It was in the sunny climes of gleaming Dubai that one got a glimpse of how a city can transform into an opportunity. Luxury hotels, a clear blue sea, several man-made attractions like the Dolphin Bay and Ski Dubai (mall) swanky villas Shah Rukh Khans very own villa in the tony Palm Jumeirah sits cheek by jowl with Madonnas pad are just a few attractions that Dubai boasts of, for both tourists and film-makers alike.
Over the last couple of years, the city has been gaining in prominence on the filmi worldwide map. It has been the pit stop of Hollywood films for some time particularly for releasing their film but is now courting Bollywood presence assiduously too. After all, the large number of Asians translates into big numbers for Hindi films too.
During a recent familiarisation trip by the Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing and Dubai Film and TV Commission, Chairman Jamal Al Sharif (also the Managing Director of Tecom Investments), when speaking to the media, reiterated that bringing Bollywood (besides Hollywood and Egyptian films) to Dubai was a huge part of their plan. Mission Impossible 4 with Tom Cruise had brought in around $26 million, a pretty good number for business. The arrival of movie crews, after all, generates a lot of employment opportunities for the locals be it the tour operators, caterers, line producers, besides bringing in revenues to hotels and airline among others.
For Hollywood films they hope to replicate countries such as India, Pakistan, Bangladesh for locations and for Bollywood, there is plenty to pick from in terms of the marina, amusement parks and so on. But the bigger part of it is in the fact that they attempt at making things seamless for those keen to shoot their films in the city.
However they are not resting on their laurels. Having picked up the cues, the city authorities are amping up the facilities be it skilled workforce, economical options for the travel and stay of film crews, locations and more. The media-savvy Sharif is quite the involved chief who believes that customising facilities/incentives as per requirements is key to gaining an edge. Also on the menu is a film festival Dubai International Film Festival besides one meant for local film-makers to create a cinema friendly environment.
What has come up in the neighbourhood therefore, is an international standard shooting facility along the lines of cities of Hong Kong and Singapore, both accessible and attractively packaged. Given the economic climate and the rupees phenomenal slide, and Dubais international demographic, it may even score over London that other Bollywood favourite.
Unfortunately in the global village scenario wherein everyone is looking for the next best location, India still has a long way to go. The scenic beauty in Indian cities and and its varied landscape, is something that has not been capitalised on.
That the country, which is among the largest producers of films in the world, does not have facilities to match global standards hints at the underutilised potential of the film and television industry back home.
Among the major problems that keep people away from Indian shores is the complicated clearance system. Maybe we could take a leaf out of the Dubai travelbook and translate Bollywoods worldwide following into a golden business opportunity for India too.