Ghai to build media institute in Cape Town

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MUMBAI: Producer – director and Whistling Woods International founder and chairman Subhash Ghai signed an MoU (Memorandum of Understanding) with Cape Town Premier Ebrahim Rasool, whereby, a collaborative strategy for the establishment of a film and media institute in Cape Town is identified and research for the same is facilitated.

This is a landmark for Whistling Woods International as Ghai has often expressed a desire that his media institute has an international reach.

Ghai and Anil Kapoor, who is the brand ambassador of Cape Town, jointly hosted a party last evening to celebrate the signing of the MOU, and honouring Ebrahim Rasool and several other South African dignitaries.

Bollywood turned up in full strength to show solidarity. Among those present were Boney Kapoor with wife Sridevi, Adlabs Films chairman Manmohan Shetty, directors N Chandra, David Dhawan, Tips’ Ramesh Taurani, actor Jeetendra, Ashok Thakareia, Katrina Kaif, Sangeeth Sivan, Manish Goswami, Gul Panang and Chunky Pandey.

Cast members of Mukta Arts’ upcoming film Apna Sapna Money Money comprising Riteish Deshmukh, Celina Jaitely, Koena Mitra and Riya Sen were also present.

As per the MOU, senior management of Whistling Woods International will visit South Africa to undertake a feasibility study jointly with Wesgro (the official investment and trade promotion agency of the province of Western Cape, mandated to develop trade related infrastructure and encourage investments in Cape Town) and the Cape Film Commission (mandated to develop and promote the film and multimedia sectors in Western Cape).

Ghai was visibly ecstatic, “South Africans are fans of Bollywood. Several of my films like Taal and Pardes have done extremely well in SA. Rakesh Roshan and Anil Kapoor were among the first to shoot in Cape Town and now, several have followed. Many people ask why we promote shooting abroad? Well, it’s a break and a visual delight for viewers. The world has now become an interconnected hub. We’ve chosen Cape Town as there are 25 states and 15 countries around it. We can tap a huge population. I feel the biggest advantage will be for Indians living in and around Cape Town.”

Premier Ebrahim Rasool said, “We’ve come to Mumbai to learn. I don’t believe that you have to make your own mistakes. You can learn from the mistakes of others. If Bollywood has taken 100 years to reach here, why should we take another 100 years to get there? We are very selfish in our objective. Hopefully, with the advent of the institute, we will be able to produce original films and not just remain a shooting destination. South Africa has many stories to tell the world.”

“A common mistake is that we blindly look towards the West first; get disappointed, and then look to the East. India and South Africa share a similar history of oppression and colonialism. We look forward to this association and to growing as you grow,” he added.

Whistling Woods president and Ghai’s daughter Meghna Ghai Puri, who will be actively involved in the project said, “The world is becoming smaller. Even South Indian films have been accepted in Japan! South Africa and India share a common ground. America and most European countries are essentially Hollywood focused. We don’t want to limit ourselves. In fact, we are even talking to the French Embassy to invite their filmmakers.”

David Dhawan put in the director’s perspective, “I’ve shot in Cape Town several times. It’s a very film-friendly place. The fact is, we need Cape Town!”

The work on the film and media institute is to start in January 2007 and is expected to complete by 2009.