Why the UAE loves Bollywood movies

Why the UAE loves Bollywood movies
Bollywood actress Varun Dhawan, Kriti Sanon, Kajol, Shahrukh Khan address the media during his film promotion press conference at a hotel in Dubai. Photo: Rahul Gajjar

The country is one of the biggest overseas markets apart from the UK and USA

By Arti Dani

Published: Wed 3 Feb 2016, 11:00 PM

Last updated: Thu 4 Feb 2016, 3:03 PM

The romance with Indian movies continues in the UAE. In fact, it's been taken to a new level with Indian filmmakers coming here for shoots. Last year five Bollywood and four Hollywood movies were shot in the UAE. Currently, Dishoom featuring John Abraham and Varun Dhawan is being shot in Abu Dhabi.
Why is the UAE becoming a go-to destination for film-makers? Apart from gorgeous locations and the proximity to India, Bollywood filmmakers derive great benefits from the Emirati heartland.
Abu Dhabi Film Commission offers a tempting 30 per cent rebate system for film-makers. Dubai Film and TV Commission does a fantastic job in facilitating venues and getting quick permission from the authorities. "Some of the locations in Dubai do not have a parallel in any other part of the world. Over here we get the right mix of prime cities of the world like Los Angeles, New York, Las Vegas, Melbourne etc so coming here resolves a lot of creative decisions,'' says Indian producer Firoz Nadiadwala.
Non-resident Indians form a very significant market for Bollywood. Shah Rukh Khan's popularity lies in his emotional connect with local audiences. With Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge, he became more than a star for Indian expats. He was the ideal son-in-law or an ideal lover. After the success of the movie, Bollywood and Indian expats bonded like never before.
Apart from shooting for their films, Dubai is a favorite holiday destination for celebrities like Shah Rukh, Sonam Kapoor, Parineeti Chopra etc. Shah Rukh owns a huge villa in Palm Jumeirah. Shilpa Shetty reportedly sold her apartment in the iconic Burj Khalifa recently. Abhishek and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan are proud owners of a villa at Sanctuary falls, and, Salman Khan has reportedly has bought many apartments in Downtown Dubai.
Indian stars owe most of his success to audience here. It, therefore, did not come as a surprise to the Indian film industry when Hollywood's Star Wars: The Force Awakens was overshadowed last month at the UAE box office by Shah Rukh's latest, Dilwale. In fact, the release date of the popular Hollywood franchise was delayed in India by a week so it did not clash with Dilwale and Bajirao Mastani. India is one of the very few markets that are not affected by Hollywood. Such is the power of Bollywood movies.
The UAE is one of the biggest overseas markets for Bollywood apart from the UK and USA and its appeal extends to television. It is fun to surf through local television channels and watch a host of Indian movies dubbed in Arabic. There is a huge market of Arabic-speaking Bollywood fans and it is evident by their huge presence in cinema theaters playing Hindi blockbusters.
Last month, at the Dubai International Film Festival, almost all movie screenings were sold out. We also spotted some film buffs jostling and shoving to get inside packed theaters. Independent movie clubs like The Scene Club showcase the best of world independent cinema once a month in Dubai to packed audiences. It aims to create film awareness in the UAE and also provide a platform to discuss and celebrate independent movies. It has successfully screened Indian movies like The Lunchbox and Margarita with a Straw to full audiences.
Indian cinema recently turned 100 and many are seeing this era as the new golden age of movies from the country. The traditional definition of Indian cinema for a global audience has changed. There is a new voice that is emerging out of the entertainment scene there and Indian films are standing out in the festival across the world. No wonder small films like The Lunchbox, Udaan, Masaan and many more are winning hearts across various festivals around the globe.
For the Indian entertainment industry, the UAE feels like home. It's the ideal location from where it can spread its reach to a wider global audience.

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