Five quintessential Yorkshire towns are all set to welcome the bold and the beautiful of the India's prolific film industry for the three-day IIFA weekend from Thursday that local officials expect will boost the region's economy by at least 10 million pounds.
Thousands of people from India and from across the world have checked into Yorkshire hotels for the India International Film Academy (IIFA) awards. Shilpa Shetty - easily the most recognised Indian in Britain for the moment - is all set to be the first celebrity to touch down at York station at 10:40 am on Wednesday.
Apart from the glitz and the glamour, the IIFA event has a key business dimension. Top business leaders from the world of entertainment and advertising have converged for the IIFA Global Business Forum organised with the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) on Thursday.
Tom Riordan, chief executive of Yorkshire Forward, a regional business development agency, said, "Our expectation is that the event alone will bring nearly £10 million in tourism spend. But the awards will also act as a catalyst to access a new market. It will forge stronger business and cultural links between Yorkshire and India, which is now one of the fastest growing economies of the world".
Event organisers said that actor Dharmendra and his family and director JP Dutta were scheduled to reach York on Wednesday afternoon, while railways officials were expecting a major turnout at the York station on Thursday morning for the arrival of the IIFA brand ambassador, Amitabh Bachchan.
York station will also welcome other actors on Thursday such as Abhishek Bachchan, Aishwarya Rai, Shabana Azmi, Amrita Arora, Kangana Ranaut, Chunkey Pandey, Randhir Kapoor, Randeer Kapoor, Shaad Ali and Suniti Chauhan.
A red carpet event has been organised to celebrate Shilpa Shetty's birthday on Friday, June 8 at the Victoria Quarters. The same day, the IIFA Celebrity Cricket Match will be played at Headingley, involving leading film and cricket celebrities such as England test cricketer Monty Panesar.
Local officials believe that the region will get a major promotional boost across the globe, mainly during the main awards function on Saturday, which will be telecast live. Ten selected youngsters, dressed to impress in traditional Yorkshire cloth and cut to Indian style dresses designed by Rotherham-based designer Lena Mailk, will represent the region at the event.
Gary Topp, chief executive of Yorkshire Culture, said, "The young people taking part in these awards are a fantastic example of the region's potential. The clothes they are wearing demonstrate the rich and unique cultural mix of the region and I am proud that they are acting as our ambassadors on a truly global stage."
The 10 youngsters are: Nikhil Oswal, Arindam Banerjee, Ahmed Al-Aagam, Navita Kaushal, Lucy Skilbeck, Stuart Cowie, Ramla Aziz, Saira, Chantelle Harrison, and Mohammad Ayaz.
Lena Malik said, "I was raised surrounded by Bollywood culture. In the late 70s, my grandfather and father owned the only Hindi cinema in Sheffield. So you could say my affair with Bollywood spans many years. "As a direct result of the cinema, my family and I have come to know many locals in the community with whom we have developed very close relationships over the years; a factor that proves time and again to be the point of success for my business."
The events during the IIFA events will be held in the five Yorkshire towns of Sheffield, Leeds, Hull, Bradford and York. A retrospective of the work of reputed director Hrishikesh Mukherjee will be held during the IIFA Film Festival on Saturday in Bradford.
The IIFA-BAFTA workshop at the National Film Museum, Bradford, on Friday will focus on the work of reputed director Satyajit Ray. The workshop will be chaired by Jaya Bachchan and panelists will include directors Rituparno Ghosh and Deepa Mehta.
The Leeds Metropolitan University will award honorary doctorates to Shabana Azmi, reputed director Yash Chopra and Indian Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel during the weekend. The university's students are closely involved in the event's organisation.