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Cruising high seas with tinsel stars

Preeti Mehra

NEW DELHI, July 5

BOLLYWOOD'S date with `picture perfect' locales makes a great sales-pitch for countries such as Switzerland and Britain, who in turn are wooing tinsel town's directors to shoot on their shores. But now it is the high seas that beckon, with Star Cruises, charting the same course.

The fourth largest cruise line in the world, Star Cruises is the stage for Humraaz, Bollywood's own rendition of the Hitchcock 1954 classic, Dial M for Murder. And even as the multi-starer Humraaz sets sail with its release on Friday, Star Cruises is looking for more.

Humraaz, an Abbas Mustan blockbuster that was released all over India, stars Star Cruises' ship SuperStar Virgo along with Bobby Deol, Amisha Patel and Akshaye Khanna. Not only was a chunk of the film, about 30 minutes or so, filmed aboard the luxury liner, but the story line itself is spun around the corporate entity.

Hero Bobby Deol, a business tycoon, has a tie-up with Star Cruises and sails the high seas on its maiden excursion. It's here that he meets the heroine Amisha Patel, who along with Akshaye Khanna is partner of a dance troupe hired to perform on board. Love blossoms within the opulent ambience of the cruise liner and with many a murder, twists and turns later, they live happily ever after.

It remains to be seen whether the film will make be a box-office hit, but for Star Cruises, in one sense, it already has. "This is the first time that we've featured in a Bollywood production, but after Kaho Na Pyaar Hain and now Humraaz, shooting on cruise liners seems to be the trend," says Mr M. Majoo, Star Cruises representative in India.

He said that the film was shot for 10 days and 11 nights on the high seas and Star Cruises gave the 104-strong crew all the support they needed as they sailed from Singapore to Phuket, Langawi and Kuala Lumpur. "No, we do not offer Bollywood discounts for filming on our ship, but we ensure smooth functioning and a time structure that suits them," he added.

Mr Majoo said that Star Cruises, which was incorporated in September 1993 to tap Asia-Pacific's potential as an international cruise destination, was becoming popular in India in the leisure travel and corporate market. "We are proud of the fact that we have achieved a remarkable growth in passenger numbers in just three years," he said.

Star Cruises' main marketing segments in the country have been senior citizens, honeymooners and school vacations. It also has an Indian crew on board and special Indian food (even the Jain diet without onions and garlic). And now with Humraaz hitting the silver screen and virtually advertising and marketing SuperStar Virgo, Star Cruises hopes to reap even more benefits.

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