Mumbai, Jan 19, 2018 : This was his last stop in Mumbai before the early Friday morning flight, an evening with some of Bollywood’s biggest stars and film personalities. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has spent five days in India to deepen ties and seal deals between the two countries, had a request at the end it. He wanted a selfie.
This one, he said, would have a message.
"I am so passionate about this relationship and I want every Indian and every Israeli to know about the phenomenal friendship between the two countries. So I have an idea, one of the most viral pictures of all time took place at the Oscars, and several celebrities including Brad Pitt took a selfie," Mr Netanyahu said after a short speech peppered with witty remarks that had his star-studded audience breaking into a smile, now and then.
"I want all the Bollywood celebrities, producers and stars to join together for a selfie. Let a few hundred million people see the friendship," Mr Netanyahu said.
The stars quickly agreed. Amitabh Bachchan, the tallest of them, held the selfie stick and a few minutes later, the Israeli PM uploaded the picture."My best selfie yet," the Israel PM said about the selfie that also had Randhir Kapoor, Vivek Oberoi, Sara Ali Khan, filmmaker Imtiaz Ali, Madhur Bhandarkar, Nikkhil Advani, Abhishek Kapoor and Subhash Ghai.
The event, Shalom Bollywood, was designed to reach out to Bollywood to shoot more films in Israel.
Not that he needed to but Amitabh Bachchan still put the Indian film industry into perspective. "India produces more than 1,500 films every year, four times what Hollywood produces and twice as much that comes out of China," he said.
But Mr Netanyahu appeared to have already done his math.
"I used to think that I was a big deal," he confessed. "Till I found that Amitabh Bachchan has 30 million more followers than me," he said, adding that he had also counted the Twitter following of other Bollywood stars.
Mr Bachchan is Bollywood’s most followed celebrity on Twitter with 32.9 million followers and added more followers in the last one month, 1.4 million, than Mr Netanyahu’s 1.28 million followers.
"You guys are a big deal," the visiting prime minister added.
"And the reason for that is that the world loves Bollywood, Israel loves Bollywood and I love Bollywood. We are putting our money where our mouth is," he said, pitching Israel as a film destination.
Not just because they could see the snow, the beach, the desert, the salty sea and a sweet-water lake within an hour’s drive, he said, but also because Israel also had "great technology for businesses and big ideas".