When Dublin met Bollywood

It had more exciting stunts than any Hollywood movie. Over clashing trams, cars, busy streets and quays, not to mention actors running into and leaping across the traffic, a classic Bollywood chase filmed on Dublin’s streets had every cabbie talking excitedly about it.

Ek Tha Tiger, the forthcoming Salman Khan-Katrina Kaif movie from the Yash Raj stable shot in Ireland has been making news in the Gaelic island nation. Juicy tidbits on this Indian action caper played out every day on TV, radio and in print.

And why not? It was the first big Bollywood movie to be shot in Ireland. The production unit of the Bollywood romantic thriller spent five weeks in late 2011 shooting at Dublin’s Trinity College, St Stephen’s Green and Dublin Castle.

Naoise Barry, Film Commissioner, Irish Film Board, hopes the film, directed by Kabir Khan, will prove to be the springboard for more Bollywood producers setting their stories in Ireland.

The plot of Ek Tha Tiger is typical masala Indian, though the action moves from Dublin to Istanbul, Kazakhstan and Chile. A Trinity College Dublin (TCD) scientist is suspected of selling missile technology secrets to Pakistan. The Indian government sends agent Tiger (Khan) to investigate. Tiger falls in love with the professor’s caretaker Zoya (Katrina Kaif) who is studying at a fictional dance academy located at TCD, and together they set out on a tumultuous journey that takes them across half the world. Barry also hopes the lush locales of Ireland showcased in the Indian movie will get more tourists to visit the country – just as Switzerland benefited. He bases his hopes on statistics supplied by Failte Ireland, the Irish tourism authority. In 2010, 20 per cent of tourists to Ireland visited the country after seeing its rolling landscapes, wild coast and stately manor houses in the movies. These visitors spent €378 million.

Not surprisingly, the Irish Film Board has gone out to help Ek Tha Tiger have a smooth run shooting run in the country. “The Irish Film Board pulled out all the stops for Ek Tha Tiger because it was the first big Bollywood movie to shoot in Ireland, and it will be seen by a large Indian audience, who we hope will come to Ireland on vacation after seeing the film,” says Barry. He says there are many advantages to filming in Ireland, which has a long history of serving Hollywood and UK productions. Section 481 of the country’s Taxes Consolidation Act offers up to 28 per cent tax relief on Irish expenditure on TV and film production, with the equivalent amount paid out to the film makers as filming begins. In the case of Ek Tha Tiger, this was done by roping in Fantastic Films, an Irish production company. While Barry and Aashish Singh, the film’s producer, will not reveal financial details, Barry says that between the tax incentive and other waivers/reduced fees, the film received financial benefit of €880,000.

Trinity College, Dublin and Luas, which operates the city’s tram network, waived their fees completely. Tourism Ireland waived the visa fees of €3000. Dublin City Council slashed its fees by 66 per cent for road closures, and reduced fees for parking and locations. Some of it took some persuading, but all involved were able to see the potential rub-off on Irish tourism and the economy, in the grip of a recession.

Ek Tha Tiger is neither the first nor the only Indian film to have shot there – there have been a clutch of movies, such as Kaiyodu Kai, Hi, Ayodhya (Chennai-based), that have shot song-and-dance sequences there over the years.

Ek Tha Tiger created over 1,000 short-term jobs for an Irish cast and crew. Aashish Singh says that apart from offering the university/college location, which Yash Raj Films was scouting for, the city of Dublin also added value as it had never been showcased in a Hindi film before.

Also, he says Section 481 is different from other countries’ incentive structures. This, he explains, “not only helps your cash flow but also makes you secure that you have got the incentive even before you have begun shooting”. The facility applies to all visual effects work and post-production done in Ireland, and also includes animation.

Barry also cites directors David Lean (Ryan’s Daughter) and John Ford (The Quiet Man) who were reported to have believed the light in the country is particularly amenable to film-making.

It’s the Irish film industry’s long-term desire that Irish and Indian co-productions that touch on culture are made, Barry says, emphasising they would “never settle for servicing work”.

“We’ve looked with envy at Switzerland’s success (as a popular Bollywood choice of location),” he says, adding that visa regulations have been eased for India for this purpose. Incidentally, film is one sector in Ireland that thrived during the recession, as TV and films are considered cheap entertainment.

The Irish Film Board promotes the Irish film industry and markets Ireland abroad with focus on Los Angeles, London and Mumbai. It offers 2,000 locations, access to Dublin and rural Ireland and a database of company and crew and services. Some of the places the Board markets are Luggala (a popular rock climbing spot), Connemara (granite landscape, rivers and lakes), coastal towns such as Cobh and Castletownbere in County Cork and manor houses and castles.

A 31-member network called the Film Dublin Partnership works to ensure Dublin remains an attractive location for international production. Key players are the police, Dublin City Council, TCD and the Office of Public Works.

Three other important movies made in Ireland recently have been Haywire by Steven Soderbergh, Albert Nobbs, which has received three Oscar nominations this year, and This Must Be The Place starring Sean Penn.

Now, to see if Bollywood bites!

1 Comment
  1. Author
    sputnik 10 years ago

    I highlighted the plot and the “subsidy” part. Now lets see what Salman fans will say about this.

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