x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Developers in Dubai delay Bollywood park

Plans for a gigantic hub for Indian cinema designed to host spectacular star-studded events are on hold for at least two years.

The Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan is rumoured to be planning to move his family to Dubai.
The Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan is rumoured to be planning to move his family to Dubai.

DUBAI // Plans for a multimillion-dollar Bollywood theme park that would be the hub of Indian cinema in the region have been delayed by at least two years, its developers say. The first of its kind in the world, the Yash Raj entertainment district was to have attracted some of the industry's biggest names and hosted some of its glitziest events, to the delight of the country's and the wider region's huge Bollywood fan base.

But the project - its exact location was never revealed - has fallen victim to economic conditions. Dubai Infinity Holdings, the development's local partner, said the first phase of Yash Raj, initially slated for completion in 2012, would be postponed by a "minimum 24 months". DIH said the delay was due to present market conditions. "At Dubai Infinity Holdings, timing, responding and adapting to the market environment have as big an influence on our organisation success as sound and innovative investment ideas.

"Therefore, for the moment, the project is on hold as both the parties are further getting the strategic sequence right so that we reach beyond existing demands," said Samira Abdulrazzak, the company's CEO. Yash Raj Films, India's leading studio, entered into a multimillion-dollar joint venture with DIH to create the Bollywood entertainment district in June 2008. They said the theme park would boast attractions such as a film "palace" for staging premières and large-scale social events as well as unique hotels and other entertainment and leisure concepts.

Yash Raj Films confirmed the delays, but insisted the park would open eventually. "A decision to postpone the project was taken last year in light of the prevailing market conditions," said Akshaye Widhani, the vice president of YRF Studios. Yash Raj Films, one of the biggest movie production and distribution houses in the world, is credited with some of the highest-grossing productions in the business.

The company's biggest cinematic hits include Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge, Dil To Pagal Hai, Veer Zaara, Dhoom 2 and Chak De India. Its latest production, Pyaar Impossible, opened to packed cinema houses here last week. The UAE was seen as the perfect venue for the Yash Raj park, and an ideal platform to further promote Indian cinema in the region. Bollywood has legions of fans here, not only among the vast Indian and South Asian populations but also among Emiratis.

Dubai has frequently attracted Bollywood stars, with several owning luxury homes here. Shahrukh Khan, who has made dozens of films with Yash Raj, owns a villa in Palm Jumeirah and is rumoured to be planning to move his family to Dubai. The Bollywood couple Abhishek Bachchan and Aishwarya Rai bought a villa in the Sanctuary Falls, a resort-style villa community within Jumeirah Golf Estates. However, the cash strapped industry appears to have scaled back its foray into Dubai. Exclusive premières, parties and shows have been cut down to a bare minimum.

pmenon@thenational.ae