Durban - Bureaucratic bungling might stymie the development of a powerful film alliance between South Africa and India, which would see the likes of Amitabh Bachchan, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Abhishek Bachchan and Priyanka Chopra bring the glitz and glamour of Bollywood to Durban.
Also at stake is estimated revenue of R220 million for the city.
The movie high-fliers are starring in two feature films due to be filmed over several weeks in Durban.
Industry insiders say they are shocked at the Department of Trade and Industry’s (DTI) ongoing tardiness in fulfilling the conditions for filming to take place. An application was made several months ago.
The two blockbusters are Happy Anniversary, touted as Rai’s much-anticipated comeback, and Aankhen 2, both to be produced by renowned Indian producer Gaurang Doshi.
Filming is due to start on January 15 with Durban the confirmed location. This is expected to bring in the revenue of R220 million.
Cynthia Johnston, spokeswoman for Mind Blowing Productions, which secured the deals, said they were hanging in the balance.
She said Doshi was threatening to pull out of the process and film in Australia where he has already been given clearance.
Johnstone has since escalated the matter to the president’s office.
“After months of not getting anywhere with the DTI we wrote to the president’s office via the president’s hotline and will receive a reference number with assurances we will be contacted soon.”
She believes the delay is a result of asking for an increased foreign film incentive programme.
“The DTI in 2008 introduced the foreign film incentive programme, which is around 20 to 25 percent. The incentive programme rewards foreign producers with a rebate that is a percentage of the film’s budget for filming in the country.
“We approached the Department of Trade and Industry shortly after sealing the deal, applying for a 35 percent incentive, which is slightly above the norm, but this has been done before. And we have been hitting obstacles since then,” said Johnston.
“After correspondence via e-mail and countless smses and calls we were told earlier this month that we would receive a letter stating if the increased incentive would be approved. To date we have heard nothing.”
Dti spokesman Sydwel Medupe told the Sunday Tribune that while they had received the application nothing could be done until the department reopened early next month. He did not give reasons for the delay.
“We have received the application and are working on it. Their request for the foreign film initiative is above what the incentive usually is, which is why we are still considering (it). I can’t say when the panel will sit and review this application.”
Meanwhile, eThekwini officials have supported the initiative. Eric Appelgren, local head of international and governance relations, said getting producers to film in Durban will result in foreign direct investment and will stimulate the local film industry.
“For too long Cape Town and Joburg have had the lion’s share of films being shot. This could push Durban to become a prime location for films. We look forward to the day this investment becomes a reality.”
Johnston said Javed Aboobaker, South African producer and owner of the production company, had corresponded at length via e-mail and sms with different officials in the department of trade and industry, to no avail.
“The producer is understandably upset and if he is not allowed to shoot here, he will shoot the movies in Australia, where he has already been given the green light. And then we will lose this deal. We are hanging onto it by a thread at the moment. Films are usually shot in Cape Town.
“This is a breakthrough for Durban and will market the city not just for Bollywood, but the entire film industry like never before.”
She said this was an opportunity for fans to possibly meet their Bollywood idols while creating much-needed revenue.
“It will have so many benefits for the city. But we are just frustrated, there are processes in place but there is no accountability”