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Bollywood is all set to emerge as a colourful catalyst for promoting Russia as a tourism destination for travelling Indians, especially with the Indian outbound tourism market expected to grow to $40 billion by 2020, according tourism industry experts. With nearly a million Chinese tourists flocking annually to the country, Russia, which is grappling with an economic downturn, appears to be keen on bolstering tourism ties with India as a fail-safe measure.

Senior officials like Valery Korovkin, head of the International Development division of the Federal Agency for Tourism, believe that thanks to the legacy of cooperation across sectors between the two countries, a tourism-hungry Moscow is already ‘keeping India on a special shelf’. “We are looking the Bollywood way, not Hollywood way, because we have a lot of Hollywood films on Russian TV everywhere… It is a point where we (India and Russia) can maybe start and build up some promotional ground”, he added.

He hinted that there had been talks about Bollywood film shoots in Russia, but added that Russia was still in the process of creating infrastructure to facilitate hassle-free film shoots in the country. “(Film) shooting teams need time, need things from the technical and organisational point of view. I think we are going to that point where we will build it. We have to arrange things properly”, Korovkin said.

Indian films already have an immense brand recall in Russia, thanks to Raj Kapoor’s iconic song ‘Mera Joota Hai Japani’ which has a reference to Russia, and Mithun Chakraborty’s Disco Dancer song ‘Jimmy, Jimmy’ still have a cult following in the former Soviet Union.