x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Bollywood develops romance with Dubai as location of choice

The Bollywood actress Katrina Kaif says Dubai - where she and Akshay Kumar filmed Tees Maar Khan, which has a December 23 opening date - is a peaceful place.

The Bollywood actress Katrina Kaif is in Dubai for the world premiere of her latest film, Tees Mar Khan, on Thursday. Pawan Singh / The National
The Bollywood actress Katrina Kaif is in Dubai for the world premiere of her latest film, Tees Mar Khan, on Thursday. Pawan Singh / The National

DUBAI // Bollywood's love affair with Dubai is heating up as it snatches prevalence over other exotic locations for the Indian filmmaking dollar - just ask actress Katrina Kaif, in town to promote her latest film, Tees Maar Khan, which makes its world premiere in the city on Thursday.

Kaif said that she had been to Dubai more times than she could remember. In fact, she shot portions of at least four films in Dubai.

She described Dubai as a "beautiful city", where she had "access to everything you can imagine".

"I am here a lot," she said, "whether it is for shows, promotions or shooting. It is a very peaceful place for me. I am always happy and calm and relaxed when I come to Dubai."

Kaif plays a character called Anya Khan, an aspiring actress and the love interest of Tees Maar Khan, who is played by Akshay Kumar.

The film will be released just before Christmas, which is considered a lucrative time for Bollywood films, when audiences take a week of holiday, spend time with family and throng to cinemas to catch the latest offerings.

"There is hype around the film because of Akshay Kumar and Katrina Kaif," said Mahi Golchin Depala, the managing director of Gulf Films, where the films will be shown in Dubai. "But you never know until a movie is released, how it will do."

"Meet the new half Robin Hood," declared the cheeky film trailer. "Because he takes from the rich - but doesn't give to the poor."

Directed by Farah Khan, whose previous films include big hits like Om Shanti Om, this film tells the story of a conman, Tees Maar Khan, who parades as a film director and creates elaborate sets that are fronts for his heists.

"I am not very bright in the film and always getting into trouble, and that is a source of frustration for the character of my boyfriend, Tees Maar Khan," Kaif said.

The skyline of Dubai has become a familiar sight in Bollywood films. Whether a dramatic car chase down Sheikh Zayed Road in films such as Race, or the setting of the musical song and dance in several movies filmed around locations in Dubai, the city is no longer a stand-in for European locations. It holds its own.

Earlier this year, when an ash cloud halted air traffic around Europe, the crew of Dabbang made a decision to avoid delays in filming. They moved the location for a song from Switzerland to the desert outside Dubai, and included a scene in which Salman Khan and Sonakshi Sinha serenaded one another on the city's metro.

Taran Adarsh, a Bollywood film critic, said Dubai had a lot to offer Indian filmmakers, including its proximity to the city of Mumbai.

"It is close to home," said Mr Adarsh. "There has been a long tradition of shooting in Dubai, but at the same time it offers great locations."

For productions to choose Dubai over Europe or America made sense, he said. "There is the weather, and it is not expensive for the entire production team to fly to Dubai from Mumbai. And it is familiar to them. They can go there, shop, have a great time, shoot and combine both work and fun."

The Middle Eastern market is also important to Bollywood when it comes to audience.

"It is an important destination, and very important to the movie business, because when you talk about numbers and international markets, after the UK and US it is the Middle East, and Dubai is synonymous with the Middle Eastern market," said Mr Adarsh. "