How Bollywood expertise can cement cultural ties that bind Saudi Arabia and India

Special How Bollywood expertise can cement cultural ties that bind Saudi Arabia and India
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Bollywood stars participated in the recent Red Sea Film Festival in Jeddah. (Supplied)
Special How Bollywood expertise can cement cultural ties that bind Saudi Arabia and India
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A deal between Saudi sporting authorities and India’s Ministry of Ayush aims to promote yoga education in the Kingdom. (Supplied)
Special How Bollywood expertise can cement cultural ties that bind Saudi Arabia and India
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Bollywood stars participated in the recent Red Sea Film Festival in Jeddah. (Supplied)
Special How Bollywood expertise can cement cultural ties that bind Saudi Arabia and India
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Bollywood stars participated in the recent Red Sea Film Festival in Jeddah. (Supplied)
Special How Bollywood expertise can cement cultural ties that bind Saudi Arabia and India
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A deal between Saudi sporting authorities and India’s Ministry of Ayush aims to promote yoga education in the Kingdom. (Supplied)
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Updated 12 May 2022

How Bollywood expertise can cement cultural ties that bind Saudi Arabia and India

How Bollywood expertise can cement cultural ties that bind Saudi Arabia and India
  • Movers and shakers of Hindi film industry see vast opportunities opening up in fast-changing Kingdom
  • Saudi authorities aim to build mutually beneficial relations with India’s highly successful film industry

RIYADH: Collaborations in cinema and entertainment are expected to play a crucial role in the promising new era of cross-sector cooperation between Saudi Arabia and India as part of their strategic partnership.

Barely four years after the resumption of movie screening in the Kingdom, the movers and shakers of India’s multibillion-dollar Hindi film industry, better known as Bollywood, are being invited to seize the opportunities opening up in a fast-changing country that now aspires to be a world-class center for film.

The twin facts of India being a market with immense potential and the presence of a large Indian diaspora in the Kingdom make the nation of 1.38 billion people a natural partner for Saudi Arabia as it seeks to diversify its economy away from oil and into the creative industries, among other fields.




A deal between Saudi sporting authorities and India’s Ministry of Ayush aims to promote yoga education in the Kingdom. (Supplied)

“I see a huge potential for future collaboration on film production and other cultural sectors between India and Saudi Arabia,” Saudi Minister of Culture Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan wrote in an opinion piece for The Times of India newspaper on May 1, following a three-day visit.

“We have seen many synergies across the value chain of filmmaking, such as the co-production of family-oriented content, infrastructure development and nurturing local talent.”

Under Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 social and economic reform agenda, the government aims to increase household spending on cultural and entertainment activities inside the Kingdom from 2.9 percent to 6 percent.

To achieve this, the Kingdom has been allocating resources generously to the domestic film industry, as well as opening scores of new cinemas, concert venues, sports arenas and leisure facilities across the country.

Having long enjoyed cordial diplomatic and commercial relations with New Delhi, Saudi authorities now aim to build mutually beneficial ties with India’s highly successful Hindi film industry.




Last month, Saudi Minister of Culture Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan met with Bollywood leaders in Mumbai during a three-day visit to India. (Supplied)

Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Culture established its dedicated Film Commission in February 2020 to help transform the Kingdom’s film industry into a major economic driver.

Existing collaborations with Bollywood have already resulted in an increase in the distribution and exhibition of Indian films in Saudi Arabia.

“Kaala,” a film by the iconic Indian actor, producer and screenwriter Rajinikanth, became the first Indian film released in the Kingdom in 2018, while the acclaimed Bollywood film “83” premiered at the Red Sea International Film Festival in 2021.




Prince Badr also met with Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan in Mumbai. (Supplied)

The potential returns from an expanded partnership are huge. The global film and video market reached a value of nearly $234.9 billion in 2020, having increased at a compound annual growth rate of 2.4 percent since 2015.

The market is expected to reach $318.2 billion by 2025, and $410.6 billion by 2030.

“With the Indian film industry being one of the largest and most celebrated in the world, and as Saudi Arabia aims to become a world-class center for film with an anticipated contribution of $6.9 billion to the Kingdom’s GDP by 2030, there are numerous opportunities for the film industries of both nations,” Prince Badr said. 




Prince Badr also met with Bollywood star Akshay Kumar in Mumbai. (Supplied)

“From talent, through to production, distribution, and technical know-how across the value chain, there are plenty of areas for both countries to collaborate and create content that is suitable not just in their respective countries, but also for a global audience.”

As chairman of the Film Commission, Prince Badr led a Saudi delegation to India in April to discuss ways to expand cultural partnerships, particularly in the film industry.

The delegation included representatives from Film AlUla, a company established in early 2020 by the Royal Commission for AlUla with a mandate to promote filming in Saudi Arabia’s historic AlUla region and develop a film-friendly ecosystem to support productions.




Saudi Arabia’s historic region of AlUla is attracting international film productions. (Supplied)

During the Saudi delegation’s visit, Film AlUla’s representatives met prominent Indian filmmakers, including Shah Rukh Khan, Salman Khan and Akshay Kumar.

“The Indian film sector is among the best known and most successful in the world and, during our recent visit, we were delighted to meet with many of the industry’s most celebrated individuals and entities,” Abdullah Al-Eyyaf Al-Qahtani, the Film Commission’s CEO, told Arab News.

“With our own film industry among the fastest growing in the Middle East and North Africa, we can learn much from Bollywood and introduce opportunities to key Indian productions and businesses in Saudi Arabia. We hope to continue to bolster ties with India as the Saudi film sector reaches new heights both at home and abroad.”

India and Saudi Arabia have enjoyed decades of strong economic and socio-cultural ties since formally establishing relations in 1947.




Existing collaborations with Bollywood have already resulted in an increase in the distribution and exhibition of Indian films in Saudi Arabia. (Supplied)

These ties were cemented during the 1950s when King Saud and Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru exchanged visits — a cordiality that has continued to this day with similar visits by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Commercial partnerships between the two nations have meanwhile grown apace. In the financial year of 2017-18 alone, Indo-Saudi bilateral trade was worth $27.48 billion — up from $25.1 billion in the preceding year, according to India’s Economic Times newspaper.

Plans to bring Bollywood to Saudi Arabia have been underway for several years. In February 2019, the Kingdom’s General Entertainment Authority signed two agreements with Indian firms committing to host a series of concerts featuring top Hindi cinema artists.

The agreements were reached at the Saudi-Indian Forum in New Delhi during Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s 2019 visit to India, when he envisioned investment opportunities of more than $100 billion in India.

FASTFACTS

Film industry is expected to contribute $6.9 billion to Saudi GDP by 2030.

Indo-Saudi bilateral trade reached $27.48 billion in the 2017-18 financial year.

Saudi Arabia signed trade agreements with India worth $100 million in 2019.

Significantly, the highlight of the final day of the Red Sea International Film Festival in Jeddah last December was the presence of a number of Bollywood celebrities, including Ranveer Singh and Deepika Padukone, who brought their full glamor to the world premiere of the film “83.”

In comments to Arab News, Singh said: “I’m really happy to be here. It’s my first time in Saudi Arabia. I’ve always been fascinated by Saudi Arabian culture, and I hope to get a taste of it tonight.”

“83” was released across the Gulf region on VOX cinemas on Dec. 23, a day before its worldwide release.




Bollywood celebrity Ranveer Singh at the Red Sea International Film Festival in Jeddah last December. (Supplied)

“I think the opening we Bollywood performers have got in Saudi Arabia is a great opportunity to showcase the talents of both these beautiful countries,” Abu Malik, a Mumbai-based Indian singer and music director, told Arab News. 

“Many shows have happened in Saudi Arabia now with immense success. I hope I get an opportunity soon to perform a musical show in Saudi Arabia.”

The film industry is not the only area where the two nations have been keen to foster collaborations. Running in parallel to strategic investments has been a focus on bolstering cultural ties.

For instance, on June 21 last year, coinciding with International Day of Yoga, the Saudi Ministry of Sports’ Leaders Development Institute signed a memorandum of understanding with the Morarji Desai National Institute of Yoga, affiliated with India’s Ministry of Ayush, to promote yoga education in the Kingdom.




Acceptance of the physical and mental health benefits of yoga has been aided by the Kingdom’s burgeoning investments in sports and public health initiatives. (Supplied)

The agreement has paved the way for the establishment of formal yoga standards and courses in Saudi Arabia and collaborations in research, education and training.

Yoga, which originated in India, is a popular pursuit across the world. In Saudi Arabia, acceptance of the physical and mental health benefits of yoga has been aided by the Kingdom’s burgeoning investments in sports and public health initiatives.

“Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 holds a great deal of potential and promise for creating a mutual cultural legacy between two nations that have rich histories and strong ties,” Shobhaa De, an influential Indian columnist and socialite, told Arab News.




Shobhaa De

De, who has written 22 books including “Bollywood Nights,” added: “Beyond Indian cinema, there is enormous potential for enriching the cultural landscape in deeply meaningful ways.”

For both Riyadh and New Delhi, the commemoration of 75 years of India’s independence is a valuable opportunity to reflect on past decades of strong economic and socio-cultural relations while also looking toward the future.

“India continues to be a market of high strategic relevance to Saudi Arabia, and we are seeing a sustained increase in opportunities for cooperation and knowledge-sharing among the two nations, as well as synergistic investments for mutual growth,” Prince Badr said in his Times of India op-ed.

“Through consistent and meaningful engagement with government entities, strategic partners, and wider participants in India, we look forward to bolstering this very promising sector as we together shape a shared future for our nations.”


REVIEW: Kwai app

Photo/Supplied
Photo/Supplied
Updated 26 June 2022

REVIEW: Kwai app

Photo/Supplied
  • The app has a live feature that allows users to engage with and converse with their followers, compete against other users and earn money

Kwai is a new social media platform that allows users to share and edit short videos ranging from 15 seconds to five minutes in length.

Find funny short videos, add recordings and videos of your daily life, take part in daily challenges, or look for the best memes and videos.

The app will make it easier for users to raise their profile and appear on trending pages.

Kwai recently signed a deal with many Arab influencers to enhance engagement in the Middle East.

Use the app’s video editor to create your own masterpieces by utilizing your device’s camera, adding music or filters and instantly uploading your video.

The app has a live feature that allows users to engage with and converse with their followers, compete against other users and earn money.

Rules for posting videos help to protect younger viewers, while Kwai concentrates on Arab culture, creating hashtags and challenges suitable for the Arabic audience.

The app, developed by Chinese company Beijing Kuaishou Technology, has been downloaded by 300 million users worldwide.


Designer Amina Muaddi shows off streetstyle at Paris Men’s Fashion Week

The designer showed off a yellow-hued makeup look at the show. (Getty Images)
The designer showed off a yellow-hued makeup look at the show. (Getty Images)
Updated 26 June 2022

Designer Amina Muaddi shows off streetstyle at Paris Men’s Fashion Week

The designer showed off a yellow-hued makeup look at the show. (Getty Images)

DUBAI: Jordanian Romanian footwear designer Amina Muaddi was spotted at Paris Men’s Fashion Week wearing a colorful ensemble that caught the attention of streetwear photographers.

Muaddi — whose namesake label is a favorite among celebrity clientele such as the Kardashian-Jenner sisters and Rihanna, with whom she has collaborated, attended the Louis Vuitton showcase and the Loewe show, to which she wore a white V-neck crop top with multi-colored wide-legged pants complete with a bright yellow crossbody bag by the Spanish label.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by AMINA MUADDI (@aminamuaddi)

Loewe thrust Paris Menswear Fashion Week into a bleak and dystopian vision of the future on Saturday — turning its runway into a dead space where nature and animal life only existed to be harnessed and exploited by humankind. A sanitized white wall descended onto a bare deck as models walked by robotically, bathed in misty white light, the Associated Press reported.

Models wore plates of television screens showing deep water fish in the ocean, and plasma screen visors beamed out growing chrysanthemums. The only place that grass grew in designer Jonathan Anderson’s fashion dystopia was literally out of shoes, where green blades quivered and flapped surreally as the automatons filed by.

The British designer used the remarkable set and concept not only as a springboard for some of the most accomplished designs seen this season, but to make a thoughtful comment about ecology and humanity’s contempt for the natural world.

The organic versus the robotic was explored in Anderson’s conceptual designs that were intentionally off-kilter, according to the Associated Press. A white minimalist sweater had surplus sleeves that flapped about limply at the side of the model, on top of white sports leggings and loafers sprouting 10-centimeter clumps of grass.

Bare chests and legs exposed vulnerability, while hard, square-strap bags slung across the shoulder added a contrasting fierceness. But the piece de resistance must have been the giant mustard toggle shoes that looked like the hooves of a horse but could equally have come from the set of a “Star Wars” planetary village.

Elsewhere, Cowgirls and cowboys mingled in Moroccan French brand Casablanca’s eye-popping show that was notable for its highly unusual set. The co-ed collection was staged in front of several fenced-off horses that paid little attention to the clothes, passed waste nonchalantly and sniffed in the opposite direction.

Designer Charaf Tajer cared little for the indifferent equine reaction, sending down the runway energetic and enthusiastic looks that harked from the heartland of American rodeos and the Wild West.

 


Refugee choir performs at UK’s Glastonbury Festival

The choir, which was founded in 2015 in response to the Syrian refugee crisis, is made up of 50 people. (Instagram)
The choir, which was founded in 2015 in response to the Syrian refugee crisis, is made up of 50 people. (Instagram)
Updated 26 June 2022

Refugee choir performs at UK’s Glastonbury Festival

The choir, which was founded in 2015 in response to the Syrian refugee crisis, is made up of 50 people. (Instagram)

DUBAI: The Citizens of the World Refugee Choir performed at the UK’s Glastonbury Festival on Sunday.

The choir, which was founded in 2015 in response to the Syrian refugee crisis, is made up of 50 people.

Becky Dell, the musical director, told PA that the choir is a 50/50 split of refugees and non-refugees, and calls itself a “rainbow tribe (because) none of us look the same as each other – it’s amazing.”

She said the choir hopes to “elevate the narrative around refugees; too often the story is ‘poor refugees,’ it’s sending them far away. We wanted to show refugees in a different way. They are displaced human beings first and foremost.”

The choir opened the festival’s Avalon Stage on Sunday with a solo 40-minute set.


Emirati arts patron Huda Alkhamis-Kanoo receives prestigious award from Spain’s queen

Emirati arts patron Huda Alkhamis-Kanoo receives prestigious award from Spain’s queen
Updated 25 June 2022

Emirati arts patron Huda Alkhamis-Kanoo receives prestigious award from Spain’s queen

Emirati arts patron Huda Alkhamis-Kanoo receives prestigious award from Spain’s queen

DUBAI: Huda Alkhamis-Kanoo, founder of the Abu Dhabi Festival, has become the first Arab to receive the Reina Sofía School of Music’s prestigious medal of honor. 

The Emirati national, who was born to a Saudi father and a Syrian mother, received the award from Queen Sofia of Spain at the school’s academic closing ceremony in Madrid. 

Alkhamis-Kanoo was awarded for supporting the development of music culture and education, as well as for her outstanding support to the school.

When receiving the award, she dedicated her accomplishments to Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak — the wife of Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al-Nahyan, founder of the UAE — whose unwavering support she said “empowers women throughout the UAE.” 

Alkhamis-Kanoo, who was born in Beirut, founded the Abu Dhabi Music and Arts Foundation in 1996 and the Abu Dhabi Festival in 2004.

She has received numerous awards, including the Abu Dhabi Award and Abu Dhabi Medal (conferred by UAE President Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan), the UN-affiliated Women Together Award, the Aspen Institute Emerging Voice Award for Cultural Stewardship, and the Puccini Festival Foundation Award.

 


German model Toni Garrn weds in Elie Saab gown

German model Toni Garrn weds in Elie Saab gown
Updated 25 June 2022

German model Toni Garrn weds in Elie Saab gown

German model Toni Garrn weds in Elie Saab gown
  • Former Victoria’s Secret model wore a custom flowy dress cut out at the waist with a lace bustier
  • She exchanged vows for the second time with British actor Alex Pettyfer

DUBAI: German model and actress Toni Garrn tied the knot this week in Greece wearing an Elie Saab gown.

The former Victoria’s Secret model exchanged vows for the second time with British actor Alex Pettyfer in an intimate wedding on Monastiri beach.

For her special day, Garrn wore a custom flowy dress by the Lebanese couturier. The gown was cut out at the waist and featured a lace bustier. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by TONI GARRN (@tonigarrn)

“Yesterday felt like the most beautiful dream,” the star told her 3.6 million followers. “The beautiful natural wedding ceremony that was actually a full-on rock-climbing adventure … in the most delicate wedding dress made completely by hand.”

Garrn, whose runway debut was in 2008 for the Calvin Klein spring/summer show, shared a series of images on her Instagram of the tough trip she took to get to where her husband and the rest of her guests were standing on the cliff.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by TONI GARRN (@tonigarrn)

“The chances were actually around 50 percent I (and) the dress wouldn’t make it in one piece to where Alex and everyone else was waiting. I’ll never forget this day.”

The couple previously wed in October 2020 in Hamburg, Germany in front of family and friends.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by TONI GARRN (@tonigarrn)

In March 2021, Garrn revealed on Instagram that she and Pettyfer were expecting their first child together. “I’ve been keeping this secret for … pretty much 6 months exactly. FINALLY I can share my biggest news with you all,” she captioned her short pregnancy reveal video back then.

The couple welcomed their daughter Luca Malaika in July 2021.

Besides tying the knot, the couple also celebrated, over the weekend, Pettyfer’s first Father’s Day.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by TONI GARRN (@tonigarrn)

The new mom walked over 60 shows for prestigious designers including Stella McCartney, Dior, Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Hermès, Dolce & Gabbana and Michael Kors.

Her first acting role was in 2017. She played the role of South African model Reeva Steenkamp in the movie “Oscar Pistorius: Blade Runner Killer.”

She also appeared on productions like the Marvel blockbuster “Spider-Man: Far from Home” and the German drama series “You Are Wanted.”

Garrn is not the first celebrity to wed in an Elie Saab gown. South Korean actress Son Yejin, the “Games of Thrones” star Rose Leslie and actress Debby Ryan have all chosen the Beirut-born designer to make their dream dresses.