Law for Art in India : Stories of My Hampi Trip

I am going to share with you this incident that happened recently.

So, Alex and I took a Hampi trip about two weeks back. We had planned to explore the city and see if we could incorporate a dance based video shoot at the same time.

We drove from Bangalore to Hampi in my car and fortunately the roads were really good for more than half the journey. Luckily we also had some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches packed with us to deal with our hunger pangs.

This was our first time to Hampi, so both of us were equally starry eyed about it. We spent day one in exploring Hampi and visited a couple of tourist spots. I like doing a lot of classical fusion dances, and thought that the stone like architecture would be the perfect background for our classical fusion dance video collaboration.

We reached a location which was not exactly a monument. It had a lot of rocks and the typical Hampi based stone like structures. We saw around four people in the area doing photography as well. Alex was doing the camera work while I was planning my choreography. We assumed that was a rather low profile area since we saw this tiny hut with some kids living there, drying their clothes on one of the rocks.

Now just as we started shooting I saw a security personnel nearby and he was on the phone with someone. I sensed warning signs and was aware that they might ask us to leave or say that we have no official permission (this has happened to me even in places like Cubbon Park, Bangalore once and their logic is that you can take pictures and videos for weddings but not for a video shoot, I have still not figured out the logic of this though).

I was looking around for the same security guy, and before we knew it we had close to twenty policemen / security guards in blue uniform run from a far distance through the rocky structures.

I was at a height and could see all of them run towards my friend with the camera and asked him to stop the video then and there. Stunned to see twenty policemen running towards me made me believe that we have done something terribly wrong.

“Stop the camera. Stop the camera I say” screamed the security guy.

“Calm down please, I am shutting it right now” Alex said.

“Stop the footage and delete whatever footage you have” said the security guy.

I managed to climb down the rocks with my Ghungroos and walked up to them, trying to figure out what exactly went so wrong that we needed twenty people to run towards us.

They were aggressive and told me not to take any video footage around this area since it was protected by the Archaeological Department. I apologised and told them we were not aware of this. But we wanted to know where we can shoot since I am looking at a place where I can get a good shot of Hampi as well as not break any rules.

“Madam your biggest mistake was to use a tripod. When you use a tripod, then things become official, and that is not allowed” One guy said.

“So can we continue the shoot on my DSLR without the tripod?” I asked innocently.

“You can take pictures only, not videos” He said.

“So can I pose as a dancer but just take pictures here, without a tripod?” I asked, feeling confused about what exactly the rules were.

Another guy interrupts and says “Madam, you can even take a video if you like, but you cannot wear a dance attire (essentially telling me I can dance and a video is allowed, but without Ghungroos and the Teeka on my head)”

“So let me get this straight. I can actually take a video here, just like everyone else around here is taking videos as I can see them right now. But I just cannot dress up and dance” I said.

They just sort of looked at each other, trying to come to a unanimous decision of why they were even running after us in the first place.

“No dancing basically, dance attire or not” One guy said.

We realised this discussion was going nowhere and so we apologised and left the scene. The other photographers with bigger DSLRs stood there and watched the whole scene.

I must admit, I was pretty traumatised trying to shoot even without a dance attire anywhere in Hampi, because I feared that they would not “allow” me to dance. Luckily Alex managed to calm my nerves and made sure we do not let that affect our trip.

It is so ironic that our intention was to promote Hampi along with my dancing and Alex’s video skills but apparently you can take the best landscape videos and send them to Nat Geo, but you should not “dance” anywhere.

We felt like it would have been better to take good landscape videos and then shoot me dancing separately on a green screen and just paste me on the background.Even though we felt like two convicts that are running away from security, at the end of the day we made sure that did not let our spirits down.

The story ends here… And I am left thinking.

So I understand laws like infiltration of property, and videography and photography being banned at certain places, but what I am failing to understand is this selective type of banning. I also understand that they are worried if this is a commercial advertisement. But honestly, who would create an advertisement with one model and one cameraman , and that too a basic DSLR?

My question is, why is dancing not allowed if regular photography and videography is allowed ? Dancing is just the same human moving a little bit. Why is it such a bad thing ? Does our Indian constitution have rules where dancing is not allowed or that “wedding portraits” are okay in parks but movement is not ?

Have any of you faced a situation where you have failed to understand what exactly the law states here? Can I maybe get some clarity so that I understand what is allowed and what is not? Or do I do what I have been doing for the past few years and find a spot with less people, shoot quickly and run away like a thief?

I still wish to find a place where I can do an outdoor dance shoot and not be scared of seeing security people who would tell me that is not allowed, when I see multiple people around me take videos.

Let me know if you can understand how this works really. Because I have no answers yet.

P.S : This incident did not deter the excitement of our trip. Hampi is still a gorgeous place and I recommend you all to go visit it at least once. It was a shame I have been living in Bangalore for almost six years and this was my first time there. I had the best time and that place has the best vibe 🙂

Attaching some pictures from the Hampi trip.





2 thoughts on “Law for Art in India : Stories of My Hampi Trip

  1. AK says:

    I have faces this issue too. Ironically the issue is with tripod and not camera. 😛
    1. Tripods = Professional = For Profit Video and Photography => Need to take permission.
    2. If they allow one tripods, 10 others will pop-up, hence they don’t let any. 😉
    Hampi is a beautiful place I really hope this didn’t ruin your trip. 🙂


  2. Anupum Pant says:

    Damn I would have been so mad. People keep asking me what’s the problem with India that you like US so much. I don’t have an answer. But it is exactly things like these.
    Yesterday night at 1:30 am, there were loud crackers and dhol Baja just beside my home for an hour, or more. My poor doggy was so tensed and I could do nothing, not even sleep. I was concerned rocky would get an heart attack or something but I couldn’t do anything. In the US i would almost never face something like this. Even if I did I could call 911 and it would be taken care of politely in 10 mins.


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