Bollywood producers planning to shoot film scenes in Belfast City Hall
The glitz and glamour, music and melodrama of a Bollywood movie could soon be coming to Belfast.
Talks on a deal between Northern Ireland Screen and Mumbai-based movie producers are at a crucial stage and could see an action film being shot in the city next month.
If given the green light, the cast and crew of David — which is partly based in the UK — will roll into town for nine days of filming.
And the team is hoping to cast up to 500 extras for the huge production.
Belfast City Hall is among a number of prime locations selected for the shoot. An application for permission to use the landmark Edwardian building is due to be discussed by the city council this week.
Indian film producers, who met with City Hall officials earlier this month to discuss logistics, have asked to film in the Great Hall, on the main staircase and rotunda area for at least one full day in September.
Sinn Fein councillor Deirdre Hargey said bringing Bollywood to Belfast would provide the type of publicity that money can’t buy for the city.
“The Sinn Fein group will be supporting this,” she said. “We see it as a good initiative and it works well with our investment package for the city, the next phase of which is to attract investment from the international arena. It is a great opportunity to showcase Belfast and the fact that Bollywood see this city as a prime location is a positive for us.
“Long term, we could be seen as a city for other Bollywood film productions. It is the biggest film industry in the world and the chance to showcase Belfast to a billion people —well, you can’t buy that sort of publicity,” she added.
It is understood negotiations between the Bollywood movie makers, NI Screen and Invest NI are still ongoing. However, if the bid is successful it could help Northern Ireland tap into the lucrative Bollywood market — worth around $4bn (£2.56bn) annually.
Last year Belfast and Bangor provided the backdrop for a music video by pop sensation Rihanna. And Tourism Minister Arlene Foster has revealed that the worldwide exposure from HBO series Game of Thrones had pumped £43m into Northern Ireland’s economy.
Belfast Council has plans to hold a seminar next year to showcase the city as a competitive location to six key Indian film companies.
According to the council’s strategic policy and resources committee minutes: “There are clearly a number of economic benefits to the city and there is also the wider potential benefit of enhancing the city’s image and reputation internationally as a viable and welcoming location for creative projects.”
The David project has been brought to the province by Invest NI through their Bangalore office.
A spokesman for Invest NI said: “We will continue to support NI Screen’s role in attracting major TV and film productions to Northern Ireland and maximise the economic return for Northern Ireland.”
Five essential Bollywood films:
1 Amar, Akbar, Anthony (1977) directed by Manmohan Desai
2 Bobby (1973) by Raj Kapoor
3 Deewaar (1975) by Yash Chopra
4 Gumnaam (1965) by Raja Nawathe
5 Hum Aapke Hain Koun! (1994) by Sooraj Barjatya
Questions and answers
Q What exactly is Bollywood?
A The Hindi film industry is popularly known as Bollywood. The name is derived from the combination of Bombay (now Mumbai) and Hollywood and was coined in the 1970s by a magazine writer. It is considered to be the largest in the world in terms of films produced and tickets sold.
Q We know where it’s from, but what are its origins?
A The Indian film industry can trace its roots as far back as 1896 but really took off in 1913 when Dadasaheb Phalke released his silent film Raja Harishchandra. The first Indian talking and dancing film, Alam Ara, was screened in 1931.
Q What are Bollywood films like?
A They can last for four hours with an interval and feature dozens of songs and dances with up to 100 choreographed dancers and top stars.