SAIFTA -- a multipurpose platform

Durban, Sep 6 (IANS) The city is set to host the maiden edition of SAIFTA, a coming together of the Indian and South African film and TV, Friday. Sadha Naidoo, chairperson of Durban Tourism, said the initiative is to boost tourism and encourage Indian film productions in the nation, which has the largest Indian diaspora.

The South Africa India Film and Television Awards, organised by Mumbai-based event management company Celebrity Locker, will focus on enhancing the exchange of cultural elements of the Indian and South African entertainment industry.

"SAIFTA is a platform to grow tourism industry -- from India to South Africa, and more importantly a platform to encourage more film-production in South Africa," Naidoo told IANS Thursday at a press conference here.

In the last couple of years, quite a few Bollywood hits like "Race", "Cocktail" and "Aashiqui 2" captured the scenic locales in the country and thus prompting tourists to explore it. Some of the destinations that most Indian filmmakers captured are Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban.

Asked about the guidelines laid down to encourage film production, he said: "The moment we will finalise the strategy for film production, we will decide upon the guidelines."

A brainchild of Kedhar Gawde of Celebrity Locker, SAIFTA is a three-year initiative. It has been organised in collaboration with the Kwa Zulu-Natal Department of Economic Development and Tourism of Durban.

"This is the first year and every year we will review it and take a decision," Naidoo said when asked about making it an annual event.

The press event was attended by well-known filmmaker Mukesh Bhatt of Vishesh Films, actress-filmmaker Dia Mirza, new entrant Siddharth Malhotra and TV actor host Manish Paul, who is set to make Bollywood debut with "Mickey Virus".

There are more prolific film industries like Hollywood, so why the focus is on India?

"Research shows that the Indian film industry is the largest filmmaking country in the world. Then there is a natural connection between the two countries.

"South Africa has the largest Indian diaspora outside India with 1.1 million Indians living here and a greater population live in Durban area," said Naidoo, who has his roots in India as his ancestors migrated here from the southern part of India.

The award ceremony will be co-hosted by Karan Johar and Dia Mirza. Legendary actress Waheeda Rehman, actor Boman Irani, filmmaker Farah Khan, and producer Mukesh Bhatt formed the judges' panel and decided on the best talent.

A barrage of Bollywood actors and filmmakers have flown in from Mumbai to join in the celebrations.

(Arpana can be contacted at arpana.s@ians.in)

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