Bollywood wants to make inroads into Turkey

Bollywood actor Ayushman Khurana poses for a picture as he arrives on the green carpet for the International Indian Film Academy (IIFA) Awards show in Singapore June 9, 2012. (PHOTO REUTERS, Tim Chong)

June 17, 2012, Sunday/ 13:14:00

Bollywood, the Indian film world, churns out around 1,000 films a year. Of these, some 30 percent are shot outside India.

The International Indian Film Academy (IIFA) Awards, the Oscars of Bollywood, are held every year in a different country. Last Saturday this year's awards were held in Singapore. Indian authorities have expressed an interest in holding the IIFA ceremony in Turkey in the coming years, as has IIFA Director Andre Timmins, who told Sunday's Zaman that he has visited Turkey and would love to see it held here. Turkish Ambassador to India Burak Akçapar asserts that Turkey hosting the awards would increase awareness of Turkey in India, and in turn encourage an increase in both tourism and trade.

The name “Bollywood” was inspired by Hollywood, with the “B” coming from Bombay (Mumbai) -- the center of the Indian film industry. India's population is more than 1.2 billion, and Bollywood films find audiences not only throughout India but also across Asia and the Far East. When one considers the sheer size of this audience the true potential of the sector becomes clear, and the devotion of the Indian people to the actors of Bollywood is beyond description. Around 10,000 Indians traveled to Singapore to watch the IIFA Awards ceremony last Saturday. The waiting masses burst into applause as the stars descended from their cars to enter the venue. People waited for hours just to catch a glimpse.

One reflection of growing global awareness of the Indian cinema world is the splash made by the film “Slumdog Millionaire” at the 2009 Oscar ceremonies. Of course, “Slumdog Millionaire” was not itself a product of Bollywood, and did not have an Indian director. Nevertheless, the actors and the storyline were Indian, and thus the film managed to draw the world's attention to Bollywood. In recent years, Indian films have begun to be noticed in Turkey as well. This trend was boosted when Meltem Cumbul acted in the film “Tell Me Oh Khudaa” (2011), and in recent years some Bollywood films shot in Turkey have included “Ek Tha Tiger” (2012), “Game” (2011), “Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani” (2009), “Mission in İstanbul” (2008) and “Guru” (2007). Five years ago Shekhar Kapour, of leading Indian film family the Kapours, attended the Antalya Film Festival, a move that underscored Turkey's interest in Bollywood.

As Bollywood has become increasingly global the IIFA Awards ceremony has begun touring from country to country. Since the 2000s IIFA Awards ceremonies have been held in England, South Africa, Malaysia, the United Arab Emirates, the Netherlands, Canada and Singapore. Now Indian authorities are scouting for a new spot to hold this major film event, and Turkey is at the top of the wish list. As IIFA Director Timmins remarked on this matter in Singapore: “I was in Turkey three years ago. I traveled around to different places in the country. Your country is magnificent. Actually, even as we speak there is an Indian film being shot in Antalya. They have been there for a while. The relations between these two countries are developing, and we need to contribute to this continuing development. We would be very pleased if Turkey were to host the ceremonies.”

One of Bollywood's legendary actors, Randhir Kapour, feels the same way about Turkey's potential hosting of the IIFA Awards ceremony: “I really love Turkey. If the ceremony were held in Turkey, I'd be so happy to travel there. I know of the love the Turkish people feel for my father [Rishi Kapour, the star of the film ‘Awara'].”

One of Bollywood's most beautiful stars, Preity Zinta, noted that she also loves Turkey, adding the words “teşekkür ederim,” which she learned while on vacation here. One of the actors who received the most attention at this year's IIFA Awards ceremony, Aftab Shivdasani, said that he had visited İstanbul twice in the past year. He said, “It is very impressive, a very special city, a magnificent people and an incredible culture.”

The IIFA Awards ceremony always contributes significantly to the place in which it is held. Thousands of Indians are involved in the ceremonies, which are inevitably followed by an influx of Indian tourists. When Canada hosted the IIFA Awards ceremony, 40,000 Indian tourists traveled to Canada as a result. The Indian media gives generous coverage to the awards, and an estimated 700 million Indians watch the proceedings on television, which inevitably promotes the host nation. Considering that around 30 percent of Bollywood films are shot outside India, the potential for a beneficial relationship with Bollywood becomes clear.

In the words of Ambassador Akçapar: “This is an enormous sector in terms of economics. People truly love these actors. Tourists from India often travel to whichever countries these actors visit. So if Turkey were to host these ceremonies it would be a very significant factor in terms of increasing the flow of tourism. It would increase awareness of Turkish goods and Turkey in general. I think this would be directly reflected back onto trade and investment areas.”

The possibility of Turkey hosting the IIFA Awards ceremony arose last year during a visit to India by Finance Minister Zafer Çağlayan. At that time Çağlayan made it clear there is a definite desire from the Turkish side to see it happen. The Turkish Foreign Ministry has also indicated it would look favorably on the event. The Ministry of Culture and Tourism has remained silent on the matter to date, but if political support can be firmed up it looks likely that the IIFA Awards ceremony could soon take place in Turkey. However, in order for this to happen, ministries in Ankara across the board will need to make a stronger show of effort and support.

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