With a population of over a billion and a connection to the world like never before, India is becoming a money-spinner for international stars
When Chammak Challo Kareena Kapoor pranced around on TV in a hot red sari, little did we know that it's probably R& B artiste Akon who is dancing with joy to this one. Teaming up with King Khan has opened up a market for Akon that incorporates over a billion listeners.
"When I had to convince Akon to sing in Hindi, all I said was this is a country over 1.21 billion people. He packed his bags and came with me right then," said SRK while introducing the singer to the desi audience.
It's a trend we saw in 2007, where everyone from Shakira to Beyonce to even Roger Waters flew down to a space that was till then just seen as a stop over between other burgeoning Asian markets like Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand. But, today, India is considered one of the top markets to tap into.
Abhinav Kumar of Brand Concepts agrees. "We are all set to launch seven stand alone Paris Hilton stores by the end of the year, which will slowly incorporate over 17 different products by Paris.
The pricing is almost the same as it is in the US. So when an international brand like this is launched in India, the celebrity gets a huge push not just money wise but also with respect to goodwill."
It's all about the money, honey!
India has now gone on to become one of the biggest moneyspinners for many of the international stars.
When the American pop sensation hogged Indian headlines a while ago, nobody knew that the performer would only be exclusively accessible to those who could afford a good Rs 40,000 per ticket.
Lady Gaga, who has been signed up to play at India's inaugural Formula One race this month, will be performing at the Lap Buddh Circuit after parties.
Confirms AD Singh of LAP, "The costs involved in staging something like this determines the cost of the tickets. She is perhaps the world's most popular performer; it is expensive to bring down an artiste like her."
Adds Radhakrishnan Nair, editor, Rolling Stones India, "It brings them the eyeballs, but they will obviously charge that kind of money to recover costs as well.
So if Gaga is charging Rs 40, 000 to perform privately for a group of 1000 people, that probably is more lucrative than performing at a huge auditorium incorporating over 20,000 people who cannot afford such high rates."
A two-way street?
While international stars fly down to India, everyone wants to work with them. Be it Priyanka Chopra, who made her little move by meeting Gaga over months back, or even composer duo Salim-Sulaiman ganging up with Gaga for the Bollywood version of her song Born This Way.
Says Salim, "Lady Gaga doesn't really know much about India, but when we get to work with someone like her there is this euphoria for our fans as well.
Bollywood music is huge and the fact that artistes are singing in our language and collaborating with our musicians shows that they know every tenth person on the planet is probably Indian and it's only intelligent to target them."
Not surprisingly, even someone like a Bhushan Kumar from T-series expresses interest in an album with Akon or Mick Jagger.
Adds Radhakrishnan, "We also cannot discount the fact that that someone like a Shakira or Akon genuinely enjoy Indian music and want to explore working here because they can relate to the art form in India."
Movies and more
Interestingly, while we see a barrage of musicians knocking on Indian doors, Hollywood's fascination with the desi drama has been quite well-documented too.
Over the past few years, innumerable Hollywood stars from Julia Roberts and Judy Dench to Hugh Jackman and John Travolta have come and made their presence felt.
In fact, when Hillary Swank walked the IIFA Red carpet this year, it was also in many ways her acknowledgment of Bollywood's massive draw.
Says Anil Kapoor, who is all set to bring down Tom Cruise to India in December, "I asked Tom to come to India because they are very interested in us as a country and of course Bollywood as an industry. They do a lot of social work and India is one of the best places to extend that, too."
One of Hollywood's biggest names Ang Lee is making his next film Life Of Pi with Indian actress Tabu and a newcomer. Probably no better reason to say that Namaste India is becoming a global phenomenon in more ways than one.
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