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Ireland Among Many Countries Wooing Bollywood


An Irish trade delegation on a recent visit to India has asked the country's thriving film industry to shoot more films in Ireland. Ireland is only the latest in a long list of countries bidding for a piece of the Bollywood boom.

Exotic locations, experienced film crews and tax breaks are among the incentives being offered by the Irish delegation to filmmakers in Bombay, home to the Indian film industry popularly known as Bollywood.

Bollywood producers have already used Irish locations to shoot song and dance sequences for about a dozen films. But that is only a fraction of the number of Indian films being shot abroad every year, in countries ranging from Switzerland to New Zealand.

Bollywood is the world's second largest film industry after America's, producing about 800 movies a year. In recent years, dozens of countries have begun courting Indian film producers by offering cheap locations and production facilities.

Hosting Bollywood productions offers a double advantage to foreign countries. Not only do filmmakers bring in money by hiring local crews, they also boost tourism by triggering interest about the country among Indian movie audiences.

New Zealand's trade development manager in New Delhi, Neera Arora, says tourist traffic from India has jumped many times since several popular Hindi blockbusters featured that country.

"We started with 2,500 people in 1998 to New Zealand as tourists. Now we have more than 18,000 people traveling to New Zealand. The type of awareness and exposure it got after the films were shot in New Zealand, I guess that had a huge impact," said Arora.

Industry watchers say Switzerland was one of the first countries to experience a surge in Indian tourist traffic after receiving wide exposure in Hindi movies. Bollywood producers chose the Swiss Alps as one of their earliest foreign locations.

Now others want to emulate Switzerland's experience, and countries such as Singapore, Thailand, Dubai, Austria, South Africa and Canada are devising new ways to lure Bollywood.

Singapore's Tourism Board has decided to invest $10 million in Bollywood productions over the next three years. The money will be used to subsidize some of the expenses incurred by Indian film and television producers shooting in Singapore locations.

The board's head in Western India, Rebecca Lim, says they see Bollywood as the best way to "showcase Singapore to Indians."

"The two passions for Indians are cinema and cricket. I feel that having Singapore portrayed in a film such as a Bollywood show very much reaches out to them and connects to them, and adds very much to the overall marketing mix," noted Lim.

The Irish delegation has expressed hope that Ireland will get a bigger share of Bollywood's overseas work, and the increased exposure will help to put the country on the Indian tourism map.

For Indian producers, shooting films overseas offers several advantages. They get the undivided time of their stars, and fans do not disturb shoots. Foreign locations not only boost the popularity of a film at home, they also give it an international flavor that appeals to the growing Indian audience living overseas. Some of the most popular blockbusters of recent times have been shot abroad.

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