Amitabh Bachchan, kicked off the 10th International Indian Film Academy weekend by planting a lotus flower, the official flower of both India and Macau, at a press conference.
Bollywood's top stars gathered in the coastal gambling enclave of Macau on Thursday for the Indian film industry's annual roadshow, pitching their elaborate song-and-dance productions to the booming Chinese market and other Asian countries.
The 66-year-old veteran actor said Indian cinema's greatest appeal was its upbeat message, recalling how a Russian moviegoer during the Soviet era once told him he enjoyed Bollywood films because they leave "a smile on my face and a drying tear on my cheek."
Bachchan said the industry had come a long way since his childhood, when parents looked down on Hindi films and were reluctant to let their children go to the cinema. "Indian cinema has become almost a parallel culture of the country. I cannot say whether this is good for India or not, but it is certainly an important element for our country," he said. With overseas revenues contributing to the $2.3 billion Indian film industry, Bollywood executives are looking to broaden the appeal of their product. Foreign box office revenues have jumped from 5 percent of total revenue in 2005 to nearly 10 percent in 2008, according to the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry.
Bollywood's biggest foreign markets right now are the United States and Britain, which have large ethnic Indian communities, and roadshow organizers now want to attract viewers from China and other parts of eastern Asia.
Indian and Chinese filmmakers are scheduled to discuss Friday how they can collaborate.
Meanwhile, Bollywood's top names will show off their glamour at appearances throughout the weekend at the massive Venetian Macau casino-hotel resort complex, a popular destination for mainland Chinese gamblers. Bachchan will be honored at a red carpet ceremony to unveil a new Madam Tussauds wax statue later Thursday. The event will be attended by his son, Abhishek, his daughter-in-law and former Miss World Aishwarya Rai, also mega Bollywood stars, as well as composer A.R. Rahman and actor Anil Kapoor from the Oscar-winning movie "Slumdog Millionaire."
Heartthrob Hrithik Roshan and wife Suzanne will model for Indian designers at a fashion show Thursday night. The three-day program culminates Saturday night with the annual IIFA Awards, where Abhishek Bachchan, Rai, Roshan and fellow stars Aamir Khan, Shah Rukh Khan, Priyanka Chopra and Katrina Kaif will compete for top acting honours.
The Indian film academy has held previous overseas events in London, Yorkshire, Dubai, Johannesburg, Amsterdam, Singapore and Bangkok.