West wooing Bollywood like never before
Bollywood spells big money these days. The Western world's perception of the Hindi film industry has changed completely over the past decade. Today it recognises the worth of this Rs 100-billion ($2.5 bn) industry firmly set on fast-track growth.
Representatives of film entities or government bodies from different countries seek meetings with Bollywood trade organisations every other day. They come to Mumbai either to sign co-production agreements with Bollywood producers or invite them to shoot their movies in their countries.
Agreements signed mutually benefit them in furthering their commercial interests. On one hand, producers in Bollywood find opportunities to explore new locales to shoot their movies at subsidised rates, and on the other, the tourism sector of countries gets wide exposure through Bollywood movies shot there.
Australia's vigorous campaigns in India over the past decade have lured several Bollywood producers to the 'Land of Oz'.
Thanks to enticements that countries dangle before Bollywood, Hindi movies are now being shot on foreign locales unheard of earlier, apart from the popular sites in Australia, Britain, Switzerland, South Africa and the Netherlands.
Hindi films have always had a major impact on tourism. The locales where movies are shot gradually become popular tourist destinations as Indians across the world find it easy to associate with them.
For instance, Britain is promoting the Lake District in Cumbria as the latest destination because Mr Bhatti Ki Chutti starring Anupam Kher was shot there. It tells the story of a group of tourists holidaying in the lake districts.
The country recently unveiled a new Bollywood tourism map highlighting places where Hindi movies were shot in an effort to woo more tourists.
Encouraged by the boost in tourism these countries have received through Bollywood, Canada is now sending trade delegations to India to talk to Indian producers' bodies like the Film and Television Producers' Guild of India and the Indian Motion Picture Producers' Association (IMPPA).
A Spanish delegation, led by Ignacio Martinez, deputy director, Department of International Relations, Confederation of Employers' and Industries (Madrid Region), has held a preliminary meeting with IMPPA and the Guild.
A full-fledged Spanish trade delegation will visit Mumbai in October to finalise the agreements.
Meanwhile, a fact-finding Canadian trade mission is scheduled to meet the IMPPA and the Guild on March 24 in Mumbai. Sophie Couture, manager of Market Development, Trade and Investment Directorate, Department of Canadian Heritage, will head the delegation.
Members of the Canadian Film and Television Producers' Association will accompany them.
Representatives of countries, which have no tie-ups with Bollywood, are expected to attend the FICCI-FRAMES 2008 sessions in Mumbai later this month to explore future possibilities.
Though these meetings seldom result in co-production deals, the presentations made by the foreign delegations enable both sides to know each other better.
As a result, Bollywood is now welcome to shoot its movies in various exotic locales. Even China, which has kept its doors closed to India since 1962, is now wooing Bollywood. A Chinese film delegation recently met the Film Federation of India and the National Film Development Corporation to explore possibilities of Chinese films being released in India commercially.
Though China has a flourishing film industry, it was felt that there would be few takers for Chinese movies with English sub-titles, if released commercially. The country is now taking tentative steps to invite Bollywood producers to shoot films there.
Though it was Raj Kapoor who started the trend of shooting on foreign locales with Sangam in the 1960s, it did not catch up with other filmmakers of his time as India's forex reserve was limited and the Indian rupee was valued poorly in the market.
Not only did the government discourage filmmakers from shooting abroad, the filmmakers also knew that with all the constraints it wasn't economically viable to take their units to foreign shores.
With the Indian economy booming now, things have changed vastly. After Raj Kapoor, filmmakers like Dev Anand and Yash Chopra showed the way in making movies look captivating with shots of foreign locales thrown in.
Now no Hindi movie is complete without a Shah Rukh Khan or a Kareena Kapoor gyrating in the meadows of Scotland or zooming past the tulip gardens of Amsterdam in hired limousines.
(Jivraj Burman can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)