Uzbekistan woos India, Bollywood style

Uzbekistan President Shavkat Mirziyoyev | Reuters Uzbekistan President Shavkat Mirziyoyev | Reuters

Uzbekistan is keen to woo India, filmy style. The country recently hosted a Bengali movie crew; the Uzbek government wants HoiChoi Unlimited, which releases in October, to be the beginning of many more.

HoiChoi Unlimited stars Dev, an actor who is also a politician and a member of the Trinamool Congress. The film has been shot across Samarkand, Bukhara and Tashkent. “It is a joint Indo-Uzbek project,’’ said ambassador to Uzbekistan Farhod Arziev. “We see Bollywood as an important factor in the cultural dialogue [with India].” The film will be released in Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Ukraine and Azerbaijan.

The Bollywood route to boosting tourism is a tried and tested formula. Yash Chopra put Switzerland on the honeymoon map, with his heroes romancing in the country's vast tulip fields. Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara boosted Spain’s tourism fortunes, especially with desis. Belgium suddenly had many more Indians trekking through its cobbled pathways, courtesy PK.

Uzbekistan hopes the movie magic will rub off on it too. The government wants to attract Indian tourists in a major fashion. Soon, there will be direct flights connecting Mumbai and Tashkent. Tashkent is already connected to Delhi.

The Uzbek government has also signed an agreement with the production house Dev Entertainment Ventures , which produced HoiChoi Unlimited. This allows the company to dub and distribute Indian films in Uzbekistan. An Indo-Uzbekistan Film and Culture Forum was established in Delhi earlier this year, in an attempt to strengthen celluloid ties.

Relations between Uzbekistan and India in the past year have hit a record high. President Shavkat Mirziyoyev is expected to make his first visit to India early next week. On the cards will be better trade relations and the cementing of cultural ties. Mirziyoyev, who took over as president two years back, is on a mission to open up the country. From promoting business to trying to get investment, he hopes to create the right environment for businesses to thrive.