Posted by Fenil Seta
For centuries, straddling the boundaries between the East and the West, the territory of Serbia has been divided among the Eastern and Western halves of the Roman Empire, then between Byzantium and the Kingdom of Hungary, and in the early modern period between the Ottoman Empire and the Habsburg Empire. These overlapping influences have resulted in cultural varieties throughout Serbia. The country’s capital Belgrade is characteristic of the Balkans, the Mediterranean and the Orthodox Church, and is covered in culturally significant monuments, five of which are UNESCO World Heritage sites. Actor-businessman Vivek Oberoi who is presently shooting in the European country shares his experiences:
This is my first visit to Serbia and I’m happy it’s a 40-day schedule for my Tamil film Vivegam. The production unit worked really hard getting the requisite permission and now we have a very supportive government on our side. I’m a history buff and followed the country’s political and demographical evolution from the Celtic times, through the Ottoman Empire to the Second World War. Serbia was India’s strong strategic partner in the non-aligned movement, when the country was still Yugoslavia. Like us, Serbians are traditional in their thought, have strong family bonds and extremely proud of their heritage and culture.
Brrr, it’s minus 12 degrees!
Shooting in minus 12 degrees is difficult, and night shoots are colder. We get sunlight for eight-nine hours, but as soon as it’s ‘Cut”’, two unit hands run to me with blankets. When we aren’t shooting, I wear jackets and long coats. My wife Priyanka enjoys sipping hot coffee in the cold. We’ve mostly been filming in Belgrade. I’ve had time to explore the city centre and visit the Belgrade Military Museum with its exhibition of tanks down the ages.
The Nikola Tesla Museum houses over a million books, historical exhibits, photo plates of original objects, plans and drawings. It is registered as a part of UNESCO’s Memory of the World Programme register owning to its critical role in the electrification of the world and future technological advancements in this area. The highlight of my trip was a visit to the Belgrade Air Force Base. Not many tourists get permission to enter it, but because of my association with the film, I landed this opportunity. I also went to the church of Saint Sava on the Vracar plateau, one of the largest Orthodox churches in the world. It is dedicated to Saint Sava, the founder of the Serbian Orthodox Church and an important figure in medieval times. It offers a panoramic view of Belgrade’s cityscape.
Fresh from the streets
I love the local cuisine. The markets sell fresh street food and you can buy organic fruits and veggies daily. I could actually taste the difference in the produce here in their size, colour and flavour. The vendors are as beautiful as the region and so helpful. I’d recommend the grilled meat, stuffed cabbage, minced beef and pork preparations with rice stuffed in vine leaves. I love Serbian beans, podvarak, which is roast meat, and moussaka, which is minced pork or beef mixed with eggs and potatoes and baked. Yummy! Priyanka and I took a tour of Belgrade by night. While walking the streets around midnight, Priyanka and I noticed how safe the country was.
I started shooting only recently but the crew has spent almost two months here and no one has ever faced a problem. The Serbians are honest and welcome Indians with open arms. I was surprised to see so many tourists in Serbia. People visit during winter too, in November and December. I did not bump into any fans but the locals are familiar with our film culture. Since, Priyanka and I are both gypsies, we love wearing our boots and backpacking. We’ve travelled extensively through Europe. Next, I’d like to explore stunning Central and Eastern Europe by visiting Montenegro, Croatia, Bosnia and Macedonia. They’re all alluring regions!