Bollywood takes high road to Scotland in search of a fresh look for films

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The Independent Culture

The Scottish film industry - synonymous with Trainspotting and Mrs Brown - has been accorded a new honour. It is now officially the most popular film location outside India for Bollywood musicals.

The Scottish film industry - synonymous with Trainspotting and Mrs Brown - has been accorded a new honour. It is now officially the most popular film location outside India for Bollywood musicals.

Until recently that accolade was held by the Swiss, but the search for new locations to satisfy Indian film-goers has meant a rise in popularity for the Scottish Highlands.

Kevin Cowle, of Scottish Screen, a publicly funded film promotion body, said: "As far as I can tell Indian audiences are voracious for new images. They're looking for novelty in the way a movie looks, which is why they've had a long connection with Switzerland - some five years. But Switzerland is now moving out of fashion - and Scotland and Mauritius are in."

Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (Something Happened in my Heart), which was partly filmed in Scotland, has been Bollywood's biggest British hit, and followed the success of Scottish-based Uddam Singh (From the Golden Temple to Caxton Hall), which featured Indian heart-throb Raj Babber.

Mr Cowle said: "There's been a bit of a fashion for Scotland for a few years now. Kuch Kuch Hota Hai was the biggest hit Bollywood industry ever had in Britain. It swept the equivalent of the Oscars."

Ashwani Chopra is head of Trimurti Films, one of Bombay's biggest and oldest production companies. He is also executive producer of the forthcoming Payar Ishq Aur Mohabbat (Love, Love and Love), which will film across Scotland this summer. "We chose Scotland because it gives a different backdrop and we don't want anything we have already exploited," he said."England has been exploited in other films. Everyone shows Trafalgar Square and Big Ben - they want to show that they are filming abroad. If they shoot in America it's the same thing."

Payar Ishq Aur Mohabbat, about a Indian girl who comes to study in Scotland, will shoot some scenes in Switzerland, but it's director Rajiv Rai - known as "India's Steven Spielberg" - said that Switzerland was overused.

"All Scotland needs is one big Bollywood hit with the majority shot there. It encourages people to go and see the country."

It is a boom time for the Scottish film industry. From an average two films a year in 1990, last year a record 14 were made, resulting in an estimated £50m boost to the local economy. When the £5m Bollywood film Desire was shot in Scotland, Alex Salmond, leader of the Scottish National Party, raised the film in the Commons to help get the cast and crew work permits. And, last week, a campaign was launched to bring in even more international film companies.

However, it may be that the very number of successful films will eventually burst Scotland's Bollywood bubble. Last month it emerged that the big-budget Mohbbatein (Love Stories) was about to start filming in Britain - in the Wiltshire stately home of Longleat.

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