.
Satyavrat Mudgal, who has acted in films like "Tera Jadoo Chal Gaya" and "Bunty Aur Babli", says local boy Madhur Mittal put up a good performance in Oscar-winning "Slumdog Millionaire".
Filmmaker Anil Sharma, who is known for making films like "Gadar", "The Hero: Love Story of a Spy" and "Veer" and has been born and brought up in Agra, says he is ready to do his bit to promote the city as a shooting destination.
"I would love to promote the film industry in Agra," said Sharma, recalling how during his teenaged days he along with friends used to cycle to the Taj Mahal to play cricket and listen to cricket commentary on the transistor. His new film "Singh Sahab the Great" will feature Sunny Deol as someone who fights corruption.