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It's a Bollywood summer in Britain

Films featuring actors like Suneil Shetty are currently being shot at picturesque locations in north Staffordshire and north Wales.

india Updated: Jul 10, 2006 11:31 IST

If you visit London or any part of Britain in the next few weeks, chances are that you will run into Amitabh Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan, Preity Zinta, Yash Chopra or Aamir Khan, or an Indian crew shooting in the sylvan countryside.

Bollywood has been in focus in various ways.

Films featuring Rishi Kapoor, Suneil Shetty and others are currently being shot in picturesque locations in north Staffordshire and north Wales.

The major film distribution group, Eros International, announced that it had raised 22.5 million pounds in an offering on London's Alternate Investment Market (AIM).

Meanwhile, across Yorkshire, local authorities have begun preparations to host next year's International India Film Awards (IIFA).

In nearby east Midlands, thousands of Bachchan fans are eagerly awaiting his arrival to receive an honorary degree at the De Montfort University July 19.

The Indian film industry is the flavour of a major event in London's cultural calendar next week as the prestigious British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) presents a series of events to celebrate and explore contemporary Bollywood cinema.

The series, titled 'BAFTA Goes Bollywood' and to be held July 14-16, will see screenings of major Hindi films such as "Dil Chahta Hai", "Devdas", "Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham" and also 'masterclasses' and interviews by leading lights such as Shah Rukh, Chopra, Aamir, Preity and Karan Johar.

BAFTA chairman Duncan Kenworthy said: "The Academy is delighted to host this exciting event, which celebrates and investigates the broad appeal, outstanding creative talent and unparalleled production values that characterise Bollywood cinema.

"With a significant and growing impact on UK audiences, Bollywood films are increasingly popular around the world. We are honoured to bring some of Bollywood's most influential artists to London, to recognise their achievements and to learn from their expertise."

Elsewhere, noted choreographer Vaibhavi Merchant announced plans to present a musical "The Merchants of Bollywood" across Britain in November, finishing at the West End at Christmas.

Billed as the "authentic Bombay production", promoters expect it to go one notch higher than Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Bombay Dreams". The show is being brought to Britain by music promoter Harvey Goldsmith, the man who along with Sir Bob Geldof organised Live 8 last year.

Goldsmith told newspersons at the Indian high commission: "When I first saw this show in Melbourne I fell in love with it like nothing I had seen before. It is so wonderful to be able to offer up a show that is genuinely entertaining and energetic and for all ages to enjoy."

The show is written and directed by award-winning Toby Gough and has been choreographed by Merchant, on whose life it is loosely based.

Merchant said: "Bollywood has become a huge industry, not just for Asians, but for everyone. Anyone with even a remote interest in Asian culture will know about Bollywood, but may not have experienced it in all its glory."

Arif Zakaria, who plays the male lead in the musical, said the show would take audiences on a journey of Bollywood's growth.

"People will be able to see how it evolved from the black-and-white era to the contemporary, heart-stopping films produced now," he said.

Meanwhile, Aditya Raj Kapoor, son of legendary Shammi Kapoor, is directing the shooting of a film in a protected building in north Staffordshire.

Thornbury Hall, the venue, is currently in use as an award-winning restaurant. Local authorities are delighted with the shooting and hope that it will help bring tourists from India when the film is released.

Roger Bradshaw, economic development and tourism officer at the Staffordshire County Council, said: "To have a film production in the area will be of great value. If the film is a success it could well do what 'Pride and Prejudice' did for Derbyshire and Lincolnshire.

"It should be popular in India and this country and we hope to capitalise on it through marketing and publicity to encourage people to visit the hall and explore the beautiful surrounding countryside."

Elsewhere, a picturesque part of North Wales was transformed this week as actors and actresses from India shot scenes for a new film starring Suneil Shetty and Raveena Tandon. The location was the Marquess of Anglesey's 18th-century estate, Plas Newydd.

Paul Carr-Griffin, property manager at Plas Newydd, said: "Normally we play classical or jazz music but at the moment there is Indian music playing, which is a bit different.

Also, the crew have their own outside catering, so there is a smell of curry wafting around the place, which is unusual but nice."

The British Tourist Authority in India has been promoting Britain as the ideal place for Bollywood to shoot.