Bollywood moves to Scotland

BOLLYWOOD, the most prolific film industry in the world, is abandoning the exotic landscapes of India for fresh locations in the Lake District, London and the Scottish glens.

Indian directors, tired of shooting key romantic moments on Himalayan mountains, are bringing their top stars to the British countryside and the London suburbs.

"Audiences are getting tired of repeated locations in India. They want something fresh and something Western," said Bakshish S Bahiya of Sheranwali Films, one of the biggest Indian film distributors in Britain. "British locations give a fresh look to the films which are lapped up by Indian audiences."

Some of the best known Lake District locations, including Kendal, Windermere and Ullswater, have already been visited by location scouts and film crews from leading Bombay studios.

Later this year, the small town of Larbert, Stirlingshire, population 6,000, will be the backdrop for a lavish historical epic about a Sikh nationalist who assassinated the former Governor of the Punjab, Sir Michael O'Dwyer. The big-budget film, From the Golden Temple to Caxton Hall, starring Indian heart-throb Raj Babbar, is seen as similar to Michael Collins. Insiders are already tipping it as a contender for next year's "Bollywood Oscars".

India's current blockbuster, Janam Samjha Karo ("Sweetheart try to understand"), was filmed in a variety of locations in Scotland, Cumbria and west London. Released this month in India and at Hindi cinemas in Britain, it stars Salman Khan, India's answer to Nicolas Cage. The central sequence, featuring several elaborate love songs and dances with Urmila, a Bollywood pin- up, was filmed outside the Warner Village complex in Park Royal, London.

British local authorities, keen to cash in on the publicity they will get from the films, have been offering cash incentives to attract Bollywood film crews to invest in their areas.

A visit from Bollywood is not as lucrative as one from the US film industry, though. Unlike the big Hollywood names, Indian stars stay with local families and bring their own chefs because they cannot bear English food. "The Indian film units don't tend to stay in posh hotels. They prefer local bed and breakfast or lodgers' accommodation where they can cook themselves," said Paul Mingard of the Northern Screen Commission.

India's current number one film, the romantic drama Kuch Kuch Hota Hai ("Something Happens"), was shot on location in the foothills of Scotland, where the hero, Shahrukh Khan, and Kajol, India's Julia Roberts, run on the slopes and sing an eight-minute duet about their love. The first Indian film to be made in Scotland, it won several awards at the latest "Bollywood Oscars" including best director, best actor and actress and best supporting actress.

The trend for filming in Britain began three years ago with the modern Indian romance Big Hearted People will Take the Bride, in which the hero and heroine filmed the crucial scene on top of an open-topped double-decker bus. The Hindi-language film features two London-based lovers who are forced apart because the girl is facing an arranged marriage in the Punjab.

In the bus scene, the singing hero vaults over the seats as it drives around Knightsbridge and expresses his love for his future bride. Other song sequences were shot in Piccadilly Circus, a field outside Loch Lomond, Dundee and around Edinburgh.

Bombay's film industry often tries to include historical landmarks in its British-made films to appeal to the many Indians who holiday here. There are also 1.2 million people living in Britain with origins in the Indian subcontinent and at least 20 cinemas show Hindi movies.

Bombay has the most successful commercial film industry in the world, and more than 15 million Indians go to the cinema each day. More than 800 films are made every year in Bollywood, most of which have between five to eight songs and several costume changes.

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