Utpal Borpujari

June 14, 2009

Flanders region eyes Bollywood lucre

By Utpal Borpujari in Cannes

After Swtizerland, the Flanders region in Belgium could soon become the favourite shooting spot of Bollywood films. At least that is that what the European nation is aiming at, quite obviously inspired by the peripheral industries that have benefitted in several countries thanks to shooting of Bollywood and South Indian films.

In fact, that is why several big league Bollywood filmmakers were invited to visit Flanders in a Fam Trip in April, with a view to introduce them to the various shooting locales in the region and also educate them about the facilities on offer in that country.

“The group visited Antwerp, Bruges, Ghent, Leuven, Mechelen and Ostend, and this was the first time ever that a group of filmmakers from India had been invited over to our country for a Familiarisation Trip,” says Wim Cassiers, Film Commissioner of Antwerp City Film Commission.

Cassiers, who set up shop at the Marche du Film, or the Market Section, of the recent 62nd Cannes Film Festival to promote shooting locales in Belgium, is quite excited about the trip and also hopeful that it would lead to development of interest among Indian filmmakers.

“Our four film offices in Antwerp, Bruges, Ghent and Ostende can offer logistical aid for filming in our cities and also help with all the permits required for shooting,” Cassiers says sitting at his Marche du Film booth. “Indian films are seen by a worldwide public and it would be in the interest of Flanders to bring our cities in Indian feature films as locations. If Indian crews come to film here this gives a direct economical return on crew, cast, hotels, technical hire of material, catering, renting cars, etc.,” he says.

Till now, not a single Indian film has been shot in the region, but Cassiers is hopeful things will change after the recent visit by the group that comprised Manmohan Shetty, Ravi Chopra, Mukesh Bhatt and Mohit Suri from Mumbai and Suresh Babu from South India.

Quite clearly, the offshoot of film shooting would be an increase in tourist inflow to the region, as has been the case many times in the past, a prime example being the sudden surge in Indian tourist arrivals in New Zealand after Hrithik Roshan’s “Kaho Naa Pyaar Hai” became a mega hit. And that is what Belgium too is eyeing. As Cassiers says, “It was Flanders Tourism that took the initiative tot invite some Indian producers on an Fam tour in Flanders from the perspective that the Indian market is also a potential new market for incoming tourism. In that view the filming of a feature in our region can mean an extra impulse for our region.”

While Indian filmmakers are yet to discover the beautiful region, quite a few other films have been shot there in recent times, according to Cassiers. For example, in Bruges, a British-American movie called “In Bruges” was shot as also a partial German production titled “Buddenbrooks”. In Antwerp, French production “Diamant 13” with star actor Gérard Depardieu was shot. Also, some German and French TV series have been shot in the cities of the region.

People in Flanders, says Cassiers, are aware about Bollywood movies though but there are not generally programmed in local theatres. Attracting Bollywood productions is, of course, not the first and primary task of the local film commissions, and it is more a part of the overall plan to attract international productions, Cassiers points out. But definitely, the increasing global reach of Bollywood, at least among the NRI-PIO audiences, has made countries like Belgium wake up to the immense potential of the industry as a revenue generation tool, and that is what Flanders too is hoping for. So, don’t be surprised if you soon see your favourite stars gyrating in the sylvan surroundings of Flanders.

(Published in Deccan Herald, www.deccanherald.com, www.deccanheraldepaper.com, 14-06-2009)



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