Bollywood's Badshah, Shahrukh Khan, has told the Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa that he will help the Sri Lankan film industry raise its technical standards. Sinhala language films, like those from Kerala and West Bengal, are of high quality thematically and in terms of performances, but they lack the slickness and the technical finesse of Bollywood films of today.
Shahrukh, who is into all aspects of film making, made the offer when he met Rajapaksa during the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit in New Delhi on last Saturday. Having been a film actor himself, Rajapaksa grabbed the offer with alacrity, a source in the President's entourage said.
"It was Shahrukh who sought the meeting with the President, but the President too was eager to meet him. To avoid fans, who were milling around the Taj Palace Hotel, Shahrukh had to be smuggled in through the kitchen!," the source said.
"And it was not just a cordial meeting. It was a friendly one," the source further said. Rajapaksa knew that the Indian icon was a demigod among his Sinhala constituents back home, and that pictures of bonhomie between him and the actor will go down well in Sri Lanka, as indeed they did.
Apologises for bomb blast
But the Sri Lankan leader was also eager to apologise to Shahrukh for the bomb blast which shattered his show in Colombo back in December 2004, when he was Prime Minister. Rajapaksa told Shahrukh that, shocked by the ugly incident which had claimed two lives including that of a female fan, he had felt an urge to fly to India to apologize personally. Manifestly touched, Shahrukh thanked the President for his concern, and said that nothing would deter him from visiting Sri Lanka
The investigations into the blast led to a dead end, but it had coincided with an agitation by a group of Sinhala Buddhist puritans who argued that a glitzy show featuring Bollywood stars was uncalled for at a time when Sri Lankan Buddhists were observing the first anniversary of the death of the popular monk-preacher Gangodawila Soma Thero under mysterious circumstances on a visit to Russia. But most Sri Lankans thought that the objection was uncalled for.
When the conversation turned to the film industry in India and Sri Lanka, Shahrukh told the President that he would be happy to help Sri Lankans improve the technical quality of their films. There is much room for collaboration between Bollywood and Collywood. For example, Sri Lanka can provide idyllic locations for Indian films.
The island also has the technical and organizational infrastructure to serve foreign film makers, and Hollywood has been using Sri Lankan locales and support systems, off and on since the shooting of David Lean's Bridge on the river Kwai on the Kitulgalla river and several locations in Colombo in 1956.