Indian Film Industry Sees Profits in Peaceful Afghanistan
India's film industry is keenly awaiting the end of the conflict in Afghanistan, hoping to boost its sagging fortunes on Afghans' traditional love of Bollywood movies.
With more than 180 flops produced in the current year, Bollywood is reeling under tremendous pressure to survive and is keen to tap any new market that opens up.
"Afghanistan will be one such new market as political stability returns to the war-hit country," said Komal Nahata, editor of the magazine Film Information.
"Afghans are known for their passion for Hindi movies and our film stars had a large fan following there before the Taliban came in. I expect this market to open up once the situation stabilises."
Bollywood stars such as Amitabh Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan and Aamir Khan still had large numbers of fans in Afghanistan, industry experts said.
Nahata said a few Bollywood producers have already started talks with distributors in Kabul to release some Hindi movies in the city, where cinemas reopened and women returned to school after the Islamic fundamentalist Taliban militia was driven out in mid-November.
"With most of the restrictions imposed by the Taliban now easing, the entertainment sector will be the first beneficiaries and women are a key audience. Bollywood would definitely tap this," Nahata said.
He predicted Bollywood could boost its overseas distribution income by at least 10 percent if Indian films return in force to Afghanistan.
Well-known actor and producer Feroze Khan said Afghanistan could even be an ideal setting to shoot films. Many Bollywood pictures already are shot outside of India, often in Australia, Mauritius the Seychelles or Switzerland.
"It's not only the market that Bollywood would be interested in to distribute its films. Afghanistan will again attract our guys for film shootings. It was a favourite location since the early seventies," Khan said.
"In fact, I shot my film 'Dharmatma' ('Godfather') in 1976 in Kunduz, the place which saw one of the bloodiest battles last month," Khan said.
"Afghanistan offers locations that film directors just dream of. With its hilly and mountainous terrain, it's a great place for shooting action movies."
He said conducting long shooting schedules would be easy in Afghanistan because of the local people's love of Bollywood movies.
"Afghans are simple and passionate people. I still remember the tremendous support I got from the people of Kunduz when shooting 'Dharmatma.' I am sure once we get there, the local people will be kind and helpful, making it easy even to shoot for weeks and weeks together," Khan said.
He said "the simplicity of the country itself" could be a payoff for Bollywood.
"The economy there being weak, our producers really do not have to shell out high sums," Khan said.
Bollywood is suffocating under a series of flops, with only two megahits in the current year, "Lagaan" and "Gadar."
Films experts, however, note that Bollywood's fortunes in Afghanistan will depend greatly on how soon peace returns to the war-ravaged country.
"Political stability is of crucial importance if Bollywood wants to make money. Already the industry is hit badly this year with so many flops and very few hits," said film producer Kaizad Gustad.
"What is required is undisturbed peace and good locations. Afghanistan has good locations. Once peace returns, it's a win-win situation for both the countries." -- AFP
© 2001 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)