Major Bollywood blockbusters could soon be adding some spice to Scotland’s film industry.
Dev Anand, a living legend of Indian films, heads to the Highlands this week to hand the industry a much-needed boost.
The 84-year-old actor and producer – whose career has spanned a staggering six decades – will be promoting Scotland as a prime location for the shooting of new Bollywood movies, and in particular an English-speaking epic.
Scotland has missed out on being a location for a host of world-wide hits, including the Lord of the Rings series and the recent Loch Ness monster tale, The Waterhorse, which were shot in New Zealand because of more-favourable tax breaks to movie-makers.
Dev Anand’s trip marks the tenth anniversary of the first major full-length Hindu feature film to be shot in the Highlands, and in which he was the star.
A special anniversary screening will take place of Main Solah Baras Ki – translated as “I am Sixteen” – at Eden Court Theatre in Inverness on Friday night.
And there will be a celebration to honour Dev, paying tribute to his outstanding contribution to the world of cinema, culture and international creative enterprise since the 1940s.
The event – a joint venture by the Scottish Highlands and Islands Film Commission and the British Business Group in Mumbai – will also coincide with the Scottish national launch of the actor’s autobiography, Romancing With Life.
But it is behind the scenes where Scottish film industry leaders hope he will make his mark, as the weekend’s events are expected to attract important figures from the international film industry.
Mr Anand, speaking prior to his visit, said he wished to revive his relationship with Scotland.
He said: “Mr present trip to Scotland is born out of an enduring drive to once again meet with, greet, and thank you all for the wonderful love, affection, hospitality, and co-operation you showered upon me 10 years ago while I was shooting for my film, Main Solah Baras Ki.
“It was the first Indian feature film shot in this most exotic and, in a sense, God’s own country.
“Ten years is a very long period, yet not very long and the memories are everlasting.
“And I would certainly want to revive that relationship and be among you once again, the people and the Scottish Government, in Scotland and hopefully make another film – this time an international one – in the English language with Scottish actors, technicians, musicians, and composers participating.
“In this I’m certain we will further cement Indo-Scottish relations.”
Industry leaders hope it will lead to new opportunities and future co-operation with India, and result in the shooting new Bollywood movies in Scotland.
Trish Shorthouse, the Scottish Highlands and Islands Film Commissioner, worked with Dev in 1998 when Main Solah Baras Ki, was shot in Inverness and Badenoch & Strathspey.
She said: “It is very exciting to welcome Dev back and a great honour for the Highlands to play host to celebrations marking his outstanding career.
“We sincerely hope his presence will help strengthen links between India and Britain. Any new film business which comes to Scotland would be greatly welcomed and this visit will be a great opportunity to discuss possible collaborations.
“Scotland is a fantastic location for movies, and Dev obviously enjoyed his time here 10 years ago.”
Sharon Bamford, chief executive for the UK India Business Council, will also be attending the tenth anniversary event on Friday night.
She said: “We are delighted to welcome Dev Anand back to Scotland and appreciate his recognition of its creative environment and talent.
“Scotland not only has a global reputation for its creativity and innovation, but its doors are open for business.”
Inverness Provost Bob Wynd said: “We are delighted to welcome Dev Anand back to Inverness a decade after making his film Main Solah Baras Ki.
“We are cementing the international relationship forged between Indian cinema and the Highlands through Navketan Films.”
Kenny Muir, the programme co-ordinator for Dev Anand’s visit, said: “We are very excited by this occasion.
“His presence here is to celebrate and honour Dev’s six decades to cinema, to launch his book in Scotland, and to celebrate the 10th anniversary of his film, the first major Bollywood feature film to make use of the picturesque and dramatic Highland scenery as a backdrop for a movie.
“It had a knock-on effect at the time in encouraging others to come here to shoot.
“It also gives the opportunity to explore future enterprises and joint ventures between the Highlands, Scotland and India.”
Dr T. Reddy, founder and president of Highland Indian Association, said: “Indians in Highlands are excited to know the forthcoming visit of Bollywood legend Dev Anand.
“We are also hoping Dev would bring Bollywood to Highlands capital, Inverness, on a permanent basis so that colour and spice can be added to the purity and serene beauty of Highlands.”
Dev Anand was one of India’s major screen superstars, along with Sunil Dutt and Raj Kapoor. The three were compared to Cary Grant, Gergory Peck and James Stewart, from the golden age.
Of the six, he is the only one alive.
In his heyday as a star, he was considered the epitome of the suave, urban gentleman.
He is the second of three brothers who were active in Bollywood. His elder brother Chetan was a film director, as was his younger brother, Vijay.
He graduated in English literature from the Government College in Lahore, now in Pakistan, but his love for acting made him leave his hometown for the centre of the Hindu film industry, Mumbai, and he was soon offered a break as an actor by Prabhat Talkies to star in their Hum Ek Hain.
Most of his films are an expression of his world view and have dealt with socially relevant subjects. His films are best known for their successful songs.