I'll be in Bollywood afore ye - Arts and Entertainment - The Independent

I'll be in Bollywood afore ye

It may seem extravagant to bring an Indian film crew all the way to Paisley to film a six-minute sequence, but Bombay's film industry can easily afford it. And to the audience, Scotland is the ultimate exotic foreign location. By Richard Mowe

AGAINST A backdrop of heather, lochans, mountains and scudding clouds, a film crew watch an Indian couple apparently rehearsing a traditional dance. Suddenly the sound of sitar music blasts from a couple of strategically placed speakers, causing any curious wildlife to dive for cover. As cameras whirr, the two actors - he in skin-tight jeans and leather jacket, she in miniskirt and modestly revealing blouse - embark on their paces with studied intensity and grand gestures.

Cut! The director, Karan Johar, rushes forward to declare himself well pleased with his protagonists' efforts. The crew, all warmly wrapped against the rigours of a Scottish summer, pack up, stow gear into assorted buses and vans then head off into a gathering dusk and their base in Glasgow, some four hours' drive away. The next day they can look forward to another dawn rise, and another scenic location along hazardous single-track roads from Loch Lomond to Glencoe.

"Bollywood", the term coined for India's film industry centered on Bombay, has come to Scotland to film part of a pounds 1.5m blockbuster.

The two actors, Shah Rukh Khan and his leading lady Kajol, possess a level of stardom to eclipse the likes of Tom Cruise and Winona Ryder. While most of the crew of 35 have been accommodated, with their own chef, in a university hall of residence, Khan and Kajol bask in the luxury of a hotel.

In the film, Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, (Something Happened in My Heart) they play star-crossed lovers who dream of coming to Scotland. The six-minute musical sequence takes place in their imaginations.

Why Scotland? "Because to Indian eyes it's an exotic place - and we chose places for their scenic beauty and sense of history," says Yosh Kohar, the film's producer (and Karan Johar's father). "This is a Romeo and Juliet story. She comes from an old-fashioned background; he follows her home, and eventually wins her family's heart."

Kohar's Bombay colleagues thought him "crazy" to go all the way to Scotland with a huge crew for this short sequence. "But this part has to be more beautiful than anything else in the film, and you cannot manufacture that in a studio," he says.

The producer helps to fund his film-making activities through an export business. "We make more films than any other country in the world, including the States - around 700 a year. And the quality is improving. The Americans would think nothing of coming to Scotland for such a short shoot, so why shouldn't we?'

He was lucky to get Khan. At home, the star would be mobbed everywhere. He managed to survive incognito in Scotland until the last day, when the news broke among the Asian community. The local paper headline was: "Exclusive - Indian movie megastar in Paisley." As a result a handful of girls waited patiently at the hotel to catch a glimpse of their idol. "We can't believe he's here in Scotland. I've seen every film he's ever made," said one. "We know everything there is to know about him; unfortunately he's married, and has a child, but we still like him. He can be the hero or the bad guy, and he's also very funny. When he's in a serious role he makes me greet [cry]."

If Khan is a Cruise clone who has made 26 films in the last four years, then Kohar must be a close copy of Steven Spielberg. He worked as a production executive with several of the big studios in Bombay before opting to set up independently. "What I make from my business activities, I plough into my films. It is a passion. Film-making all over the world is a gamble; just like going to the racecourse and seeing who the trainer is, and the rider, and assessing the pedigree and the form. My son always wanted to work in the cinema. He was an assistant on a film, People with Heart Will Take the Bride Away, written by a friend, which was a huge hit. Khan was also starring in it, and he suggested my son should direct this film."

Kohar detects a return to a taste for romance among Indian audiences; every day 15 million go to the cinema, paying 40 rupees (or 75p). "For the last four or five years we followed the pattern for big budget action movies from the West. Now love is back. Our audiences are poor and we have to provide what they want. Rich Indians have tennis, golf and racing, but the ordinary person only has cinema. When they buy a ticket, they want to spend three hours at least in front of the screen. I know that if I made a film of 90 minutes it would be a flop.

"They want songs, comedy, tragedy and romance; they would never accept boy meets girl and a kiss right away. You have to take time to establish a relationship.

"Yes, now lovers can kiss on screen, providing it is not vulgar. But the censor allows only a couple of kisses per film."

Most of the films are so culturally specific that they baffle foreign audiences. One prevalent ploy is to remake Hollywood hits - there have been three versions of Mrs Doubtfire and as many of Sleeping with the Enemy and Indecent Proposal. Male stars are usually strong of jaw and clear of eye; females are pallid and compliant.

Working practices are relaxed. Kevin Cowle, Scottish Screen's location manager, observed the shoot from close quarters. "There's a very ad hoc attitude to shooting. Normally you would have everything prepared down to the last detail. With them, you'd be driving along the shores of a loch, and they would say: `That looks nice, let's stop here.' At one point they blocked a single-track road, and we had to come back to move everything for a forestry lorry." Cowl was not amused. "They thought they could shoot anywhere without permission, including the ruins of St Andrew's Cathedral where they let off explosives. We didn't even know they were coming until after the event.

"They think nothing of working a 12- or even 14-hour day. At Fort William one day their coach broke down, and they hired taxis to take them to the location." Local businesses had no complaints: the Indians parted with pounds 40,000 during their stay, hiring a Scottish location manager, lighting and special effects crew who, bizarrely, had to manufacture a rainstorm to order.

Scotland has begun to acquire a reputation in Bollywood. Last year the director Dev Annand came to the Highlands to make Desire, helped by a Dundee restaurateur, Tony Hussain, who says: "Usually Indian film-makers think of Switzerland but Scotland has more to offer. I think of myself as a promoter. I was born here, but I want to give something back."

Bollywood's escape to Scotland will hit screens on 14 October, which has been deemed the equivalent of America's Independence Day prime slot for launching a movie. In addition to the 600 prints at home, almost 100 copies will be shown at the same time throughout the world in cities with sizeable Asian populations including London, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Birmingham, Bristol and Leicester.

On that day Johar can expect queues round the block as fans in Delhi and Bombay jostle for admittance to the first show. That's a Bollywood tradition the moguls of LA would willingly trade.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West is on his 'Yeezus' tour at the moment

Music
Arts and Entertainment
Rob James-Collier, who plays under-butler Thomas Barrow, admitted to suffering sleepless nights over the Series 5 script

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence star in new film 'Serena'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Some might argue that a fleeting moment in the actor’s scintillating, silver-tongued company is worth every penny.

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Colin Firth stars as master magician Stanley Crawford in Woody Allen's 'Magic in the Moonlight'

film
Arts and Entertainment
U2 have released Songs of Innocence in partnership with Apple

musicBand have offered new record for free on iTunes
Arts and Entertainment
Brad Pitt stars in David Ayer's World War II drama Fury

film
Arts and Entertainment
Top hat: Pharrell Williams

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum star as undercover cops in 22 Jump Street

film
Arts and Entertainment
David Bowie is back with fresh music after last year's hit album The Next Day

music
Arts and Entertainment
Keith Richards is publishing 'Gus and Me: The Story of My Granddad and My First Guitar', a children's book about his introduction to music

music
Arts and Entertainment
Calvin Harris has generated £4m in royalties from the music platform

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman stars as the Time Lord's companion Clara in Doctor Who

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Time and time again: the popular daytime quiz has been a fixture on Channel 4 since 1982

TV
Arts and Entertainment

To mark Tolstoy's 186th birthday

books
Arts and Entertainment
Rachel McAdams is reportedly competing with Mad Men's Elisabeth Moss for a major role in True Detective

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Sam Smith returned to the top spot with his album 'In The Lonely Hour'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Steve Backshall is set to dance with Ola Jordan on Strictly Come Dancing. 'I have a friend who's a dancer and she said to me 'You want Ola because she's a fantastic dancer and she can make anyone look good' meaning 'even you'!' he said.

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Sting and Paul Simon on stage together at Carnegie Hall in New York

music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week