Bollywood filmmakers envision the day when productions are shot in Vancouver (with video, gallery)

LARISSA CAHUTE
VANCOUVER DESI

Some of India’s A-listers see Vancouver as the next home for their Bollywood sets.

“Shooting in British Columbia, in Vancouver, is very high up on our priorities,” Indian film director Karan Johar said at Tuesday’s extravagant press conference at the Vancouver Convention Centre announcing the Times of India Film Awards’ (TOIFA) debut in Vancouver.

The first-ever edition of TOIFA will kick off April 4 with musical performances at the Pacific Coliseum, followed by film screenings across Vancouver. The grand event will close April 6 with a red carpet and awards ceremony at BC Place, graced by many Bollywood stars such as Chitrangada Singh, Akshay Kumar, Priyanka Chopra, Abhishek Bachchan and many more.

Already impressed by his first visit to Vancouver, Johar plans to “scout around” for film locations when he returns in April.

While he admits it’s “definitely not feasible or cheap,” he believes Bollywood has the star power and production budget to film in the city.

“The beauty of it really makes up for it,” he said. “And April might inspire the entire film fraternity to shoot in the region … Many, many movie actors, many movie producers, directors will come and be greatly inspired by the visuals they will wake up to.”

World-renowned choreographer Shiamak Davar helped push the event to Vancouver — a place he’s called his second home for 10 years now.

“I jumped and said, ‘Yes, I love Vancouver,’” he told the crowd. “Being here is like being home.

“This is the place to go,” he said to his colleagues Johar — whom he referred to as “the Steven Spielberg of India” — and Bollywood starlet Singh.

Tuesday marked Singh’s first time on Canadian soil.

“It is just spectacular — even with the fog,” she said of Vancouver’s murky weather. “I take a lot of pride in standing here today representing one of the fastest growing film industries in the world.”

“Our films have really helped us cross borders wherever we’ve gone,” she said, adding the industry just reached the 100-year mark.

According to Johar, India’s film industry has done so well in Canada because of the audience.

“The diaspora audience or NRIs — I always say they’re much more Indian at heart than any of us are. They feel so much more attached to their roots, they express their love much more than we do for our own country,” he said. “The diaspora love has made Indian cinema even more impactful.”

Tuesday morning’s announcement gave a vibrant peek at the extravagance to come: Three elaborate dance performances by men and women clad in colourful Indian dress creating a bright Bollywood scene inside the once dark Convention Centre.

Premier Christy Clark announced the province will provide $11 million in funding for the event. But she sees it as more than a film awards ceremony and as an investment in trade and tourism through working with TOIFA creators and presenters, the Times of India Group, which is the largest media conglomerate in India.

“This event is just part of what’s going to inject millions into our economy as a result of our relationship with the Times of India Group,” she said. “(They) will be an important catalyst for building further awareness of our province amongst Indian business leaders and consumers.

“That kind of exposure can garner tremendous opportunities for people in our province.”

According to Clark, since her November 2011 visit to India, B.C.’s trade presence has doubled and tourism has increased 11 per cent.

“When Premier Clark says there is an increase in tourism by 11 per cent,” responded Johar. “I like to tell her just with the India impact and the Bollywood impact — that will grow nearly triple, if just because of the Indians and the love the Indians have.”


Times of India Film Awards press conference


Picture 11 of 13

A dancer is silhouetted as she takes to the stage to perform during an event in Vancouver, B.C., on Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2013, announcing that The Times of India Film Awards will be held in the city in April. Darryl Dyck/CP

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