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Bollywood's Spanish road trip

Indian box-office hit tells the story of three pals on a journey around Spain

After getting engaged to be married, Kabir, a young Indian man, heads off on a trip with his two best friends, Arjun and Imraan. The destination? Spain. On the way, the trio learns a little bit more about life and how to be happy. Zindagi na milegi dobara (or, You only live once) is a Bollywood film with an entertaining and funny, if hardly challenging, script. It is also an excellent piece of promotion for tourism in Spain - showing the beauty of the country to the Indian market - as well as being one more step in the coming together of the two nations' film industries.

"What a pretty ride, I want to go too and I won't miss La Tomatina," says Nirmala, a 22-year-old student, after seeing the film.

One of the scenes that has been most applauded by Indian audiences is when the friends, having met up with the film's love interest, played by Bollywood superstar Katrina Kaif, mess around like kids at the famous Valencian tomato-throwing festival. In fact, the scene has proved such a hit, that a La Tomatina cellphone game has also been launched, while last weekend New Delhi hosted a recreation of the fiesta for 15,000 people, according to the Hindustan Times.

Not everyone is a fan, however. In a country where there is so much poverty, some branded the food fight "immoral."

The movie's characters also experience Spanish nightlife, drinking wine and eating traditional dishes, while the most important song in the film is Señorita, by the flamenco singer María del Mar Fernández. You can currently hear the track all over India, sung in a mix of Hindi and Spanish.

"It is the first foreign film to be financially supported by Turespaña," explains Fernando Casas, who put together the agreement between the organization and Bollywood production company Excel Entertainment. In his opinion, Zindagi na milegi dobara will put Spain in the sights of the increasing numbers of Indians traveling outside their country's borders.

The movie forms part of the coming together of the two nations' film industries, explains Carlos Cuadros, director of Spain's Institute of Cinema and Audiovisual Arts. "Spain and India are close to signing an agreement that will facilitate and promote coproductions," he says.

Cuadros adds that in the next few months they will be able to confirm how film could be one of the best methods of selling the brand of a country, as they have traditionally done in the United States.

"If Spain believes in itself and we start to use it more regularly, we could get magnificent results," he says.

This film, with its Indian-eyed view of a paradisiacal Spain, has had a lot of success: it is on 1,800 screens in India and is a box-office smash. Internationally, it has earned more than any other Bollywood film so far this year.

The movie's director, Zoya Akhtar, has spoken to the Indian press about the great time they had making the film in Spain, "among people who know how to have fun," especially during the shooting of the flamenco scene in Alájar, Huelva, where many of the locals came out in traditional dress.

They also had fun, he says, making the scene on a Costa Brava beach, where they had to keep nude sunbathers out of the frame so the scenes wouldn't end up censored back in India.

The set of Zindagi na milegi dobara in the town of Alájar, Huelva.
The set of Zindagi na milegi dobara in the town of Alájar, Huelva.GARCIA CORDERO
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