MADRID: Spain is coaxing Indian film-makers to use its colourful fiestas and historic monuments as settings for their films, in a move to grab a bigger share of India’s fast-growing overseas tourism market.
As part of its bid to lure visitors from the world’s second most populous country, Madrid will host on June 25 the annual International Indian Film Academy Awards (IIFA), dubbed as the ‘Bollywood Oscars’.
In global tourism, Spain ranks as the third most visited country, but it now wants to diversify its tourism base beyond the traditional northern European sun seekers that account for the bulk of its visitors.
Among the Bollywood stars who will attend the awards ceremony in Spain will be Indian actor Hrithik Roshan, the green-eyed star of the 2011 coming-of-age movie Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, which was produced in close collaboration with the Spanish tourism promotion agency, Turespana.
The film, about three friends on a pre-marriage road trip across Spain, includes scenes from La Tomatina festival in the town of Bunol, where half-naked revellers hurl mushy tomatoes at each other, as well as at Pamplona’s San Fermin bull running festival.
With scenes also set in Barcelona, Seville and the beaches of the Costa Brava, the movie was the first major Indian production to shoot extensively across various locations in Spain. It was also the highest grossing Bollywood film of 2011.
“There was an immediate impact in the number of people requesting entry visas to travel to Spain,” said the director of the London office of Turespana, Enrique Ruiz de Lera, who led the agency’s talks with the producers of the movie.
The year after its release, 60,444 Indians visited Spain, nearly double the 2011 figure, according to the industry and tourism ministry. Last year 85,000 Indians visited Spain.
Lonely Planet in 2013 launched a guide to Spain aimed specifically at the Indian market and travel agencies still advertise tours to the locations featured in Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara.
India’s ambassador to Spain, Vikram Misri, said the film was singlehandedly responsible for making Spain a household name in India and increasing tourism from the country. Turespana suggested locations for filming but gave no direct financial aid to cover the cost of making the movie, Ruiz said.
Spain and India signed a film co-production agreement the year after Zindagi was released. Turespana regularly takes part in film location fairs in India to pitch the tax breaks and other incentives available to movie producers who shoot in Spain.
Since Zindagi, another five or six Indian films have been shot in Spain, although they did not do well at the box office, the director of the Mumbai office of Turespana, Ignacio Ducasse revealed.
They include one by Zindagi director Zoya Akhtar — Dil Dhadakne Do featuring Bollywood star Anil Kapoor — which was filmed on a ship belonging to Pullmantur, Spain’s biggest cruise operator.
The comedy-drama about a dysfunctional family on a 10-day Mediterranean cruise was released last year and it includes scenes shot in Barcelona as well as in the various bars, restaurants and open decks of the ship.
Kapoor, 59, known internationally for his role in the 2008 film Slumdog Millionaire, said during a visit to Madrid in March to promote IIFA that he is looking forward to coming back again and again to Spain.
“We are counting that the arrival of several thousand Indian friends for the ceremony will help bring millions of their compatriots in the coming years,” Spain’s secretary of state for foreign affairs, Ignacio Ybanez, said earlier this year.