The long-time Dubai resident Sameer Khan's latest project, Dollars, brings together two of his greatest loves: cinema and the city of Dubai. At a press conference on Sunday, he announced some much-awaited details about the first Bollywood production to come out of the UAE, which will begin shooting tomorrow.
Khan, a former events executive, announced his project last year, inviting area actors and actresses to audition for parts in the movie. Two sets of auditions were conducted last year - the first in April and the second in June.
As a director working on his debut feature, Khan's decision to find new faces for his film was a practical one. Rather than work his shooting schedule around the timings and demands of a star, he preferred to find new faces and turn them into stars.
He said before the auditions that he was looking for talent over looks and that nationality was no bar. As a result, he claims that more than 3,000 hopefuls showed up for what could potentially be their big break in Bollywood. They included seasoned actors who had appeared in films, TV and on stage, as well as newbies who had never been in front of the camera.
Helping him whittle down the list was the Bollywood casting director Rohan Mapuskar, who has cast films such as Ferrari Ki Sawaari (2012) and 3 Idiots (2009).
Dollars is headlined by Sarrtaj Gill from Mumbai and Naren Kumar from Dubai. The lead actresses are the Dubai-based Wiam Dhimani and Rachna Maurya from India.
"This film is my dream project," says Khan. "It's been in the making for the last eight years. It's an honour to finally have the support of the most talented partners in the industry - the people who believed in my vision."
Dollars, which will be shot in Dubai, Ras Al Khaimah, Abu Dhabi, Iraq and India, tells the story of two Mumbai-based friends who move to Dubai for work but find themselves entangled in a dangerous situation. Khan promises plenty of action and thrills.
"Dubai is a perfect backdrop of this film, offering the high-life scenes set for Dollars."
Khan's journey to film director has been slow and steady. He founded his events management company, Times Square Events, almost 13 years ago.
In 2004, he worked as an assistant for Madhur Bhandarkar in Aan: Men at Work, an action-drama featuring Shatrughan Sinha and Akshay Kumar. He worked with Bhandarkar as assistant director again in 2006 on Corporate, a drama film starring Bipasha Basu and Kay Kay Menon.
In 2012, he took on a dual role for a smaller production: 5 Ghantey Mein 5 Crore features him on both sides of the camera, as associate director and actor.
He says these projects gave him the confidence to move forward with his own, which had been slowly brewing in the background.
Khan cites his long-time association with Dubai and his desire to show a different side of the city as the driving factors behind his decision to base his film in the city. He feels that although a lot of Bollywood films have been shot there, they have focused on the clichéd glitz and glamour.
"This city is like another character in the script," he says.
He is reluctant to reveal too much about the plot at this stage, but says there are bits of the underworld element and an international mission involved.
Khan adds that he isn't looking for instant success with his debut project.
"I just want to make a mark. I will be happy even if we break even."
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