Ekta and Bollywood weave magic in Turkey
Turkey has roped in India's tinsel town to play a new role - be its ambassador and bring in tourists - realising the potential of Bollywood as a crowd-puller and the growing importance of Indian visitors.
Two weeks ago, the city of Istanbul was treated to the sight of Indian TV soap queen Ekta Kapoor's long-running serial Kasauti Zindagi Kay and Kkasam Se shooting new episodes in the plush Park Hotel.
The Turkish daily Yeni Safak reported how a calm and soft-spoken director Talat Jaani directed a melodramatic scene between actors Arunima Sharma and Prachi Desai, with one of them smashing a glass.
Eight episodes of Kasauti... have been shot in Istanbul to promote the city as a new destination for the Indian tourist with the Turkish ministry of culture and tourism footing the bill.
It was the fruit of a visit to India last year by Turkish Culture and Tourism Minister Atilla Koc who went to film city Mumbai as well as to New Delhi to hold talks on how to bring Indian tourists to his country, which is the magical bridge between Europe and Asia.
And now Bollywood director Apoorva Lakhia, whose Shootout at Lokhandwala was a smash hit, is also scheduled to shoot part of his new film, Mission Istanbul, in the historic city with the blessings of the Turkish ministry.
Indeed, even before Turkey discovered Bollywood, Bollywood had discovered Istanbul's charm.
Last year Mani Ratnam came to the city with Abhishek Bachchan and Mallika Sherawat to shoot a part of Guru.
"Mani Ratnam told me several south Indian directors had shot parts of their films in Istanbul much before he did and it was from them that he heard about the city's appeal," Indian Consul General in Istanbul Praveen Verma told IANS.
Bollywood is a draw with the Turkish people as well.
When the 26th International Istanbul Film Festival was held during March-April, Karan Johar's Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna was screened on popular demand.
Bollywood, tourism and Turkey could get another boost if talks between the Indian authorities, the film industry's bigwigs and Turkish officials to hold a cine award ceremony in Istanbul materialises. "We would like it very much," Verma said. "But projects like that cost a lot of money. We are looking for sponsors."
If the project works out, the Indian official said, it would benefit both the countries.
"My job is to promote Turkish tourists to India," he said. "For that we need awareness and awareness spreads through people-to-people contact."