Variety

Indian origin Costa Rican actor-director brings Bollywood to Latin America

M. Ramesh CHENNAI | Updated on October 30, 2019 Published on October 30, 2019

Indian origin Costa Rican actor-director Prabhakar Sharan   -  India Perspectives- a Ministry of External Affairs publication

It is not unusual for countries pitching for Indian investments to call upon Bollywood to use their locales for shooting films. But the pitch gains strength if an Indian actor-director who has made it big there lends his voice to the call.

Prabhakar Sharan may be less known in India, but he is now a famous Spanish actor and director all over the Latin American world. The film he directed, Enredados: La Confusion (Entangled: The Confusion), which he donned the protagonist’s role, has been a big hit and is to be made in Hindi as well.

 

It is not that Sharan, 39, didn’t try his luck with Bollywood. This Bihar-born, Haryana-educated man landed in Mumbai, like many others, with nothing more than a big dream in his pocket – but didn’t make it. However, while most disappointed wannabes would retire into sulking, Sharan jumped oceans to see his dream come true.

He ended up in the Central American country, Costa Rica, in 1997, and after an unsuccessful bid in textiles business, decided to take another shy at the movies. Today, Sharan, who speaks fluent Spanish, is a hero.

And his ambition is to bring Bollywood to Latin America. Incidentally, the film Enredados: La Confusion was made in Bollywood style, with song sequences thrown in. The storyline has an unmistakable Bollywood stamp. It is about a robber who meets a girl while on the job and, having to choose between money and love, chooses the latter and then a series of comical things begin to happen.

Now, even as the Hindi version of Enredados is underway, Sharan is working on his next movie project.

Building the bridge

“He is a pioneer,” observes Rengarajan Viswanathan, a former Ambassador of India to Venezuela and Argentina and an expert on Latin American affairs. He notes that any ‘movie connection’ between India and Latin America is not new. Actors from Brazil and Mexico have taken lead roles in Hindi movies – it helps that Latinos look somewhat like Indians – and Argentina has made a movie on Rabindranath Tagore. But, a Spanish speaking Indian actor-director making films in Spanish is unprecedented, says Viswanathan.

Now Sharan has become a cultural ambassador for Latin America. “I want to be a bridge between Latin America and Bollywood,” he told BusinessLine on phone. He said that he has been trying to get movie houses both in Bollywood and Kollywood (Chennai) to shoot films in Panama or Costa Rica.

While any interest among Indian movie producers to shoot films in central America is not yet in evidence, the pitch for it is gaining strength. Richard Kilborn, Advisor to the President of Panama and a Director in the country’s Commerce Ministry, notes that Panama has one big advantage for film shooting: three distinct topographies – mountains, beaches and rain forests – are located within half-an-hour drive of each other.

Sharan agrees. “Movie making is very easy and inexpensive there (Panama),” he told BusinessLine. “It is worth exploring,” says Viswanathan.

Going by the success of Enredados, Bollywood flavor is appreciate in the region. “People of Panama like Bollywood movies very much,” notes Hardeep Bhullar, a Panama citizen of Indian origin, who is also a government official. Kilborn and Bhullar were in India recently seeking more Indian trade and investments with Panama.

Kilborn believes that the more awareness of Panama spreads in India the more film-making, and other businesses, would happen.

Central American countries such as Panama, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua, are relatively unknown in India, but offer substantial business potential.

Both Kilborn and Viswanathan note that Panama well-connected with all major cities of both North and South America and is a good logistics hub, a veritable springboard to get into other Latin American countries and the Caribbean. Viswanathan stresses that economic relations between India and Panama are far below potential.

Prabhakar Sharan could therefore turn out to be much more than a movie person. His efforts could just open up economic and strategic relations between India and central America. After all, Bollywood (alongwith yoga) is India’s biggest soft power. The way to stronger economic ties could be running through Bollywood, or Bollywood-type movies.

Published on October 30, 2019
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