While Bollywood films are popular in the country, Egyptians could only watch them on television. In the mid-80s, Amitabh Bachchan was ruling the theatres in Egypt. His film, Mard, ran for several months, overshadowing Egyptian films.
Feeling threatened, the Egyptian film industry lobbied with the Hosni Mubarak-led government to put protectionist restrictions. According to one such rule, for every Indian film imported by an Egyptian distributor, he was required to export an Egyptian one. Moreover, taxes for importing Indian films were “prohibitive” in nature.
Consequently, distributors did not find it lucrative to import Indian movies and business between Indian and Egyptian distributors dried up.
Now, after working for six months, the Indian embassy in Cairo has been able to revive the film distribution network between the two countries. The protectionist restrictions also lapsed a few years ago.
“We played the role of a matchmaker since Indian films are an integral part of our soft power. My Twitter timeline and our embassy’s Facebook page has been flooded with messages from excited Egyptians,” Indian ambassador to Egypt, Navdeep Suri, told The Indian Express.
Starting Wednesday, Shah Rukh Khan-starrer Chennai Express will be screened in theatres. Initially, the movie will run in eight theatres in Cairo and two in Alexandria. Big-ticket releases, such as Krrish 3 and Dhoom 3, will also be screened — all of them with Arabic subtitles.
The deal was struck in first week of August, but the movies could not be released because of night curfew during the past few months. Since night shows are most popular, exhibitors waited for the curfew to be lifted, which happened recently