DURBAN 09042014 Bolly stars, Amit Behl, Yo Yo Honey Singh, Mukul Dev. Picture: Jacques Naude

Durban -

A crew of Indian filmmakers and celebrities are making history in Durban as they shoot a film here, marking the first time that a Punjabi movie has been shot in South Africa.

On Thursday the cast and crew were on location at Moses Mabhida Stadium, and Cape to Cairo Nightclub in the Point area.

Award-winning Indian rapper Yo Yo Honey Singh, India MTV’s VJ (video jock) Gurbani Judge, and acclaimed veteran actors Mukul Dev and Amit Behl were present at the shoots.

The film, Zorawar, tells the story of a special forces officer – portrayed by Singh as he makes his film debut – who goes in search of his father, who was initially thought to have been killed years ago.

However, it emerges that in fact his father had left India and settled in Durban.

Rakesh Maharaj from Epic Entertainment – the film’s South African producers for local filming – said Zorawar was unique in that Durban formed part of the story line.

He said that while many film-makers who come to South Africa opt to shoot their movies in Cape Town and Joburg, Durban – and KwaZulu-Natal as a whole – had much to offer as a film location.

The Daily News had the opportunity to chat to some of the film’s stars between shooting.

Singh – a renowned Indian rapper and Bollywood song artist, popularly know for rapping in Punjabi – is particularly excited about breaking into acting with his role as the lead character, Zorawar Singh.

“I always wanted to do acting, and the producers came to me for Zorawar. When I heard the story it was really good. It’s also full of action, and I’m trained in kickboxing as well, so it’s fun. It’s a Punjabi movie in language, but the feel throughout is very much urban.”

Behl praised director Vinnil Markan for his skills, and for choosing Durban as the location: “After coming here I realise why he chose Durban as a location, because the script could have been shot in Dubai or anywhere else, but I realise there is a unique thing about this place…

“Technically, Vinnil is about perfection, and I think in the next four or five years he will be one of the top five, top six directors in India.”

A local budget of R3 million has been set aside for Zorawar’s Durban shoots, at 20 different locations.

This also translates into opportunities for local technical crew and extras, and a cash injection into the local economy for things like equipment and transport hire.

Production is set to conclude in May, with an Indian and South African release planned for shortly after that.