x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Diamonds and Dubai attract stars seeking nearby escape

Bollywood actors enjoy the freedom in the city from gossip and celebrity.

Shahid Kapoor is drawn to Dubai.
Shahid Kapoor is drawn to Dubai.

DUBAI // Dubai is fast becoming a second home for Bollywood stars looking for an escape in familiar and glamorous surroundings from the pressures of being a celebrity in India. Shahid Kapoor, who stars in Kismat Konnection, says he finds himself drawn to the city: "I am quite at home here." Kapoor spends about a month here every year and is now very familiar with the city. He likes that the people speak a variety of Indian languages wherever he goes. "There is something very comfortable about it all," he says.

Kapoor and fellow actor Vidya Balan, along with director Aziz Mirza, were in Dubai last weekend for the world premiere of Kismat Konnection. Balan says Dubai's shopping scene has won her over: "I hate shopping but Dubai has converted me. Four days here, and I went back with a fashion fever." Balan's red-carpet ensemble - a black Emporio Armani skirt and top and "lots of diamonds" - were all purchased during a previous shopping trip to Dubai with Shabina Khan, a fashion designer, who often dresses Balan for her films.

A few determined fans had managed to track Kapoor to a hotel in Dubai, where he posed for photographs and signed autographs. But while celebrity-spotting might emerge as a trend as more discover Dubai's charm, for now, at least, the stars are safe to spend and spend without worrying about the celebrity gossip that follows them back home in India. "You can't really go out and shop in Bombay," said Balan.

Given the number of daily flights from Mumbai and the short flying time, most Bollywood actors are happy to have Dubai as a promotional stop on their tours. However, Mirza, the director of the film, said he preferred Dubai in cooler seasons, when he could take a road trip across the country with his pets and driver. "It is a lovely journey," he said. "Then, I love sitting under trees and watching people."

Kismat Konnection was shot in Toronto, Canada, a location that is often used as a stand-in for New York City. Dubai's appeal is such that it usually plays itself in films. @Email:sbhattacharya@thenational.ae