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How about some Bollywood tourism: Renuka Chowdhury
By Liz Mathew, IANS
Lights, Camera! And Tourism Minister Renuka Chowdhury is ready with some action - hardselling India's scenic splendour to filmmakers at home and abroad.
"Why cannot I sell the beauty of our country to the numerous filmmakers across the world? I learnt with great pain that even our film producers are flying to faraway places to shoot their movies when we have magnificent places around," Chowdhury told IANS.
"I already have an idea about how to sell our beautiful places for film shootings. I am working on the final draft of the project."
Officials in the ministry said the minister conceived the idea of what she calls Bollywood tourism - though the concept means a lot more than that - during a discussion with Hindi film actor Suniel Shetty, whose Popcorn Entertainment has started working on the concept.
Shetty's company has already begun facilitating the visit of foreigners to film shootings at different centres and meet Indian film stars.
"Almost every producer now wants to shoot important song sequences in lush foreign locales and long stretches of white sand beaches," Chowdhury said.
"Why should we lag behind when we have various better and prettier locations? Our tourism industry, which is in its fastest growing pace, should not lose that money."
Bollywood as well as the regional language film industry have shown a tendency to shift their locations to foreign countries like Switzerland, Mauritius, Italy, Britain and of late New Zealand and South Africa.
Some of these countries have been organising film festivals to woo Indian producers and directors.
"More and more foreign countries are trying to tap the Indian film industry, which is a gold mine."
Officials point out that a small country like Switzerland earns more than $9 billion annually - 5.5 percent of its GDP - from tourism, the larger share of which comes from selling its picturesque locations to film units.
"The cost of living there is too high compared to Indian standards. So we will concentrate on convincing Indian and foreign filmmakers that the same gorgeous locations are available here at a cheaper price," said a senior official in the tourism ministry.
"If India becomes a favourite location for foreign filmmakers, that would be the best advertisement for us, free of cost!" the official added.
India, which has a wealth of landscape to offer - from desert to lush green land to mangroves and mountains - gets only three million foreign tourists compared to a tiny city state like Singapore which attracts seven million globetrotters a year.