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Last Updated: Friday, 8 June 2007, 13:02 GMT 14:02 UK
Bollywood glamour hits Yorkshire
By David Sillito
BBC News arts correspondent

A host of Bollywood stars have arrived in Yorkshire for a series of events culminating in the Indian Film Academy (IIFA) awards on Saturday.

Fans at Thursday's Bollywood premiere
Fans turned out to greet the stars arriving at the premiere of The Train
So, how were they finding Yorkshire?

It was late, the skies were grey and Shilpa Shetty had just arrived in West Yorkshire - but 10 cases of her luggage had not.

"I'm keeping my sunglasses on," she said. You couldn't blame her.

Yorkshire, of course, is beautiful. Every one of the stars arriving for the International Indian Film Awards has been very polite about it.

Then again, all they have seen is the drive along the A64 from York Station and the outskirts of the former coal mining town of Rothwell where they are all staying.

At one event, Emraan Hashmi was asked on stage if he would buy a house here.

"I might," he said. He had been in Yorkshire less than 24 hours, and you got the feeling he wasn't going to escape without a visit to the estate agents.

Crowd barriers

For some in Yorkshire the whole point of the event is to make some cash.

Bump in to anyone with a gold chain and aspirations to be a civic dignitary, and they will tell you about how many millions Bollywood will bring to the region and how keen they are to be part of its roster of exotic film locations.

Amitabh Bachchan and Shilpa Shetty
Bachchan and Shetty launched the awards earlier in Leeds
In the days running up to the awards, though, there appeared to be not quite as much excitement as some had hoped for.

Outside Leeds Town Hall the crowd barriers would have been enough to hold back an angry mob of G8 protestors. Yet the two dozen or so curious onlookers weren't much of a threat to public order.

When Shilpa Shetty finally arrived, still without her luggage, Big Brother had just booted out a contestant for making a racist comment.

The winner of Celebrity Big Brother was once again the centre of attention, meaning the biggest star of Bollywood - the Big B himself Amitabh Bachchan - walked in almost unnoticed.

Inside Shilpa stood alongside Bachchan and watched as he was presented with a gift - a Yorkshire suit with the county's name woven in to it. She received a bunch of Yorkshire roses.

Cooling towers

"Now that doesn't seem fair," was the muttered response in the back of the hall. "She's not even got a change of clothes and he gets the suit."

"I don't think it would fit her," came the reply.

Sayali Bhagat
Former Miss India Sayali Bhagat shone on the green carpet
Four hours later we were in Castleford for the premiere of The Train.

The yellow signs warned of a major event that might cause disruption to traffic and the crowd barriers stretched for hundreds of yards.

This time the crowd had reached hundreds rather than dozens. It was hardly mayhem, but there were still some very excited faces at the front of the onlookers.

"It's mad, innit?" gasped one fan. "Bollywood stars, here!"

Samira Shah had come with seven members of her family from nearby Pontefract to stand for four hours in a car park in Castleford.

Overlooked by a forest of pylons and with a view of the cooling towers from the nearby power station, this is not the normal place for a world premiere of a Bollywood movie.

For a few moments, though, this place felt very glamorous.

Love and loyalty

Emraan Hashmi and Sayali Bhagat, the former Miss India, strolled down the green carpet (these are environmentally friendly awards) and the girls from Pontefract, Bradford and Dewsbury screamed at the tops of their voices.

Emraan Hashmi and Geeta Basra
Emraan Hashmi was joined by co-star Geeta Basra at the event
And it wasn't just an Asian contingent screaming. Bollywood's glamorous mix of songs and escapist fantasy had attracted a group of converts tired of modern Hollywood.

Talking to the crowd, its appeal seemed to lay in the innocence, songs and the celebration of family.

Some modern Bollywood films may look at infidelity and divorce, but the core of its output are hundreds of films that are all about love, loyalty and sticking together.

Audiences in the subcontinent might prefer action adventures, but here in West Yorkshire the Bollywood they had come to see was all about old-fashioned glamour and family values.

It remains to be seen whether it will make any money for anyone, but for the people of Pontefract and Bradford there is a genuine sense of amazement about just who is walking around their streets.


SEE ALSO
Stars out for Bollywood premiere
07 Jun 07 |  Bradford
Bollywood stars roll into region
06 Jun 07 |  West Yorkshire
UK map targets Bollywood tourists
29 May 07 |  Entertainment

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