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When Bollywood Comes Calling

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Last year, cinema attendance reportedly dipped to 20-year lows in Western markets. Piracy and home-viewing are profoundly changing the way people consume visual media. But not so it seems in India, home to Bollywood, the world’s largest film industry by output, where the near-invincible sector is clocking in double the number of theatre-goers in North America.

Whether a function of India’s perennial love affair with the silver screen or a result of the ultra-modern digital multiplex theatres mushrooming in metros all over the country, Bollywood is thriving and is estimated to have been worth $2.28 billion last year.

For South Africa, this means more opportunities to service Indian film production houses increasingly searching for cost-effective locations offering all the comforts of home such as skilled support staff and quality equipment.

FORBES WOMAN AFRICA had the opportunity to meet up with the production crew of Ishq Forever, a Bollywood romantic comedy filmed in Cape Town in April-May this year.

Ishq Forever, or ‘love forever’ in English, stars Bollywood veteran Javed Jeffrey and Indian-Canadian actress Lisa Ray, as well as newcomers Krishna Chaturvedi and Ruhi Singh. The film is a production of Friday Cine Entertainment, a three-way partnership between Ajay Shah, Harry Gandhi and Shabbir Boxwala.

It isn’t Boxwala’s first production in South Africa. In 2003, he co-produced the romantic drama Dil Ka Rishta, starring Bollywood royalty Aishwarya Rai Bachchan in Cape Town. Like Boxwala, Shah has been producing Bollywood films for over 20 years. The final member of the trio, Gandhi – the CEO of Unique Maritime Group headquartered in the Middle East – is a film industry newcomer but has been a film enthusiast for a long time.

“I have seen first-hand how much the local industry has changed over the past 10 to 15 years,” says Boxwala.

What was once a small scale and inwardly-focused sector is now world-class and attracting sizeable foreign investment. The growth comes from two directions.

The first is locally-produced and directed films telling South African stories – during the five years leading up to 2003, local releases averaged just three a year; 10 years later, the number is closer to 15.

The second, and significantly more powerful growth lever, is the increase in international productions, such as Ishq Forever filming on location in South Africa.

As a whole, the National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF) in South Africa estimates the industry contributes close to R3.5 billion ($282 million) to South African GDP each year and that number is growing at a rate of 14% per annum.

The location of choice is Cape Town and it’s safe to say that pretty much anyone who has visited South Africa’s Mother City can vouch for its natural charms.

Mountains, farms, beaches, oceans and semi-arid moonscapes are all within an hour’s drive from the city center, which comes with its own unique attractions in the form of the diverse architectural structures. During the summer months, Cape Town averages close to 15 hours of daylight and very limited rain – a further pull factor for overseas film productions.

Cape Town hasn’t ridden on its looks alone though. The Western Cape Provincial Government has invested close to R20 million ($1.6 million) into the sector and justifies the expenditure by means of a conservative projection of 30,000 skilled and unskilled jobs that have been created as a result of its efforts.

The majority of Bollywood films shot in South Africa use locations in Durban, the country’s third largest city, home to the largest concentration of people of Indian descent in the country and characterized by sub-tropical vegetation allowing for an easier set replication of Indian backdrops.

Ishq Forever is different – the film was shot in Cape Town and surrounding areas – such as sleepy coastal town Hermanus.

Ishq Forever really celebrates South African culture. The action takes place in Cape Town where the young heroine (played by Singh), the daughter of the prime minister of India, is attending university. It’s a coming of age romantic comedy with lots of plot twists and chases,” informs Boxwala.

“We caused quite a lot of excitement when we filmed in Hermanus. I don’t think the locals had experienced a Bollywood film before. When we were leaving, the mayor thanked us and we have promised to come back and arrange a public screening of the film at an open air cinema.”

At present, the majority of the international films being filmed in Cape Town are American productions – most recently The Giver and TV series Homeland Season 2 – which benefit further from exchange rate gains as a result of the woeful decline in the value of the local currency against the US dollar.

The NFVF approximates that it is on average 40% cheaper to make a film in South Africa than in the United States or in Europe.

 

Not Wooing Bollywood Enough

But where does that leave Bollywood? Not in an entirely favorable position, says Boxwala.

“As Bollywood film productions, we simply can’t afford to pay the rental fees which are charged to the big US productions. We just don’t work with those kind of budgets because our revenue streams are limited,” he says.

According to statistics portal Statista, Bollywood films grossed a modest $1.2 billion in 2012 against a $10.8 billion gross revenue from US productions. The numbers may not seem surprising at first glance – Hollywood is wholly more pervasive in the global popular culture – however, consider them against the fact that during that same year, Bollywood churned out a prolific 1,602 features versus Hollywood’s 476.

“A Bollywood production – even a mega blockbuster – will have significantly fewer distribution opportunities than its Hollywood equivalent, which rides on the virtue that Western productions are enjoyed by a wider audience,” says Gandhi. Ishq Forever, for example, was filmed on the relatively modest, all-inclusive budget of $2.5 million.

Gandhi says that the opportunity to attract more Bollywood productions to South Africa simply through widening the accessibility of local services is glaring. Boxwala recounts that the stock of basic equipment available for rent in South Africa during the filming of Ishq Forever was fairly limited and the resultant demand determined prices prohibitive to non-dollar earning filmmakers.

More than two thirds of Bollywood features are shot outside of India. The most popular locations are Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Malaysia and Eastern Europe. South Africa could be losing out on Bollywood opportunities, say Boxwala and Gandhi, due to the high local prices, the red tape related to the obtaining Department of Trade and Industry rebates and the fact that there are no direct flights between Johannesburg and Mumbai – the heart and soul of Bollywood. Having no direct flights complicates the transportation of filming equipment, which forces crews like Boxwala’s to rent locally and brings the problem back to the high rental rates set for US customers.

“We want to work here though,” says Gandhi. “It took us 40 days to film Ishq Forever. During that time, we hired 20 local technicians and created close to 900 short-term, low skilled jobs. We invested roughly $1 million into the local economy over the production time.”

“The locations here are fantastic and the level of skill is world class. We believe that South Africa could become an even more popular film destination for Bollywood films if it works on the negatives and builds on the positives.”

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Forbes Africa’s Best Photographs In 2019

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[Compiled by Motlabana Monnakgotla, Gypseenia Lion and Karen Mwendera]

Image 1:

Kabelo Mpofu, an entrepreneur, took over his mother’s shop in Meadowlands, in the South African township of Soweto. He is hopeful of making the family business a success despite big retail stores opening up in the townships and swallowing up the corner groceries.

Image 2:

Africa is the youngest continent in the world. Every year, South Africa observes June as Youth Month, honoring the anniversary of the Soweto Uprising on June 16. In this image, the country’s sprawling township of Soweto comes alive with youth dancing in the winter weather to local and international music at the Soweto International Jazz Festival, an annual confluence of history, art and culture.

Image 3:

Women hold up placards against gender-based violence during a ‘Shutdown Sandton’ campaign; this after a spate of brutal rape and killings in South Africa.

Image 4:

Car dealerships were among the businesses set alight in Johannesburg’s Jules Street, during the spate of xenophobia attacks in South Africa in August this year. The spark that fueled the raging fire began in Pretoria, the country’s capital, when a taxi driver was shot dead by a foreign national who was selling drugs to a youngster in the central business district.

Image 5:

Sibusiso Dlamini, the co-founder of Soweto Ink, works on one of his regular clients at his tattoo parlor founded in 2014 with his long-time friend, Ndumiso Ramate. In 2019, Soweto Ink held the fourth annual tattoo convention, and for the first time in partnership with BET Africa, to break tattoo taboos in Africa.

Image 6:

Mmusi Maimane, the former leader of South Africa’s opposition party, Democratic Alliance, is about to cast his vote in front of local and international media houses who had wrestled to get the perfect shot in his hometown in Dobsonville, Soweto, during the elections in South Africa in 2019.

Image 7:

The brother of South African journalist, Shiraaz Mohamed, begs for government intervention after Mohamed was kidnapped in Syria on January 2017 by a group of armed men. The group demanded more than $500,000 for his freedom.

Image 8:

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa with his body guards at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg, South Africa, where the three-day South Africa Investment Conference was held in November.

Image 9:

In a world that’s embracing new technology, inspiration is being found in bug behavior. The hard-bodied dung beetle is now key to robotics research, in Africa too. Astounded by this discovery early this year is Marcus Byrne, a researcher at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg who has been studying dung beetles for over 20 years. He holds up a metallic replica of a dung beetle in his hand in his office at the university.

Image 10: 

Mzimhlophe Hostel, a hostel among many others in Soweto, erupted with service delivery protests prior to the elections in South Africa. In the same vicinity, an informal settlement was also allegedly set on fire. Brothers Mduduzi (32) and Kwenzi Gwala (22), pictured, had arrived in Johannesburg looking for employment. They sold African beer, but their shack was set alight while they were still at church. They lost all their stock and possessions.

Image 11: 

A thrift market in the heart of Johannesburg’s central business district, not too far from a busy taxi rank, known for its pavement robberies. Despite the crimes, thousands of small entrepreneurs trade in this raucous market every day.

Image 12:

ANC, DA and EFF supporters dancing and chanting outside the Hitekani Primary School in Chiawelo, Soweto, South Africa, as they await South African President Cyril Ramaphosa to cast his vote in his former primary school. 

Image 13:

Tenants in the discarded Vannin Court in Johannesburg look on from their balconies as jubilation erupts on the ground floor.

Image 14:

Vestine Nyiravesabimana makes money weaving intricate baskets made of grass to feed her nine children in Kigali, Rwanda.

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Can Diddy’s Ciroc Recipe Work On Alkaline Water?

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The first time Sean “Diddy” Combs took a sip of Aquahydrate alkaline water—given to him by pal Mark Wahlberg at a Las Vegas boxing match in the early 2010s—he found it to be an ideal antidote for evenings spent consuming adult beverages.

“I went out that night and had a Vegas night, and I woke up and had a Vegas morning,” Diddy told me in 2015. “I drank two of the [Aquahydrate] bottles and it was, like, the best tasting water that I’ve tasted. And it really, honestly helped me recover.”

Diddy became the face of the company alongside Wahlberg shortly thereafter, and the pair invested $20 million in Aquahydrate over the years while billionaire Ron Burkle’s Yucaipa added another $27 million.

READ MORE | Hip-Hop’s Next Billionaires: Richest Rappers 2019

They aren’t the only ones with lofty ambitions for the brand: last week the Alkaline Water Co., the publicly-traded purveyor of competitor Alkaline88, bought Aquahydrate in an all-stock deal that valued the latter at about $50 million.

For Diddy, who ranks No. 4 on our recently-released list of hip-hop’s top earners and boasts a net worth of $740 million, alkaline water holdings are just a drop in his financial bucket. His Diageo-backed Ciroc vodka—and its myriad flavors, from Red Berry to Summer Watermelon—is responsible for the lion’s share of his wealth. But it’s clear he thinks alkaline water, flavored variants included, could swell his portfolio. So do his new partners.

Diddy
CRAIG BARRITT AND ALEXANDER TAMARGO/GETTY IMAGES. DESIGN: NICK DESANTIS/FORBES

“You put both these brands under one public company, it makes a ton of sense,” says Aaron Keay, Alkaline’s chairman, of the Aquahydrate deal. “We see synergies on distribution, we see cost-savings on cost of goods. On production, on logistics, on staffing. … And we don’t see both brands actually then competing for the same target market.”

In the past, flavored water has enriched investors including some of Diddy’s hip-hop world comrades. A little over a decade ago, 50 Cent famously took Vitaminwater equity in lieu of stock as payment for his endorsement—and walked away with some $100 million when Coca-Cola bought its parent company for $4.1 billion in 2007.

A ten-figure valuation for an alkaline water company seems an outlandish target even for the notoriously bombastic Diddy. But Keay notes Alkaline clocked $33 million in revenues over the past fiscal year and had been expecting $48 million in 2020; now, with Aquahydrate on board, he projects closer to $60-$65 million. That compares favorably to Core Water, which was doing some $80 million as of last year before getting acquired.

“For two or three years, Core Water was just another clear water,” says Keay. “Then they added about a half dozen flavors. Sales doubled. They got bought for $500 million. I mean, for us, $500 million would be a big number off of where our market cap is right now.”

Diddy appears to be an ideal ally in achieving that goal. With Ciroc, once a middling vodka in Diageo’s roster, he was able to articulate importance of the brand’s defining trait: it was made from grapes, not grains (never mind that this might technically disqualify it from being considered a vodka). His contention, according to Stephen Rust, Diageo’s president of new business and reserve brands, is that grapes are simply sexier than potatoes.

“One of his favorite things [to say] is, ‘If you can have a vodka that comes from a history of winemaking, why would you do that versus the history of coming from potatoes?’” Rust explained in an interview for my book, 3 Kings: Diddy, Dr. Dre, Jay-Z, And Hip-Hop’s Multibillion-Dollar Rise. “That’s Sean.”

With alkaline water, Diddy has demonstrated a similar knack for sizing up a product and extracting an elemental notion that passes muster with consumers (if not necessarily scientists). If “you’re full of acid,” Diddy once explained to me, you need to “get your body leveled out.”

Vodka and water, of course, are two very different products, and the same tactics won’t necessarily translate from one business to another. Flavored water itself seems to have been over-carbonated of late, as the recent struggles of brands like La Croix show; Alkaline’s shares have slumped this year as well.

Perhaps that’s why Alkaline is looking beyond its flagship bottled water business. Future plans call for a move towards cans in a nod to environmentally-conscious customers, as well as expansion into the nascent CBD-infused beverage space. Keay figures Diddy and Wahlberg, along with fellow celebrity investor Jillian Michaels, should provide a boost across the board.

“Once the FDA makes a ruling about how CBD is going to be distributed through those chains and channels, those guys are going to want trusted brands, brands that they know already have a consumer following,” says Keay. “And that was another big reason why it made sense to bring [Diddy, Wahlberg and Michaels] in, because it’s only going to help.”

Zack O’Malley Greenburg; Forbes

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The Highest-Paid Actors 2019: Dwayne Johnson, Bradley Cooper And Chris Hemsworth

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A bankable leading man is still one of Hollywood’s surest bets, even if your name isn’t Leonardo DiCaprio. While the lucrative twenty-twenty deal ($20 million upfront and 20% of gross profit) doled out to the likes of Harrison Ford and Tom Cruise may be more or less gone, Hollywood still has its big-money brands, those actors who can promise an audience so big that they command not only an eight-figure salary to show up on set but also a decent chunk of a film’s nebulous “pool”—or the money left over after some but not all of the bills are paid. 

Dwayne Johnson, also known as the Rock, tops the Forbes list of the world’s ten highest-paid actors, collecting $89.4 million between June 1, 2018, and June 1, 2019.

READ MORE | Marvel Money: How Six Avengers Made $340 Million Last Year

“It has to be audience first. What does the audience want, and what is the best scenario that we can create that will send them home happy?” Johnson told Forbes in 2018.

It seems he makes the audience happy. Johnson has landed a pay formula as close to the famed twenty-twenty deal of yore as any star can get these days. He’ll collect an upfront salary of up to $23.5 million—his highest quote yet—for the forthcoming Jumanji: The Next Level.

He also commands up to 15% of the pool from high-grossing franchise movies, including Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, which had a worldwide box office of $962.1 million. And he is paid $700,000 per episode for HBO’s Ballers and seven figures in royalties for his line of clothing, shoes and headphones with Under Armour.

READ MORE | ‘Black Panther’: All The Box Office Records It Broke (And Almost Broke) In Its $235M Debut

While Johnson’s deal is the biggest in the business right now, he’s not the only one with a lucrative deal. Robert Downey Jr. gets $20 million upfront and nearly 8% of the pool for his role as Iron Man, and that amounted to about $55 million for his work in Avengers: Endgame, which grossed $2.796 billion at the box office. 

That gross was so big that it secured spots on this year’s top-earner list for Chris Hemsworth, Bradley Cooper and Paul Rudd, in addition to Downey; together, they earned $284 million, with most of that coming from the franchise. 

“Celebrities such as Downey and (Scarlett) Johansson currently have extreme leverage to demand enormous compensation packages from studios investing hundreds of millions of dollars in making tent-pole films, such as The Avengers series,” entertainment lawyer David Chidekel of Early Sullivan Wright Gizer & McRae told Forbes. 

READ MORE | Worldwide Box Office, The Best It’s Ever Been

Cooper is the rare actor who can thank a bet on himself for his 2019 ranking. The actor earned only about 10% of his $57 million payday for voicing Rocket Raccoon in Avengers. 

Seventy percent came from A Star Is Born, the smaller musical drama that he directed, produced, cowrote and starred in with Lady Gaga. The movie was a passion project for Cooper, and he forfeited any upfront salary to go into the film and Gaga’s salary. It paid off—the movie, which had a production budget of only $36 million, grossed $435 million worldwide, leaving Cooper with an estimated $40 million. 

The full list is below. Earnings estimates are based on data from Nielsen, ComScore, Box Office Mojo and IMDB, as well as interviews with industry insiders. All figures are pretax; fees for agents, managers and lawyers (generally 10%, 15% and 5%, respectively) are not deducted.

The World’s Highest-Paid Actors Of 2019

10. Will Smith

Earnings: $35 million

9. Paul Rudd

Earnings: $41 million

8. Chris Evans

Earnings: $43.5 million

6. Adam Sandler (tie)

Earnings: $57 million

6. Bradley Cooper (tie)

Earnings: $57 million

5. Jackie Chan

Earnings: $58 million

4. Akshay Kumar

Earnings: $65 million

3. Robert Downey Jr.

Earnings: $66 million

2. Chris Hemsworth

Earnings: $76.4 million

1. Dwayne Johnson

-Madeline Berg; Forbes

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