Dharmendra: ‘King of strength’
New Delhi. Aug. 9: Superstar Dharmendra is called Sarkin Karfi or king of strength there, and Sanjay Dutt is Dan Daba Mai Lasin or hooligan with a licence.
Soon, northern Nigeria, where Bollywood stars are household names, may also be using sets and studios with an Indian supporting role.
India is helping Nigeria build a film city, counting on Bollywood to flex its muscles in a silent, real world tussle for influence with China in West Africa, a region increasingly critical to its energy security.
The Export-Import (Exim) Bank of India has offered a $100 million (over Rs 606.7 crore) line of credit to Nigeria for projects including the film city, and is providing consultancy to its Nigerian counterpart on film financing, top government officials here confirmed to The Telegraph.
The film city will come up in Kano, northern Nigeria’s largest city where Bollywood films are routinely shown at cinema halls, competing for screen space with Nollywood, as Nigeria’s exploding film industry — the world’s second most prolific after Bollywood — is called.
“Bollywood films are big in Nigeria,” an official said. “With the film city, we want to take Bollywood’s pull to a different theatre — the theatre of soft diplomacy in this critical region.”
Nigeria is today India’s fourth-largest crude supplier, and the nations that form Africa’s western armpit together provide more oil to India than any single country other than Saudi Arabia.
But both the country and the region are also theatres where India and China are increasingly competing for influence.
China and Nigeria have annual bilateral trade worth $13 billion. India and Nigeria have trade worth $10 billion, and New Delhi wants to up that to $15 billion by 2015 — with one eye on Beijing.
|Dutt: ‘Hooligan with
Nigeria’s entertainment and media industry is ideal for India if it wants to expand its presence in the country and the region, say experts. The industry is Nigeria’s second-largest employer, and the film city in Kano will bring a few thousand new jobs.
Nollywood is booming — it produces low-cost films in numbers larger than Hollywood can boast of. Like India, Nigeria has a largely young population. And greater cultural proximity — especially in the Muslim-dominated northern regions of Nigeria — gives India an edge over China.
It is also an industry the Nigerian government under President Goodluck Jonathan has focused on. In 2010, Jonathan announced a $200 million entertainment fund and entrusted it to the Nigerian Export-Import (Nexim) Bank that has turned to India’s Exim bank for help. The Exim Bank has held workshops for officials from its Nigerian counterpart, and is “in regular touch” as a consultant on film financing.
“There’s a lot Nollywood can learn from Bollywood,” celebrated British-Indian film consultant Parminder Vir told this newspaper over the phone from London.
Nollywood today is where Bollywood was at the turn of the century — segmented and relatively unprofessional in production and distribution — Vir said.
“It can learn how to professionalise production and distribution the way India has over the past decade,” she said. “As a country keen to expand its presence in Africa, it can also learn how to leverage the soft power of films the way India has over the past two decades, to become a global power.”
For India, northern Nigeria and Kano in particular work best because of a Bollywood connect that stretches back half a century.
In the 1960s, Lebanese merchants in the region looking for business opportunities tried — and succeeded — in creating a market for Bollywood songs.
When television came to Nigeria in the 1980s, so did Bollywood films to Kano. At a 2009 film festival in Nigeria, Vir, the London-based media consultant, brought Indian and Nigerian producers together.
Bollywood films struck a chord particularly with the Muslim Hausa people of northern Nigeria, Vir said.
The morals of loyalty and family coming before all else, and the relative prudishness of Bollywood are more palatable to them than many Hollywood films, she said.
Superstars Dharmendra — then a fading hero — and Sanjay Dutt — an emerging heartthrob at the time — are household names in Kano, a Nigerian diplomat said. “As they became cultural icons, they acquired their Nigerian names — based on the kind of roles they played,” he said.
India is looking for a name that translates to friend.