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.”


Model Shanina Shaik kicks off wedding season in style

Model Shanina Shaik has starred in a number of fashion campaigns. (File/ Getty Images)
Model Shanina Shaik has starred in a number of fashion campaigns. (File/ Getty Images)
Updated 03 July 2022

Model Shanina Shaik kicks off wedding season in style

Model Shanina Shaik has starred in a number of fashion campaigns. (File/ Getty Images)

DUBAI: Part-Saudi model Shanina Shaik kicked off wedding season in style by attending the nuptials of fellow Victoria’s Secret model Nadine Leopold and tech entrepreneur Andrew Barclay.

The pair tied the knot at an undisclosed location and while Shaik respected the couple’s privacy and did not post shots of the wedding, she did take to Instagram to show off her wedding attire and shared a short video of fireworks at the reception.

Shaik opted for a cream-colored silk shirt that grazed her baby bump and captioned the photo of her outfit, which she shared on Instagram Stories, “bestie’s wedding.”

The growing baby bump is not news to Shaik’s 2.9 million Instagram followers, who learned of her pregnancy in May.

The catwalk star took to Instagram on Mother’s Day to share the happy news followers, posting three images of her bump with an extended caption in the form of a letter.

“To the new love of my life, thank you for choosing me to be your Mum. I have always wanted you for as long as I can remember, and at times my patience was tested. The timing had to be right, and I can say with confidence that I am ready to be your guide, your protector and your best friend,” she said.

The 31-year-old model, who is of Saudi, Pakistani, Lithuanian and Australian descent, is expecting the baby with her partner Matthew Adesuyan, the head of a record label in Los Angeles.

“As each month goes by during this precious journey of pregnancy, I am learning what the role of being a mother entails. I worry a lot, especially about your wellbeing and development. It’s a feeling that I’ve never experienced before, not even about myself. I would do anything for you, be anything for you and sacrifice anything for you,” she added.

She praised her own mother mentioning that she was raised by an “amazing woman” who taught her a lot about motherhood. “She has set the bar high and I don’t want to disappoint you. I want to raise you as she raised me.”

The mom-to-be ended the lengthy caption saying: “Sharing you with the world today is the most precious gift I could possibly receive on Mother’s Day. Mummy and Daddy can’t wait to meet you!”

Since sharing the news, Shaik has treated fans to regular updates about her pregnancy, including a post late last week that she captioned “baby kicked,” as well as her prenatal stretching tips and skincare routine.


UN report with Abu Dhabi’s Department of Culture spotlights pandemic’s effect on arts scene

The report’s findings were unveiled in Abu Dhabi. (Supplied)
The report’s findings were unveiled in Abu Dhabi. (Supplied)
Updated 03 July 2022

UN report with Abu Dhabi’s Department of Culture spotlights pandemic’s effect on arts scene

The report’s findings were unveiled in Abu Dhabi. (Supplied)

DUBAI: While lockdowns, postponements and cancellations caused by the COVID-19 pandemic seem largely in the past, the socio-economic upheaval is still being reckoned with — and the international arts and culture scene is just one of many sectors that has been left reeling.

A new report released by UNESCO in partnership with Abu Dhabi’s Department of Culture and Tourism (DTC), titled “Culture in Times of COVID-19 Resilience, Recovery and Revival,” explores the major global trends that have reshaped the cultural sector due to COVID-19 and provides solutions for its revival.

Research for the report began in September 2021 when the DCT partnered with UNESCO to publish the first global assessment of the impact of COVID-19 across all cultural domains since the advent of the pandemic.

The findings were released during an event late last week in Abu Dhabi where both the DCT’s Chairman Mohamed Al-Mubarak and Ernesto Ottone Ramirez, UNESCO assistant director general, were present.

“Lockdowns experienced by many countries destroyed jobs and business in the culture sector,” Ramirez told Arab News. “This had a severe impact on the sector with more than 10 million jobs lost in 2020 alone and a 20 to 40 percent drop in revenues across the sector.”

Venue-based activities such as theaters and museums — as well as World Heritage sites — were hit hard.

“UNESCO reported that about 90 percent of museums and cultural institutions closed worldwide and about 90 percent of countries saw their World Heritage sites fully or partially closed in 2020,” he added.

“Many artists and cultural professionals have lost their livelihoods; pre-existing inequities have been deepened — including for women and girls — further amplifying social and   economic insecurities. These impacts have brought leading decision-makers and cultural professionals to further rely on the social and economic role of culture as a road to recovery,” stated the report.

Cultural and creative industries, as well as artists, also suffered greatly, emphasized Ramirez and the report. “The estimate is that in 2020 there was a $750bn contraction in the Gross Value Added generated by the cultural and creative industries globally, relative to 2019,” he told Arab News. “We need strong policies that support these industries and the artists. Artists and cultural professionals should not only be adequately recognized henceforth but appropriately credited for their work and contribution.”

Recognizing the importance of museums, cultural institutions and heritage sites is also vital. 

“They not only preserve heritage but offer equal access to culture and provide vital education, social inclusion, cultural diversity and well-being,” said Ramirez.

While the culture sector is beginning to recover, what the pandemic has taught those in the field is that it cannot move forward in today’s world without developing and sustaining a collective ecosystem.

“This includes data-driven policies, inter and intra-sectoral collaboration, economic investment, infrastructure, regulations, socio-economic support and capacity-building,” explained Ramirez.

Crucially, he emphasized, “if we are to preserve our culture, we must ensure the continuity of its creation by supporting artists and professionals in adapting to a changing world; providing equal access and opportunities across the cultural value chain; ensuring social protection and fair retribution for all; harnessing technological change to support innovation and facilitate a diversity of cultural expressions.”

The cultural sector, even in its weakened state, caused many to question what they value and prioritize. Culture in that light is often a source of comfort, connection and beauty for many. Take it away and we lose a vital part of our wellbeing and our communication with others.


US actress Lindsay Lohan calls Arab fiance ‘husband’ in surprise Instagram post

US actress Lindsay Lohan calls Arab fiance ‘husband’ in surprise Instagram post
Updated 03 July 2022

US actress Lindsay Lohan calls Arab fiance ‘husband’ in surprise Instagram post

US actress Lindsay Lohan calls Arab fiance ‘husband’ in surprise Instagram post

DUBAI: US actress Lindsay Lohan this week called her fiance Bader Shammas her “husband” in a heartfelt message she shared on Instagram, sparking speculation that the pair have married in secret. Fans flooded the stars account to find out more about the famously private Shammas — read on to find out just who the lucky man is.

The “Mean Girls” star, who is based in Dubai, shared a picture of her and Shammas, a financier, with her 10.9 million followers and wrote: “I am the luckiest woman in the world. You found me and knew that I wanted to find happiness and grace, all at the same time. I am stunned that you are my husband. My life and my everything. Every woman should feel like this every day,” the singer and songwriter wrote. 

Shammas, whose Instagram is on private mode, is a financier who previously worked as an associate at BNP Paribas Wealth Management up until 2017, according to Elle magazine. Educated in the US, he reportedly holds a degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of South Florida and a Bachelor of Science in Finance degree from John H. Sykes College of Business, which is connected with the University of Tampa.

 

 

The Hollywood star announced her engagement in November, posting a series of snaps that showed off her diamond engagement ring.

Lohan and Shammas were first spotted together at a music festival in Dubai shortly before the pandemic hit in 2020.

In May 2020, Lohan’s mother, Dina Lohan, spoke about Shammas, saying: “Lindsay is dating a wonderful guy right now, but that’s neither here nor there. When she’s ready to talk about her personal life, she will.”

 

 

 


Actress Naomie Harris shows off pink gown by Tony Ward at grand prix ball

Actress Naomie Harris shows off pink gown by Tony Ward at grand prix ball
Updated 02 July 2022

Actress Naomie Harris shows off pink gown by Tony Ward at grand prix ball

Actress Naomie Harris shows off pink gown by Tony Ward at grand prix ball

DUBAI: British actress Naomie Harris this week stepped out in a hot pink gown by Lebanese-Italian fashion designer Tony Ward at London’s Grand Prix Ball 2022.

The “Small Island” star turned heads in a one-shoulder chiffon draped dress that was tight at the waist with a subtle cut-out bust. It featured a long train and a thigh-high slit.

The ball is an annual charity gala held in the lead-up to the British Grand Prix in support of the charitable organization the Prince’s Trust.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by TONY WARD (@tonywardcouture)

For her jewelry, Harris, who started her career by appearing in the 1987 TV series “Simon and the Witch,” opted for sparkly Swarovski hoop earrings and a simple glitzy bracelet.

Her dark hair was styled in raven braids, and the actress kept her makeup simple with a neutral lip and blushed cheeks.

Ward’s clientele list includes Chrissy Teigen, Lori Harvey, Sharon Stone, Bella Thorne Naomi Campbell, who wear the designer’s pieces to events such as the Oscars, the Grammy and the Critics Choice Awards.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by TONY WARD (@tonywardcouture)

In May, Ward dressed a number of stars on the red carpet of the Cannes Film Festival, including  Indian actress Urvashi Rautela, US-Indian actress and social media star Liza Koshy, Danish model Josephine Skriver, US model Jasmine Tookes, German blogger Leonie Hanne, US-Somali actress Sabrina Dhowre Elba, Belgian model Rose Bertram and TikTok star Jessica Wang.

Last week, US singer and songwriter Mary J. Blige wore a two-piece white gown by the part-Arab designer to the BET awards in Los Angeles.

The couturier, who has worked with such high-profile designers as Gianfranco Ferre for Dior and the late Karl Lagerfeld for Chloe, will unveil its fall/winter 2023 collection during Paris Haute Couture Week on July 4.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by TONY WARD (@tonywardcouture)

Meanwhile, Harris’ most recent work is “The Man Who Fell to Earth.” She stars in the sci-fi show, released in April, alongside actors Chiwetel Ejiofar, Sonya Cassidy and Jimmi Simpson.

Harris, whose father is from Trinidad and mother from Jamaica, has won multiple honors from the Critics’ Choice Movie Awards, Hollywood Film Awards, and the Independent Spirit Awards.

In 2017, she was nominated for best performance by an actress in a supporting role award in the 2017 Oscars for her part in “Moonlight.”


Lebanese singer Nancy Ajram teases collaboration with US DJ Marshmello

Lebanese singer Nancy Ajram teases collaboration with US DJ Marshmello
Updated 02 July 2022

Lebanese singer Nancy Ajram teases collaboration with US DJ Marshmello

Lebanese singer Nancy Ajram teases collaboration with US DJ Marshmello

DUBAI: Lebanese singer Nancy Ajram this week teased an upcoming collaboration with US music producer Marshmello.

The superstar took to Instagram to share a picture of herself with the DJ, who was in his usual custom white helmet resembling a marshmello, in a recoding studio.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Nancy Ajram (@nancyajram)

Ajram captioned the post: “Sah Sah,” meaning “true true” in English. This hints that this could possibly be the title of the duo’s new song.

Marshmello shared a short clip on Instagram of him playing the stringed qanun instrument. His post was also captioned “Sah Sah.”

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by marshmello (@marshmello)

Ajram shared Marshmello’s reel and wrote to her 33 million followers: “Soon.”

Fans quickly responded to the stars’ posts and expressed their excitement for the new track.

“What a collab,” wrote one fan on Instagram, while another said: “Can’t wait!”