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Turning Cape Town into Kashmir for Kidnap & Ransom

One of the biggest challenges for the production team on ITV1 drama Kidnap and Ransom was turning Cape Town into an authentic looking Kashmir. Here's how it was done.

The second series of ITV1 drama Kidnap and Ransom is set in Srinagar, Kashmir, and centres on the hijacking of a tourist bus that crashes into a busy Kashmir market square. All the colours, vibrancy and architectural details are exactly as you would associate with India, but, due to budget restrictions, the series was almost entirely filmed in Cape Town, South Africa.

It was down to the production team, and in particular the efforts of production designer Robert Van De Coolwyk, to turn Cape Town into Kashmir – in a limited timescale and with a limited budget.

“We did a lot of research on what the place should look like, and the key thing we had to do was concentrate on signage and colour and dressing things up,” says Van De Coolwyk. “You have to go with what you find and adapt it to suit. Indian buses are quite specific in their colour and decoration, so we gave the bus a blue exterior and things like headdress covers.”

The buildings in the Cape Town market square required less work than might be anticipated to make them appear like they were in Kashmir, as Van De Coolwyk explains: “India has a lot of English colonial architecture, which is the same in South Africa. We put shutters onto certain buildings and added lattice work, and put on colours to more closely match the architecture between India and South Africa.”

Van De Coolwyk had five weeks of prepping in South Africa prior to the shoot to try and get everything looking right. In this time, exec producer Rachel Gesua went over to do a technical recce and take the writer around the square to see how they could make it work.

“I was a little scared at the start about how we could make it work,” says Gesua. “The maths didn’t work out to shoot in India and turning Cape Town into India was going to be challenging as British audiences have a good idea of what India should look like.”

But once Van De Coolwyk’s began adapting Cape Town into Kashmir, Gesua’s mind was put at rest: “The impression of India relating to the colours and textures was spot on, and the lattice gates and fabric were exactly right,” she says. “Robert did a remarkable job, it’s incredibly authentic. In the end I never felt we were compromising very much. The whole attention to detail of the art department is really impressive – the shop and street signs are incredibly accurate.”

The square where the bulk of the action happens has a train station that continued to be in constant use throughout the 10 days of the shoot. So the production team had to be creative in positioning the bus in such a way that masked a lot of the background activity.

“We had to be clever in the way the bus was positioned and only shoot it in certain directions, avoiding shooting behind where the station was,” says Gesua. “Towards the east and west of the square, Robert created these fantastic big walls plastered with Indian posters and signage, and this obscured most of the station and pedestrian traffic.”

“We had to do some ADR to cover the loudspeaker announcements at the railway station,” adds Gesua. “The rest of the post production work has mostly just been dropping stuff onto TV screens, erasing Cape Town phone numbers and things like that.”

Beyond the major hurdle of getting everything to look like India, Gesua says this series of Kidnap and Ransom was always going to be a difficult production to get right: “It was a huge challenge to shoot something such as this. It was a very tight schedule, shooting 16 actors on a bus from their point-of-view, and including stunts, car chases and crashes would have been challenging wherever you were.”

And this is where being in South Africa finally worked to their advantage: “Shooting there was very easy. We had a great extras coordinator, which was another area that could have given the game away, and the costume and make up was spot on,” says Gesua. “Crews over there are very conscientious and quick – things take half a day in South Africa that would take three or four days in the UK. It’s easy to get permissions – it’s a lot more ‘can do’.”

Posted 15 February 2012 by Jake Bickerton
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