The recent dispute between film producers and cinema groups which led to a dearth of Bollywood movies in the UAE has reignited the public's thirst for Indian films, a veteran producer said yesterday.
Vashu Bhagnani said he was expecting a 40 per cent increase in box-office revenues as he prepared for the showing of his latest film in Dubai - the first to be released since the dispute was resolved last Friday. Mr Bhagnani's Kal Kisne Dekha will open in the UAE on Thursday, to the delight of Bollywood fans who have not seen a new Indian movie for more than two months as producers in India refused to release films in a dispute with multiplex cinema owners over revenue sharing.
Mr Bhagnani, in Dubai to promote the new movie, said the dispute had worked to his advantage as it had created an even greater appetite for Bollywood cinema in India and abroad. "I have already received calls from distributors in the UAE for 17 prints of the film," he said. "I was only thinking of releasing seven prints. I had to ask them to take it easy. "We expect 40 per cent increased revenue due to the lack of Bollywood films and the fact that people are anxious to see a new film."
He is equally confident that the Bollywood famine will more than compensate for the fact there are no major stars in Kal Kisne Dekha. "People living outside India do not usually go to films with newcomers since they are unsure. However, with no movies released since April 3 people are waiting for a Bollywood film release. This film will benefit from this," he said. Aakar Singh, a college student in Dubai, said the return of new Bollywood releases would bring a lot of movie-starved people back to the cinemas, some of which had reported ticket sales falling by up to 75 per cent during the dispute.
"It's the most popular way to socialise and a lot of Indians I know have not seen a cinema hall for months. This is good news and I think people will see the next big Bollywood release, whether it's good or bad." Mr Bhagnani's son Jackky makes his debut in Kal Kisne Dekha, playing a college student from a small town in India who goes to Mumbai to pursue his education and wants to become a scientist.
The plot revolves around his ability to predict the future - a gift that gets him into trouble. Mr Bhagnani, a veteran of 19 films, shot Kal Kisne Dekha in South Africa, New Zealand and India. But he said he and his associates had resolved not to shoot any future films in Australia, in response to a spate of attacks on Indian students. "I was the first to ask my directors to change the location of shooting from Australia. I feel bad for these students and the fact that Indians are not being given respect there," said Mr Bhagnani. Several blockbuster Indian films have been shot in Australia, often portraying the country as a tourist attraction.
The attacks on Indian students have produced a strong response from the Bollywood community. The veteran Indian star Amitabh Bachchan has turned down an honorary doctorate at an Australian university, and Bollywood unions have demanded that films not be shot in Australia unless the government takes action against the people behind the attacks. "If I start shooting there, what is the guarantee that we won't be attacked? The Australian government should take strong action and give proper security," Mr Bhagnani said .
The attacks on Indian students have resulted in some serious injuries. One of the victims, Shravan Kumar, 25, is in a coma after being attacked by a group of young men in Melbourne. Hundreds of Indian students marched in Sydney yesterday to protest against the attacks and there was a larger march in Melbourne last week. "My cousin was going to come from India to study here but since the recent attacks she has decided to postpone her studies and has cancelled her ticket," said Priyanka Aggarwala, 16, who lives in Sydney with her family.
Meanwhile Inner Universe, a consultancy for UAE students who are planning to enrol in Australian universities, is holding discussions with students and parents in Dubai. Officials from the Victoria state government will speak to families who have concerns following the attacks. Many Indian students based in the UAE go to Australia to continue their education. email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org