Berlin’s Tourism improved due to SHAH RUKH KHAN

1091560913Marketing experts and spin doctors promoting Berlin as a tourist destination could not have been more pleased with the outcome of this year’s Berlin Film Festival — the Berlinale, as it is called — held in February.
The release of Don 2, the sequel to Don with Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan, was given a rousing reception at the Berlinale premiere.
The film has special significance for Berliners because it has been extensively shot in Berlin on location. Indeed, besides Shah Rukh Khan, Berlin plays a “leading role” in the film, as Berlin’s marketing experts like to say.
The film’s production was brought to Berlin following a joint initiative by visitBerlin, the agency that promotes the city, along with Media Board Berlin-Brandenburg, Berlin Partner and the city’s airports.

“Shah Rukh Khan kept Berlin in suspense during the 50-day filming in autumn 2010,” a spokesperson of visitBerlin told Weekend Review, referring to the excitement generated by the actor’s shoot in the city.
Khan’s character in the film — he plays the boss of an Indian mafia ring that extends its tentacles to Germany, thus providing a reason for the producers to shoot in Berlin — is seen in hot pursuit in a speeding car through Berlin’s Gendarmenmarkt, a place that has a strong French flavour. Other popular landmarks of the city, such as the historic Brandenburg Gate, the Berlin Cathedral, Alexanderplatz, the State Opera and the Olympic Stadium, provide an attractive setting for some of the film’s breathtaking scenes.
“Berlin now also plays a leading role in India through the Indian audiences who rushed to see the film when it was released. Thanks to Shah Rukh Khan’s new blockbuster, the city has been opened up to millions of viewers in India and Asia. Bollywood films are seen by hundreds of millions of filmgoers and the most enthusiastic fans follow their idols everywhere,” said Burkhard Kieker, managing director, visitBerlin. “The film creates marketing advantages which would be unthinkable and unaffordable through advertising. Berlin did not mean much to most Indians. That would change, thanks to Shah Rukh Khan, and there will be, meanwhile, effects on tourism in Berlin in the coming years.”
visitBerlin is, apparently, trying to emulate Switzerland’s tourism promotion strategy: By offering its scenic landscape in the celluloid products of Bollywood film producers featuring big stars, it hopes to attract high-spending Indian tourists.
But Berlin, unlike Switzerland, has never really been popular with Indian tourists who would rather see the snow-capped Swiss Alps, or Paris, London or even Dubai or Bangkok — which seem more hospitable and familiar to them.
Berlin also poses other problems for Indian tourists, who have to go through a strenuous and long-winding visa process at the German embassy or consulates in India which, many Indians say, are “not the friendliest” compared to other countries. Indians also nurse a perception about Germans being xenophobic and resentful of foreigners. The recent discovery of gruesome killings of foreigners, mostly Muslims — also known as the infamous Doener Murders — by right-wing perpetrators has not helped Berlin’s image.
But Berlin is working hard to cash in on the so-called “SRK wave”. visitBerlin has created, for example, a “Don in Berlin” city map highlighting the film locations with descriptive narrations of the individual scenes in which they feature. The map can be downloaded and printed.
Marketing experts of visitBerlin have added another gimmick. There are about 3,500 prints of the film in circulation in India. A trailer of Berlin, produced by visitBerlin in cooperation with the Media Board Berlin-Brandenburg, is shown before every film. Don 2 is the first Bollywood film to be shot in the German capital.
Shah Rukh Khan’s popularity in Berlin — teenage girls screamed Wir lieben Dich, Shah Rukh [We love you, Shah Rukh] when he finally appeared at the Berlinale after much delay — made it abundantly clear to the city’s tourism planners what they could have achieved in publicity terms had Hollywood star Tom Cruise shot his Mission Impossible 3 in Berlin. But, as it turned out, Cruise took his crew to Rome instead because he found the atmosphere in Berlin stifling and discouraging. However, Berlin takes consolation from the fact that it could get an equally renowned film ace from India. Some German experts even contend that Khan’s worldwide popularity is greater than that of Tom Cruise or, for that matter, of George Clooney, while some say that Khan is more popular outside India than within.
The evolution of Bollywood’s popularity in Germany is remarkable. It was hardly known a decade or so ago. Indian films were then viewed mainly by the Indian diaspora, with some Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, Sri Lankans, Arabs and other Asians joining the crowds with an occasional white face spotted in the audience, possibly persuaded by friends to come along.
But with the advent of globalisation and India’s recognised prowess in a number of scientific and technological fields, particularly the information technology sector, the German perception of India and everything Indian changed radically. From a “land of Taj Mahal, tigers and beggars”, India was catapulted to a coveted partner in business, technology and arts. Indeed, Germans went gaga over what India offered and in this changed environment, Bollywood crept into the German consciousness.
If Khan was first known to German audiences through his villain-of-the-piece roles, he became famous, later, with his syrupy “coochy-coochy” roles, as Germans sometimes call the typical Bollywood man-woman love stories.
Though Berlin plays host to the world’s filmmaking industry during the Berlinale, it has seldom provided the setting of a foreign film capturing the city’s imposing landmarks which its tourism promoters would like to present to the world.
Don 2 does not fail to capture Berlin’s sights and sounds in an impressive way. There are, of course, fights, heists, romance and the city itself, whose image is enhanced with technical effects. Germans seemed to be impressed by a dialogue uttered in the film: “We Indians are everywhere!”

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