Fairytale affair as Bollywood courts Israel

By Nathan Jeffay, July 14, 2011
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A scene from Gangor, one of the Indian films previewed in Israel this week

A scene from Gangor, one of the Indian films previewed in Israel this week

The next Indian blockbuster may have Jewish characters and scenes filmed in Israel, if new plans to bring Bollywood to Israel pan out.

Eight leaders of the Indian film industry spent this week in Israel, scouting out locations and speaking to local counterparts about ideas for films with storylines that bring characters to Israel. They attended the Jerusalem Film Festival, where one of the producers, Vinod Kumar, previewed his new film, Gangor.

"It has been a revelation of sorts," said Mr Kumar, Secretary General of the Film Foundation of India and head of three major Indian film companies. "We had heard that Israel was very small but every kilometre is different from the next, which is amazing for a filmmaker."

Another delegate, Bobby Bedi, managing director of Kaleidoscope Entertainment and producer of the internationally acclaimed 1994 film Bandit Queen, said after a tour of Jerusalem that he would find it "absolutely fascinating" to film in the Old City.

Indians would greet films involving Israel with enthusiasm, he predicted. "India is still a poor country and most people can't travel, and film are a way of 'taking' people overseas," he said.

During the trip, which was organised and mostly funded by the American Jewish Committee, participants started to think big about Israel's potential for their industry. Supran Sen, Secretary General of the Film Federation of India, said: "We need some kind of facility here so producers can come and shoot."

The itinerary included a visit to new media and animation labs, which prompted some participants to consider the possibility of relocating to Israel some animation tasks that are currently outsourced to America. Mr Bedi said he believes it would be more convenient geographically, and cheaper.

Mr Kumar wants to see a formal co-production agreement between Indian and Israeli governments. "We are now ready for films that span different countries and cultural boundaries," he said.

Mr Kumar revealed that he accepted some scripts for consideration during his trip. Mr Bedi said that the fact that many Israelis visit India could provide the basis of a story set in both
countries.

Priya Tandon, the AJC’s representative in India, said that she came up with the idea of the trip last year, after deciding that Bollywood offered “mindboggling potential” for Israel. She ran it under the banner of the AJC’s Project Interchange, which brings groups from around the world to see Israel. The AJC and the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council paid for it.

Last updated: 5:27pm, July 14 2011