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
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Bollywood stars participated in the recent Red Sea Film Festival in Jeddah. (Supplied)
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)
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)
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)
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.”


Saudi-Lebanese designer Talal Hizami takes us back to school with latest collection

Saudi-Lebanese designer Talal Hizami takes us back to school with latest collection
Updated 50 sec ago

Saudi-Lebanese designer Talal Hizami takes us back to school with latest collection

Saudi-Lebanese designer Talal Hizami takes us back to school with latest collection

DUBAI: Fashion lovers can expect a heavy dose of nostalgia with Saudi-Lebanese-Palestinian designer Talal Hizami’s latest collection, which he released as part of his ready-to-wear menswear brand Pacifism.

His high-school-inspired offering “Alma Mater” is a sartorial tribute to the London-born creative’s educational background and is in line with fashion’s ongoing obsession with looking back.

“It’s always important for me to try to depict very vivid stories of nostalgia through my collections and my shoots,” he said.

The collection is in line with fashion’s ongoing obsession with looking back. Photographed by Cheb Moha

Y2K nostalgia is currently a huge trend in Western fashion, much of it driven by a new generation of designers who came of age in the 2000s. Hizami, who turned 29 in February, made a show of it in the lookbook for “Alma Mater,” which was shot by Iraqi-Canadian photographer Cheb Moha against the backdrop of school lockers.  

When it comes to the clothing, the designer transports us back to school with his clever take on looks you might find the average high school student wearing in a school hallway. To start, the designer reinvents the varsity jacket, a symbol of US school jocks, by his utilization of Japanese nylon fabric.

There are also casual t-shirts bearing fictional school mascots. At Pacifism University, a bird wearing a maroon knit serves as the symbol for the college team’s Peaceful Doves. The sporty vibe is dialed up with ultra-cozy terry cloth shorts and high socks.

There are also casual t-shirts bearing fictional school mascots. Photographed by Cheb Moha

Having studied in both the English and US school curriculum, Hizami wanted to merge all the experiences and essence of his emotions during his formative school years.In addition to the Ivy League hopefuls and jocks, Hizami’s new collection offers the full high school experience with pieces aimed at the science pros and preppy crowd. Oversized coats are emblazoned with a periodic table-inspired print on the back that spells out “Pacifism” while school uniforms get a streetwear spin in the form of loose black slacks and button-up polo shirts.

But perhaps nothing screams nostalgia more than the collared rugby shirts. Big in the mid-80s, rugby-stripe pullovers have made a huge resurgence, showing up in the collections of J. Crew, Alexander Wang, Koche, and now, Pacifism.

Oversized coats are emblazoned with a periodic table-inspired print on the back. Photographed by Cheb Moha

“This collection is fitting, in particular for me, because I wasn’t very good at writing stories in school so this is a way in which I find it comfortable to story-tell,” said the designer, who founded his brand in 2019 and made his London Fashion Week debut a year later. 

The collection is set to release via two drops at the end of the month online on Pacifism’s website and select e-tailers.


Saudi deputy culture minister assures Kingdom’s film industry of ‘brilliant future’ as he visits pavilion at Cannes

Saudi deputy culture minister assures Kingdom’s film industry of ‘brilliant future’ as he visits pavilion at Cannes
Updated 25 May 2022

Saudi deputy culture minister assures Kingdom’s film industry of ‘brilliant future’ as he visits pavilion at Cannes

Saudi deputy culture minister assures Kingdom’s film industry of ‘brilliant future’ as he visits pavilion at Cannes
  • Hollywood director Brett Ratner reveals plans to visit Saudi Arabia to scout for shoot locations

CANNES: Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Minister of Culture Hamed bin Mohammed Fayez visited the Kingdom’s pavilion during the 75th edition of the Cannes Film Festival on Tuesday, to show his support for the burgeoning Saudi film industry.

“Our role is to support the sector with everyone in it. God willing, we will see success soon. Thank you everyone and I wish you a happy opportunity,” he said to a crowd of Saudi and international actors as well as filmmakers who had gathered at the pavilion.

The deputy minister was accompanied by Red Sea Film Festival Foundation CEO Mohammed Al-Turki, Saudi Film Commission CEO Abdullah Al-Eyaf and US director Brett Ratner, the face behind such hits as the “Rush Hour” film series and “X-Men: The Last Stand.” Ratner also produced the “Horrible Bosses” film series, “The Revenant” and “War Dogs.”

The deputy minister praised the work being done by Saudi creatives in the Kingdom and their contribution to the expanding industry, before touring the pavilion and meeting with select industry professionals.

Following his tour, Fayez addressed the press and Saudi creatives directly, saying: “You will have a brilliant future and we are ready, present and supportive of you.

“With regional programs that will come together, there will be great opportunities for filmmakers, actors, actors and actresses,” he added.

For his part, Ratner teased a big announcement, before saying that the details were being kept under wraps.

However, he did reveal plans to visit Saudi Arabia in order to scout for shoot locations.

“I am very excited to come to your beautiful country to film. I am going to come next week with his royal highness and friends and I am going to scout the whole country,” the producer said.

“The film is going to be unbelievable. We will be able to create a big buzz,” he added.

 


Saint Laurent to reportedly present menswear show in Morocco

Saint Laurent to reportedly present menswear show in Morocco
Updated 24 May 2022

Saint Laurent to reportedly present menswear show in Morocco

Saint Laurent to reportedly present menswear show in Morocco

DUBAI: Parisian luxury label Saint Laurent is reportedly set to present its spring 2023 menswear collection in Marrakesh on July 15, according to multiple reports.

Morocco was a great source of inspiration to the late Yves Saint Laurent, and a museum dedicated to the famed fashion designer was even unveiled in Marrakesh in 2017.

The legendary couturier purchased a villa in the Moroccan city in the mid-1960s and two decades later purchased the spectacular Majorelle Gardens to save it from destruction. A mausoleum was built for the designer at the site after his death in 2008.

His years there inspired many of his collections and continue to influence the storied house that bears his name.

Although it will be the first physical show that Saint Laurent will stage in the North African country, it isn’t the first time that the brand has showcased one of its collections in Morocco.

In 2020, during the height of the coronavirus pandemic and when all brands shifted to the digital world, artistic, creative and image director of Saint Laurent Anthony Vaccarello unveiled a 10-minute-long video for the spring 2021 ready-to-wear line with models seen walking on dunes in the Moroccan desert in lieu of a runway.

The men’s show in Marrakech will coincide with an exhibition focused on Saint Laurent’s longstanding relationship with Morocco. Entitled “Love,” the exhibition will run from June 5-Oct. 31 at Palácio Duques de Cadaval in Évora, Portugal.

 


Saudi pavilion hosts Oscar-winning Indian composer A. R. Rahman at Cannes Film Festival

Saudi pavilion hosts Oscar-winning Indian composer A. R. Rahman at Cannes Film Festival
Updated 24 May 2022

Saudi pavilion hosts Oscar-winning Indian composer A. R. Rahman at Cannes Film Festival

Saudi pavilion hosts Oscar-winning Indian composer A. R. Rahman at Cannes Film Festival

DUBAI: Oscar-winning Indian composer A. R. Rahman jetted to Cannes this week to attend the 75th edition of the city’s renowned film festival. 

Besides walking the red carpet and attending film premieres, the singer and songwriter was spotted at the Saudi pavilion where he was welcomed with Saudi coffee. 

“Taking pride in the Kingdom’s legacy of generosity, Saudi coffee is being prepared at the Cannes Film Festival,” the Ministry of Culture in Saudi Arabia shared on Twitter, adding images of Rahman at the Saudi pavilion. 

Saudi coffee is heavily associated with generational hospitality and generosity, providing a close connection to the country’s customs and traditions.

In January, the Ministry of Commerce announced that the commercial name of Arabic coffee will be officially changed to Saudi coffee in the Kingdom’s restaurants, cafes, stores and roasters. 

The announcement, by ministry spokesman Abdulrahman Al-Hussein, is in conjunction with a Culture Ministry initiative in naming 2022 as the “Year of Saudi Coffee” as a way to strengthen the identity and culture of Saudi Arabia.

The record producer was spotted on the red carpet during Cannes Film Festival  opening ceremony. He attended the premiere of French filmmaker Michel Hazanavicius’s zombie comedy “Final Cut (Coupez!)”


Gigi Hadid begins filming second season of Netflix show ‘Next in Fashion’

Gigi Hadid begins filming second season of Netflix show ‘Next in Fashion’
Updated 24 May 2022

Gigi Hadid begins filming second season of Netflix show ‘Next in Fashion’

Gigi Hadid begins filming second season of Netflix show ‘Next in Fashion’

DUBAI: Part-Palestinian catwalk star Gigi Hadid has begun filming the second season of Netflix’s “Next in Fashion” alongside British TV personality Tan France, nearly five months after the model revealed her exciting new role to fans.

Ahead of the new season, which does not have a release date, Hadid took to Instagram to share her excitement over the forthcoming episodes and gush about her co-host, calling the British reality television star her “brother” and stating that shooting the new show together has been “a joy of my life.”

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Gigi Hadid (@gigihadid)

The 27-year-old posted a carousel of photos on Instagram, which included a snap of her posing with France and reading the “Next in Fashion” script.

“Can’t believe we’re almost a month into making a new season of @nextinfashion. Want to say, with only a couple weeks left, that shooting this show alongside my brother @tanfrance has been a joy of my life,” the US-Dutch-Palestinian model captioned the post. “I can’t wait for you all to meet these designers — an amazing, talented, sweet, cool, deserving group of humans and for them to share themselves and their creations with the world! We have so much in store for you,” she added.

The first season of the fashion competition show, which premiered in January 2020, featured 18 designers who faced weekly design challenges to win a $250,000 prize and a chance to have their collection sold on Net-a-Porter.

France also recently lauded his “Next in Fashion” co-host and dubbed her an “amazing mom.”

In a conversation with Us Weekly, the host said he has received many parenting tips from the supermodel, who welcomed a baby girl with former One Direction star Zayn Malik, in 2020.

He told the publication: “She’s one of my closest friends. I love her so much.

“It makes the show really, really fun,” added France. “It’s probably the best time I’ve ever had on a show.”

The 39-year-old continued: “She’s an amazing mom. I’ve gotten so many tips from her,” adding that he “of course” has met her daughter Khai.