Before you know it, the Brits will be claiming Bollywood as their national cultural heritage just like they claim curry as thier national dish…
LONDON (AFP) – Love triangles, melodrama and sizzling song and dance numbers have always been vital ingredients of a classic Bollywood film but directors are increasingly adding something else to the mix — scenes shot in London.
With St Paul’s Cathedral and Leicester Square featuring in box office hits such as “Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham”, industry insiders say the trend is partly about aesthetics and partly about culture.
The scenes appeal to young Asians raised in Britain who use film as a way of getting in touch with their roots, as well as introducing a note of glamour for audiences in India.
A London element also provides a reference point for the growing number of British filmgoers with no family links to India who watch Bollywood films in multiplexes, where they are shown side-by-side with Hollywood hits.
Some 35 Bollywood productions were shot in the Westminster area of central London last year alone.
Other popular locations in the capital include Buckingham Palace, the Tower of London and even Chelsea Football Club.
Milan Luthria, director of “Hat Trick”, a cricket-themed story starring Paresh Rawal, Nana Patekar and Naseeruddin Shah which is filming in London in November, said many Indians love the feeling of escapism created by British sequences.
He has shot at locations including Richmond Park, St James’s Park and Waterloo Bridge and told AFP: “That’s the London that the Indian tourist or filmgoer would love to see.
“I would like to give them a bit of a treat, not having shown them the most attractive places before.”
Lalit Mohan Joshi, director of London’s South Asian Cinema Foundation, agreed.
“Most of the audiences will see these films in India and they can never imagine coming to the UK so by watching these films, they imagine they are sitting in Trafalgar Square and identify with the hero and imagine they are running after that girl,” he told AFP.
But the films also appeal to the millions who watch them outside India.
Adrian Wootton, chief executive of the British capital’s movie agency, Film London, said that, for many Bollywood filmmakers, the city is now “their biggest second home”.
“It’s an increasingly diverse city with a large Indian population and the UK as a whole is a large market,” he told AFP.
“Multiplexes routinely screen Bollywood films and 10 years ago there was nothing at all.
“It’s crossed over into the mainstream — it’s now commonplace.
“British Asian people don’t just want to see films shot in India, they want to see ones shot here.”
Britain is now the second-biggest market for Bollywood anywhere in the world, he added.
Research by Nielsen EDI, a company which monitors box office results, shows how quickly the market has grown.
In 1999, the total British and Ireland box office take for Indian films was around 5.7 million pounds (8.5 million euros, 10.9 million dollars) but by 2005, this had more than doubled to 12.4 million pounds.
The growing links between Britain and Bollywood were underlined when it was announced in June that the northern county of Yorkshire would host the 2007 “Bollywood Oscars” — the International Indian Film
Avtar Panesar, head of UK productions for film company Yash Raj, whose releases include “Veer-Zaara”, said that the movies are often of particular interest to young British Asians.
“The youngsters are more inclined to watch and appreciate the films much more now.
“The young audiences are now more inclined to try and get in touch with their roots through Indian cinema and it helps them relate to a place or traditions they are perhaps alien to otherwise,” he said.
Wootton predicted that London’s cultural mix would yield increasing “cross pollination” in film as more young people from ethnic minorities follow in the footsteps of directors like Gurinder Chadha, whose Bollywood-tinged Jane Austen homage “Bride And Prejudice” was a hit in 2004.
And Panesar said that Bollywood’s influence on Western cinema has already thrown up some high-profile examples.
“It is now becoming a more accepted style of filmmaking and especially for film makers like Gurinder who have grown up on Hindi films and have no qualms admitting it.
“Even (director Baz Luhrmann’s 2001 film) ‘Moulin Rouge’ has shown clear inspiration of Indian films,” he said.