Thursday,20 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1167, (3 - 9 October 2013)
Thursday,20 September, 2018
Issue 1167, (3 - 9 October 2013)

Ahram Weekly

Bollywood Express

After a gap of 25 years, Indian cinema will return to Egyptian theatres in October 2013. Indian Ambassador Navdeep Suri tells Reham El-Adawi about this step in reinforcing the cultural relations between the two countries

Chennai Express
Chennai Express
Al-Ahram Weekly

United Motion Pictures, in collaboration with Gaurang Films and the Indian Embassy in Cairo, will bring to Egyptian audiences some of the best loved Indian actors and actresses on the big screen.
According to Indian Ambassador to Egypt Navdeep Suri, there was a question as to whether this would be the ideal timing to screen Indian movies again in Egypt. After all, political instability still prevails the Egyptian scene and the cultural scene remains partly on hold. However, he believes that Egyptians in this critical period of their history, while making the transition to democracy, are in need of being entertained.
“Since the 1970s and 1980s, Egyptians have loved to watch Indian films, which provided them with happiness through the visually intoxicating scenes, traditional Indian dances, singing and music that inspire hope and optimism,” explained Suri. He added that, a couple of years ago, two Indian films were shot in Egypt — in Luxor, the oases and the Giza Plateau; Indian producers are willing to repeat the experiment in the days to come, an initiative that will help to promote tourism in Egypt. Such initiatives have also happened in many other countries, such as Switzerland and the UK, where parts of Indian films were shot.
The blockbuster Indian movie Chennai Express, starring Shah Rukh Khan and Deepika Padukone, will hit Egyptian theatres in Cairo and Alexandria starting on 2 October. In the initial run, the movie will be screened in eight theatres in Cairo and two in Alexandria, including all the major multiplexes. Chennai Express, which has become the most successful Hindi movie of all time, will be followed by other big releases such as Krissh 3, starring Hrithik Roshan, and Dhoom 3, starring Aamir Khan. All films will carry Arabic subtitles (see Listings).
Chennai Express tells the story of Rahul (Shah Rukh Khan), a 40-year-old bachelor who lives in Mumbai. Rahul embarks on a journey to a small town in Tamil Nadu to fulfil the last wish of his grandfather: to have his ashes immersed in the holy water of Rameshwaram. En route, he meets a woman who hails from a unique family down south. Yet while they find love through this journey in the exuberant lands of South India, an unanticipated turn of events is awaiting them.
Suri also remarked that no conversation about India in Egypt is complete without some mention of Indian cinema. “The return of Indian films marks an important step in strengthening people-to-people ties between the two countries. It is an affirmation of the love and affection that Egyptians from all walks of life continue to hold for India. Even when Bollywood did not play at theatres, Egyptians followed the news of their favourite actors and actresses.
“I am constantly amazed by the passion with which so many Egyptians follow Indian films — even in places like a small village near Kom Ombo which I visited recently. While the older generation recalls classics like Sangam and Suraj, the younger generation seems to be much more in tune with Amitabh Bacchhan and Shah Rukh Khan.”
The return of Indian films to Egyptian theatres also coincides with India celebrating 100 years of cinema. “One can imagine the anticipation and excitement of the people who crowded the Coronation Cinema in Mumbai on 3 May 1913. They were there for a big-ticket event: the first commercial screening of the first full-length Indian feature film, Dadasaheb Phalke’s Raja Harishchandra,” Suri comments. The 40-minute silent film told the story of a king who gives up his kingdom, his wife and his own son to honour a promise to a sage.
Since then, 100 years have passed, thousands of films have been made and billions of tickets sold, but the love for movies continues to grow among audiences across the length and breadth of the country. “This is borne out by the fact that our country makes the largest number of films in the world, over 1,000 annually, followed by the US and China. Also, the number of tickets sold surpasses any other country; some estimates put the number at 3.3 billion a year compared to about a billion a year in the US,” Suri continued.
India makes films in many different languages, but the Hindi film industry, better known as Bollywood, remains foremost among them. Business analysts predict that by 2014, the Indian film industry will be worth $5 billion. In technical proficiency and global reach, Bollywood has begun to challenge the traditional frontiers of cinema. From Dushanbe to Durban, from Birmingham to Berlin, the colour, music, dance, passion and drama of Indian cinema have found resonance across cultures and languages.
Though the overseas audiences of Indian cinema primarily comprise expatriates, non-Indians are increasingly drawn to them which is evident from gradually rising global collections of Indian films. Bollywood megastar Shah Rukh Khan is an obvious example of this trend, as is clear not just from his worldwide box-office earnings but also from the non-Indian crowds that gather for a glimpse of him wherever he goes — at Berlin Film Festival in 2010, for example, where his critically acclaimed hit My Name is Khan was screened at Yale University and he addressed students.
“It is a proud moment for us that in a globalising world, our films are holding their own against the Hollywood juggernaut and finding new toeholds across the globe,” Suri concluded.

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