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Cricket ties, from Africa to backyard boys
Kenya beeps on Tolly radar

For Bengali films, the preferred destination to shoot song sequences is Thailand or Malaysia — because it’s cheaper to arrange logistics there than at other foreign locales.

How about giving the audience a taste of the wildlife-rich savannah grasslands of Kenya through films without burning a hole in the pocket? “Not bad at all,” said Arijit Dutta of Priya Cinemas at a press conference with Jacinta Nzioke Mbithi, director, marketing, Kenya Tourism Board at Taa’am (the restaurant on the ground floor of Priya) on Sunday afternoon.

To mark the beginning of a liaison between the two countries, Kenya Tourism Board has come on board as presenting sponsors of The League of Stars, a T20 cricket match with Tollywood stars at Gitanjali Stadium on Sunday afternoon.

“Cricket we’ve heard is very popular in India and since it’s a celebrity cricket match, we thought of associating ourselves with it first. Later, we plan to fly a few stars from Bengal to Kenya so that they can come back and talk about our country,” smiled Jacinta. “The Indian government is also promoting India in Kenya. Last year, we’ve had 60,000 tourists from India visiting Kenya.”

The only Bollywood film to be shot in Kenya (at the famous game reserve Masai Mara) is Shortcut Romeo (2013), starring Neil Nitin Mukesh and Ameesha Patel.

The 1985 Hollywood classic Out Of Africa, starring Meryl Streep, was shot in Kenya. Baringo, Bogoria and Mt Kenya are among the popular shooting destinations for Hollywood.

“Kenya has been upbeat on providing locations for our film shoot because they believe it will encourage tourism. Films are the best ambassadors to carry the story of a country to people everywhere else. We want a synergy between the two countries in the form of shoots, festivals, symposiums and conferences. In future we may have joint film productions, too. But now the focus is on tapping the regional film industry. It sounds encouraging and doable,” said Dutta.

Whether Kenya can become a cheaper option for Tollywood producers is something that the Kenya government is still working on. “We will encourage shooting films in Kenya by giving incentives to producers. We have great locations, mountains, lush green forest, a rich wildlife and beach... We are ready to provide all kind of logistical support in terms of equipment because we have our own film industry in Kenya. We want to invest in it because there is a market. India is very big.... We want to reach out to people through the biggest channel that is films,” said Jacinta.

Apart from planning on an incentive for Tollywood, Kenya Tourism Board has also launched a Tourism app — Magical Kenya mobile application — that can be downloaded from any Apple store. The application provides information about restaurants, hotels and everything else about Kenya.

“Once the initial plan reaches a certain level, the government can take over. We are kickstarting the association with League of Stars. I am also planning to take producers from Bengal to Kenya and then we can approach our government to take it forward,” said Dutta.