Bollywood back in Russia: After a long break, more Indian films being screened & shot in the country

Several generations of Russians grew up watching subtitled Indian films and were floored by Raj Kapoor, Mithun Chakraborty, Hema Malini and Shah Rukh Khan years ago. Now, after a gap of about three decades, industry players and authorities are working to reignite the old cultural affiliation through Indian films by increasing film shoots and screenings of Indian films in Russia.

Film production and distribution companies and government officials in Russia are looking to attract Indian filmmakers and films now that Hollywood films are absent in Russia following the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

Sarfaraz Alam Safu, who runs Kartina Entertainment, a line production company for Indian films in Russia and CIS countries, said Indian filmmakers are showing increasing interest and parts of some recent films including Sardar Udham, Pathan, Tiger, and Jugjugg Jeeyo were shot there.

“I am also working on a film, which is a biopic of Rakesh Sharma (the first Indian in space) to be shot here, which will be produced by Siddharth Roy Kapoor,” Safu said. “Companies such as Dharma Productions, Excel Entertainment, Emmay Entertainment, Rohit Shetty Productions, and many more are in touch with us for several projects,” he added.

Local authorities are hoping to attract more Indian filmmakers this year through discounted production costs.

“We are now like the front office or supermarket of any services for filmmakers, as we are trying to cut their production expenses as much as possible by offering a low price to shoot here,” said Evgeny Kozlov, first deputy head of the office of the mayor and the government of Moscow. Upcoming Tamil action film ‘The Greatest of All Time’ last month became the first foreign film to be shot as part of the ‘Moscow-City of Cinema’ programme that provides subsidies to filmmakers.“I hope we will see several Bollywood projects from India being shot this year in Moscow,” Kozlov said. “We have started working deeply with Bollywood firms to invite Bollywood filmmakers to the Moscow cinema cluster. My colleagues from the Moscow Department of Culture who are responsible for attracting filmmakers are also trying to establish connections with Bollywood filmmakers.” Kozlov is also the chairman of the Moscow City Tourism Committee.Meanwhile, more Indian films are being screened across Russia as Hollywood blockbusters, which have been mostly ruling Russian cinemas post the collapse of Soviet Union in the early 1990s, are no longer released in Russia.

Besides Moscow and Saint Petersburg, Indian films are being screened in over 40 locations in the country including Arkhangelsk, Belgorod, Kazan, Penza, Saratov, Tula, Ulyanovsk, and Cheboksary.

Mirzoyan Karen Rudolfovich, a general producer of Indian films in Russia, said he is hoping Indian films will capture about 20% of the Russian films market in the next four to five years, up from less than 5% now. “Hollywood made a lot of investments in popularising their actors in Russia. That’s missing for Indian films,” said Rudolfovich, who has been working on Indian projects for the past eight years.

“We work with production houses such as Red Chillies and Dharma Productions, and our company purchases the rights of Indian films to screen them in Russia,” he said.

Abhishek Anand, a Russian language translator and interpreter who also acted in a recent Indian film shot in Russia, said the older generation of Russians have a totally different emotion for Indians as they were very fond of actors such as Raj Kapoor. “But films such as Pathan, Pushpa, Bahubali and RRR have also done well here,” he said. “Pathan was shot here and there is a Russian dialogue in the film that resonated very well with the audience here,” Anand added.


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