When Ek Tha Tiger stormed into theatres, Kabir Khan, Salman Khan and the folks at Yash Raj Films were not the only ones holding their breaths. Some 7,600 kilometers north-west, a lot of people in Ireland were also praying for its success. Part of the film is set in the Irish capital, Dublin. And a trio of organizations - Tourism Ireland, the Irish Film Board and Trinity College – are hoping that the film’s success at the box office will open the famously verdant island to Indian filmmakers, tourists and students for years to come.
Ek Tha Tiger’s Irish connection didn’t just happen. No Hindi film has ever been to Ireland though plenty have gone to neighbouring England and Scotland. Thanks to his work filming with journalist Saeed Naqvi in 1995, Kabir Khan had spent a day in Dublin to interview then President Mary Robinson. Afterward, they toured historic Trinity College in the city center. “It stuck in my mind,” Khan says. “When I was writing the script of Ek Tha Tiger and I needed some university of repute to set a character in, that’s how Trinity College came about.”
The man who opened Trinity to Bollywood
When Naoise Barry, Commissioner of the Irish Film Board, learned of Khan’s choice, he was worried. Barry and the Board had been actively pursuing Mumbai film studios and directors for a decade, and he was thrilled at the prospect of a Yash Raj production coming to Ireland, but Trinity was a concern. The nation’s oldest university - home to the famous illuminated manuscript, the Book of Kells, and once also to Dracula author, Bram Stoker – had been closed to film crews for almost 20 years. “Without Trinity, there’s no Dublin for us,” Khan told him.
To everyone’s relief, Khan recalls the then Vice-Provost, Michael Marsh, saying “I don’t mind going down in history as the man who opened up Trinity to Bollywood” and the school even waived any location fees. Dublin was on. Says Barry: “We went to extraordinary lengths to ensure that Yash Raj Films had all the support they needed here, from the film locations they were interested in using, and we ensured they were able to close city streets to achieve the very ambitious chase and stunt sequences.” In fact, according to Dr. Leo Varadkar, Ireland’s Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sports: “The Irish Government worked hard to secure the shooting of Ek Tha Tiger in Ireland. The whole process involved five Government Departments, including my own.”
When Kabir Khan spotted the gleaming LUAS tram gliding down Dublin streets and formed an idea to use it in a prolonged chase sequence, Commissioner Barry approached Veolia, the company managing the LUAS tram system: “Not surprisingly, they were shocked when we asked them to help in achieving these stunt sequences with Salman Khan running down the roof of a moving LUAS and crashing a LUAS, but they were very open-minded when we explained to them this would be good for Ireland, and good for Dublin and good for our tourism sector. They also waived all their fees and cooperated with the production.”