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Last Updated: Sunday, 10 June 2007, 02:07 GMT 03:07 UK
Bollywood brightens up Yorkshire
By Alastair Lawson
BBC News, Sheffield

Aishwarya Rai (C) acknowledges the audience
Aishwarya Rai (centre) turned everyone's head
So Bollywood has arrived in Yorkshire, northern England - and with it lavish amounts of glamour, excitement, embarrassment and security.

Glamour in the form of some of the most beautiful women in the world descending on the city of Sheffield for the International Indian Film Awards on Saturday.

Apart from criminal activity, it takes a lot to turn a policeman's head in this unpretentious northern city. But the sight of the former Miss World, Aishwarya Rai, making her way through the high street made even the most hardened of officers look twice.

Excitement came in the form of large crowds gathering outside the various hotels in the city in the hope of catching a glimpse of the great and good from Bollywood.

Early arrivals

Sheffield and the neighbouring areas of Leeds and Bradford have large British Asian populations, and there was far more interest this time in the awards than when it was last held in the UK - in London seven years ago.

Crowds outside Sheffield hotel

The venue for the ceremony was sold out days in advance and overspill areas in Sheffield and Leeds with giant screens showing the proceedings attracted thousands of people.

Embarrassment came in the form of a host of B-list celebrities arriving early for the ceremony in the hope of being photographed and interviewed by the mass of journalists waiting outside the venue as the stars arrived.

So immersed in Bollywood culture have Yorkshire people been over the last week, most of the big names were instantly recognised. But even the most seasoned Indian cinema fan had difficulties identifying the early arrivals.

The system seemed to work this way: least recognisable actors arrived first in minicabs, followed by better-known celebrities in Mercedes and Range Rovers, followed by the real big-wigs such as Ms Rai and her husband Abhishek in limos or Rolls Royces.

Security came in the form of what the local press described as a "ring of steel" around the Hallam Arena where the event was staged.

Less formal

The city was at the centre of one of the biggest security operations it has ever seen, with extra police brought in and fans without tickets not allowed anywhere near the venue.

Huge fencing was placed around the site and its numerous marquees, while the car park outside was almost exclusively reserved for the cars of the stars and their families.

Overspill venue
Overspill venues also drew huge audiences

The awards ceremony itself was far less formal than its American counterpart, the Oscars. Many of those selected to hand out awards to the winners drew attention to the problems of global warning rather than talk about the cinema.

And everyone - actors, delegates and comperes - took the trouble to thank the people of Yorkshire for staging the event and making it such a success.

Compere for part of the ceremony was Boman Irani, who early in the proceedings tried to warm up the crowd with his version of the hit song, We Are The World.

That was not a success as most in the audience seemed barely to know the tune, but Mr Irani's later comedy experiences - in which he separately wore a kilt and a British army bearskin hat - drew much more applause.

Another difference was the way in which the winner of each award was named. In the US the four candidates for the prize are nominated, and then the winner is announced who normally makes an emotional speech punctuated by outbreaks of tears and sentimentality.

In the Indian version, the winner is announced immediately, and most of the winners kept their acceptance speeches short and sweet.

From Yorkshire's point of view, the Bollywood week has been something of a boon.

It has brought the county onto global television, with hundreds of millions of viewers watching the ceremony all over the world.

It has also brought the area to the attention of Indian businessmen, with deals being discussed over the course of the week that could amount to millions of dollars.

Relations between the Bollywood community and their Yorkshire hosts have been so warm over the last week that the king of the Indian film world, Amitabh Bachchan, is now reputed to have a new way of greeting people.

"Ay up! Now then where are you going?" he was overheard saying in a true Yorkshire accent.


VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Bollywood stars arriving at the awards ceremony



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