UAE and India: Ties that bind

It's show time for Bollywood in UAE

Arti Dani /Dubai
Filed on January 19, 2017 | Last updated on January 20, 2017 at 12.35 pm
Its show time for Bollywood in UAE

Chetan Fernandes who is a distributor based in Dubai says that Bollywood movies still need to reach their full box-office potential in the UAE.

The UAE and Mumbai may be three hours by flight, but the country's long association with Bollywood, makes it shorter. A large Indian expat population, and even Emiratis are hooked to Hindi movies. Stars and filmmakers feel at home in this country. In fact, Bollywood movies are released a day earlier - it's showtime here on Thursdays.

Leading actors like Salman Khan, Shilpa Shetty, Arbaaz Khan, Katrina Kaif, Kareena Kapoor Khan, Amitabh Bachchan, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Deepika Padukone shoot in different locations in the country and even promote local brands. Some have homes here. Others invest in property and businesses.

Dubai has become a favourite haunt for Bollywood stars. Back in the eighties, the Hindi film industry and cricket got together in Sharjah for the CBFS cricket series. The relationship is now full-blown and has spread across the country - Dubai and Abu Dhabi now being major filmmaking centres with some exotic locations. The facilities are world-class for shoots. For the stars, there are some great holiday spots, too. They simply hop on a flight for a slice of home and more.

Everyone knows Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan is a hot favourite in these parts. Besides becoming the brand ambassador for Dubai tourism, the actor often comes to the city to promote his movies. In fact, he is in the city this Saturday to promote his film Raees along with actor Nawazuddin Siddiqui. A week later, filmmaker Ram Gopal Verma will head to old Dubai to shoot for Sarkar 3, which stars Amitabh Bachchan, the towering Indian actor.

For years, Bollywood movies have done well at the UAE box office. On any given weekend, theatres screening Bollywood releases are packed. In fact, in 2015, Shah Rukh Khan's Dilwale crushed Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Trade Analyst Komal Nahta says the UAE is one of the most important overseas markets because movies release here on the weekend, Thursdays, a day before the worldwide release of any Bollywood movie. "UAE is a huge market for the Hindi film business. Besides, it is the only territory where films are released on Thursdays. So all the more reason that our films are promoted there.

"Early reports coming from Dubai tell us how a film is faring and where it is headed on the charts. And in the Internet and social media age, it takes only seconds for news to travel."

\Shah Rukh Khan, who owns a villa in Palm Jumeirah, was recently announced as the official brand ambassador of Visit Dubai. "Dubai is a second home to me. Whether I am here (Dubai) on vacation with my family and friends, or my many business trips here for shoots, it's a city that I truly relate to on many levels - driven, passionate and spirited," the star said.

Most producers say it's easier to shoot in the UAE. They save on costs and have a range of locations. Welcome Back was shot almost entirely here. A major part of Shah Rukh Khan's Happy New Year was shot in the Atlantis, The Palm. Other movies like Dishoom, Airlift, Ki and Ka and Bang Bang were also shot in the UAE.

The Abu Dhabi Film Commission offers a tempting 30 per cent rebate system for filmmakers. Arjun Kumar, the producer of Welcome Back says "Dubai is not only strategically located but also extremely convenient with a flying time of under 3.5 hours. Beautiful locations, world class infrastructure, similar cultures and traditions, varied options on food, dining and entertaining. We also have great support from the Government here.''

Challenges include the cost of equipment, junior artists and skilled technicians. He also spoke about still not having a rebate system in place in Dubai, which can be discouraging especially for long schedules.

Jamal Al Sharif, Chairman of the Dubai Film and TV Commission and Managing Director of Dubai Studio City, said in an earlier interview: "Many Bollywood productions choose Dubai as their premier filming location. This is a testament to the emirate's development into a leading global production hub, as well as to the cutting-edge infrastructure, facilities and support services offered. Dubai Film and TV Commission has worked hard to support the growing film industry, and we continue to facilitate an increasing number of productions, .

Chetan Fernandes who is a distributor based in Dubai says that Bollywood movies still need to reach their full box-office potential in the UAE. "That the Indian film market is growing internationally is a given, but is it growing at a pace we would like it to, is a question the industry should be asking itself. Dubai is a case in point where so much more can be done to increase its market share via promotions which need to be better planned and structured well in advance. Merely flying down stars is not enough."

Dubai International Film Festival

It's not surprising to see the likes of Rekha hobnobbing with Samuel L Jackson at DIFF. Last year, Rekha was honoured with the festival's prestigious lifetime achievement award. This award has also been conferred to Asha Bhosle, Amitabh Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan and Yash Chopra in the past. Bollywood makes a strong presence each year at DIFF. Last month at the film festival, around five Indian movies made their presence felt. In fact, Aditya Chopra's Befikre starring Ranveer Singh and Vaani Kapoor had its world premiere at this prestigious film festival.

Hindi movies dubbed in Arabic

The reach of Bollywood is impactful on the small screen, as well. If you surf the local TV channels, you will find many Bollywood movies dubbed in Arabic. There is a huge market of Arabic-speaking Bollywood fans and it is evident by their huge presence in theatres playing Hindi movies across the UAE.

"We had sensed the liking for Bollywood among Arabs a few years back and hence launched Zee Aflam and then Zee Alwan - the first of its kind TV channels which had Indian content dubbed or subtitled in Arabic," said Mukund Cairae, CEO - Zee Middle East and Asia Pacific. "The popularity of the content in the Arab world reinstated our belief. Zee Aflam is among the top  channels viewed by Emirati women . We are glad that we could create the gateway to Bollywood for the Arabs which has also resulted in high Arab footfall for Bollywood movies at cinemas." 

Investment plus holiday homes

Many actors like Shah Rukh Khan, Abhishek and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Salman Khan and Anil Kapoor own  property in Dubai.


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