'Sanjay Dutt an icon in South Africa'

Mumbai, March 19 (IANS) In South Africa, Bollywood star Sanjay Dutt has woven a hypnotic web among the natives, says a business honcho from the country who is visiting India's commercial capital.

"He is bigger than any icon there. He has girls swooning over him and his fan following is bigger than any Hollywood megastar. South Africans just love him," Themba Ngcobo, president, Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry, told IANS.

"In fact, I am one of his fans myself and I have never missed any of his films, even though I usually see it with subtitles," Ngcobo said.

"Indian film stars have a huge fan following and the Hindi film market is also huge because the demographic concentration of Indians is extremely high," Ngcobo said.

Ngcobo is one of the leaders of the high-powered delegation from South Africa on a visit to India to attract investment and expertise.

Talking about trade tie-ups, Ngcobo says, "These kind of trade visits are important, but what I find surprising is that the joint ventures which we are seeking here will certainly follow. But the foundations of the joint venture was already laid down by your film industry."

The heavy presence of Indian residents in South Africa certainly boosted the Hindi film market, but the "recently-introduced sops and incentives to the Indian film industry have also taken the ties further," Ngcobo said.

According to Ngcobo, though the Indian film industry in the late 1990s had started looking at South Africa for shooting, the hosting of the International Indian Film Academy Awards in 2001 and 2003 helped make the Indian film industry aware of its potential.

"Today, a major chunk of films are being shot there and we will provide more incentives as well as streamline the process. Films are a part of culture and a strong one that can bind the two countries which had been exploited for centuries together," Ngcobo smiles before swaggering away Dutt style.

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