The new ‘resurgence’ of India and the burgeoning of the ‘great Indian middle class’ are phenomena that are written about ad nauseum. The gushing ‘India-is-so-cool’ and the alarmist ‘beware-India-is-arriving’ sections of the media, have both written about how the Indian consumer is fast becoming a force to reckon with. The more outlandish of these excited observations on India (such as the concern that wealthy, hungry Indians are eating the world into a food crisis) can be dismissed as just what they are – nonsense upon stilts (to use Jeremy Bentham’s words).
Yet, the fact remains that the Indian middle class are a huge force to be reckoned with and one ignores such a force at one’s peril. Most of the world’s top corporations are smart enough to not do so. Their scramble for the Indian pie is quite unseemly and successive governments have been happy to let everybody and his uncle have a slice. However, some entities use subtler methods. The Swiss tourism industry is one such example.
A PTI report in the Hindustan Times reveals that over 250,000 Indians visit the alpine haven every year. There is an upward trend in these figures and many desis are driven to the Switzerland by the breathtaking backdrops to Shahrukh Khan’s outstretched arms. The Swiss Alps have been a popular setting for syrupy song-and-dance and courtship scenes since the days of Sangam. What is remarkable is that the Swiss tourism authorities are cognizant of the fact that Indian filmmakers and audiences are smitten by their beautiful country and that films have the power to drive Indian vacationers to Switzerland. If the Swiss are as smart as the British (they have to be to keep half the world’s dosh in their vaults!), they will do some courtship of their own and make life easier for Indian film crews shooting in Switzerland. Since the UK has done so (remember Tony Blair’s famous message to the IIFA in Yorkshire?), there has been a sharp upward spike in the numbers of Indian movies being shot in Britain.
This has the dual effect of creating economic activity for British film technicians and ancillary services and of giving British locales free exposure in one of the world’s most powerful mass communication media. That is smart business.
One only wonders though, why some the world’s most picturesque and awe-inspiring vistas that are thickly distributed all over India remain underexposed in Bollywood. There is an excellent adage in Marathi that could explain this curiosity: Jithe piktha, thithe vikath naahi (roughly, nothing sells where it is grown).