Botswana lays out red carpet for Bollywood

Mumbai, June 19 (IANS) Botswana, a south African nation known for its wildlife and where Amitabh Bachchan and Ashwarya Rai are household names, is aggresively wooing the Indian film industry to shoot their highly popular films in the country and boost its economy.

‘We believe that Bollywood can help us boost our economy and we can jointly work for the benefit of each other,’ said Bostwana Vice President Mompfati Merafhe, who ended his four-day India visit Saturday.

He met producers from The Film & Television Producers Guild of India and board members of the Film City and asked them to come and explore the landscapes of Botswana.

‘There are a number of challenges we are facing right now, including technological and lack of proper resources, but we have plenty of talent in the country. Many youngsters in our country are educated in cinema studies and are now waiting for an opportunity to showcase their skills,’ he added.

Merafhe, a retired army officer, revealed that Botswana has myriad exotic locations that Bollywood will find interesting.

‘Our country can offer various beautiful locations – from wildlife to scenic beauty, it has everything,’ he said.

Malebogo Morakalad, business development manager, Botswana Tourism Organisation, also assured they will provide easy access and services at subsidised rates to Indian film crews interested in filming there.

‘We are ready to provide logistical arrangements and convenience in getting filming permits. We will also provide facilities at subsidised rates. Although the subsidised amounts are not fixed at the moment, but that can be taken care of when we speak to the film producers concerned. It will depend upon the magnitude of the film,’ Morakalad told IANS.

Hindi movies are quite popular in the country that has a population of close to 1.8 million, with a large population of Indian professionals. This is the reason Morakalad feels that Bollywood will be a hit there.

Hindi film DVDs are sold in the country and some Hindi films also have theatrical releases.

‘Sometimes, Hindi films are shown in the theatres but usually it is the DVDs that people go for. These films are not only popular with the Indians in Botswana but also the local people there,’ said Morakalad.

‘Aishwarya Rai and Amitabh Bachchan are very famous in Botswana,’ she added.

The country has a history of filmmaking but largely of wildlife. In the global arena, it is best known for the 1980 movie ‘The Gods Must Be Crazy’, which was set there. Director Jamie Uys’ film created history in the US by running in the theaters for almost three years and was the highest grossing foreign film ever released in US during that time.

Till now, no Indian film has been shot in the country, but Botswana is now making an effort to reach out to the biggest film producing industry in the world.

The idea of wooing Bollywood came when Indian Vice President Hamid Ansari visited the South African country in January and was so enraptured by the wild environs of the country that he said that he would certainly lobby for Botswana in India.

‘India boasts the largest film production in the world, which specialises in the most beautiful of locations. They should certainly take to this most exotic of locations. To the extent that I can carry this message, I will do so,’ Ansari had said at that time.

The Botswana leader had arrived in India Tuesday night and held extensive discussions with his countepart in New Delhi. He witnessed the signing of three agreements, which included cooperation in science and technology and small, medium and micro enterprises.

He also met Indian President Pratibha Patil and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

In both Mumbai and Delhi, Merafhe interacted with the captains of Indian industry in a bid to encourage bilateral trade.

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