The state government has received more than 20 proposals to develop a film city in Uttarpara, including one by the entertainment arm of the Zee group, after a number of abortive attempts to get the project off the ground.
Municipal affairs minister Firhad Hakim said he had briefed Shah Rukh Khan about the project during the recent IPL and the Bollywood superstar had expressed interest in it. "Shah Rukh helped get Zee on board. He also said he would visit the site when he comes to Calcutta in July," said the minister.
The government had published an advertisement in newspapers on May 22 inviting expression of interest from firms, agencies and individuals to set up film cities in Uttarpara and north Bengal. The Uttarpara site was described as being "within 79 acres (approx) in the Uttarpara-Kotrung Municipality". The last date for submission of proposals was June 6.
Over 20 proposals have been submitted for the Uttarpara project, confirmed a senior official of the information and cultural affairs department.
A committee comprising government officials and representatives of the film industry will go through the proposals and shortlist some. Those who make the cut will be called for a conference after which financial bids will be invited.
The government had published two advertisements about the film city project in November and March but did not receive enough proposals to proceed with it.
Sujay Kutty, the business head of Zee Bangla, confirmed that Zee Entertainment Enterprises had responded to the advertisement for the Uttarpara film city.
"It was a normal business call. We were the first national TV channel to penetrate the regional market. This is the next step for us: creating assets to develop content for ourselves and the industry," he told Metro.
Kutty refused comment on Shah Rukh's role in Zee pitching for the project.
The Zee group, he said, was bullish about the prospects of the Bengal entertainment industry. "The Bengali general entertainment channel market is growing. People love to be entertained in their own language. That is why even films are doing well."
The Uttarpara project was first conceived five years ago, a year after the Calcutta Municipal Corporation decided to auction the land. But Prosenjit who had proposed the project to the then chief minister, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, could not find investors for the project. Last year, after the change of guard at Writers' Buildings, some Tollywood names revived the plan.
Chief minister Mamata Banerjee was to lay the foundation of the proposed film city on August 13 but the programme was "deferred" a few days before that. The official reason was "flood-like" situation in north Bengal, but sources said the actual reason was the realisation that it would take time to get the plot vacated.
The local administration feels the plot can be easily freed of encroachments and the 30 poor tribal families living there rehabilitated if the chief minister intervenes in the matter.
"The local sentiment is heavily in favour of the proposed film city and Uttarpara-Kotrung Municipality is ready to extend support to give shape to the dream of the chief minister and residents of the area," said Dilip Yadav, a member of the chairman-in-council of the municipality.