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    Dubai bowls me over: Amitabh Bachchan

    [Interview by Subhash K. Jha]
    Tuesday, January 11, 2005
    Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan, who has been appointed ambassador of the month-long Dubai shopping festival that begins Wednesday, says he is "bowled over" by the place and is amazed by its rapid progress.

    "Every time I go to Dubai, I am bowled over," Amitabh told IANS in an exclusive interview.
    "I am endorsing jewellery called Damas, which is part of the Dubai Gold and Jewellery Association who are a partner in the Dubai shopping festival. They wanted me to announce a gold coin to promote the festival. To make the announcement I held press conferences in Mumbai and Dubai," he said.

    Talking of Dubai, he said: "I have extremely high regard for the progress made by Dubai. The way the country has evolved is quite amazing. It has become a world centre for financial transactions. Such rapid development in real estate and other areas... Every time I go to Dubai I am bowled over. To get to Dubai from Mumbai takes less time than to get to Kolkata. There are more Indians than Arabs in Dubai."

    Tell him about his huge popularity in Dubai and the Big B smiles.

    "I did not realize this until I went to Dubai for the first time in 1977 for a concert by composers Shankar-Jaikishan. I missed my flight and they chartered a whole plane for us - Jaya, me and the two kids in a hundred-seater plane - to Sharjah from where we drove down to Dubai.

    "At that time there was only one luxury hotel in Dubai. Before I could reach it, the people of Dubai accosted me. They just swooped me off the car. I could not touch the ground! There was a sea of people all the way from the foyer into the lobby and lift," the actor said.

    "At the concert, the crowds were unbelievable. Since then every time I went there the people have been unbelievable... Dubai is so crime-free. You are free to do what you want as long as it is within the restrictions of law. They have made Dubai into such an exciting spot out of nothing! It was just a small fishing village just 30 years ago... I think we need to learn a few lessons on progress from them.

    "As for the Dubai Shopping Festival, I wish it all the best. But my part in it is done," Amitabh added.

    The Dubai shopping festival, which is entering its tenth year, is likely to attract 3.2 million visitors this time.

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