Cape Town's beauty lures Bollywood

Cape Town, the undisputed star of South Africa’s tourist industry, is flaunting its majestic mountains and white beaches in a bid to play a leading role in international movie-making.

Hollywood may also have its hills and ocean surf, but the sheer cost of shooting in tinsel town means that producers on a tight budget are having to look further and wider to find their ideal location.

Although the film industry is still in its infancy, Cape Town provided the setting for the recent Dennis Hopper movie The Piano Player, as well as Country of My Skull, starring Samuel L Jackson and Juliette Binoche.

But it is not just Western filmmakers who are now splashing the cash, with even Bollywood moguls making the journey across the Indian Ocean from their usual base in Mumbai.

“Cape Town has got everything a producer looks for. It has the sea, it has mountains, you can shoot action here,” said Sohail Maklai as he took a break from filming of a $5-million Bollywood movie called Cash.

The slick action thriller stars some of Bollywood’s hottest acting talent, including Ajay Devgun, Esha Deol and Shamita Shetty.

The film’s director, Anubhav Sinha, said that the Cape was a stunning setting for any movie.

“Even before I landed here, from 500m up in the air, I knew this was the place I was going to shoot ... at least six movies,” he said.

“You guys are going to see a whole lot of Bollywood here.”

Recent Bollywood films to be shot in Cape Town include Mujhse Shaadi Karogi? (Will You Marry Me?) starring Mumbai heartthrobs Salman Khan and Akshaye Kumar, and Armaan (Desire), featuring veteran star Amitabh Bachchan, once described by French filmmaker Francois Truffaut as a “one-man industry”.

Local officials are delighted to play host to the Indian movie-makers.

The local industry dipped 30% in 2004 due to the strengthening of the rand, as producers turned to countries such as Argentina and Brazil instead.

A focused marketing campaign by South Africa and a realisation that other countries “do not offer the same value for money”, resulted in business bouncing back last year, said Cape Film Commission marketing manager Bianca Mpahlaza.
For this year, a 50% growth curve is predicted.

“This is a fantastic boost,” said Mpahlaza. “If you can shoot a Bollywood film in the city, you can do anything in the city.

“Our industry has improved itself a lot in these two years. There is more focus and the riff-raff have been ousted. Our infrastructure has improved and studios and technology was upgraded. This is a top-notch, quality destination.”

Authorities in Cape Town also waive certain fees for foreign film-makers in the hope that their work will boost tourism.—AFP

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