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Britain's Bollywood connection

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Tuesday, June 26, 2007
Bollywood glamour is almost irresistible. And it's so for British Asians as well, most of whom have grown up on a diet of Bollywood films.

In the 90s, there were beauties Sophiya Haque and Laila Rouass from the UK , both successful veejays in Mumbai, who unfortunately however didn't quite succeed in blazing up the silver screen. But this hasn't deterred any of the Bollywood hopefuls from giving up on their dream. In fact since the beginning of this decade, there have been more aspirants pouring into the glamour city of Mumbai . From Upen Patel, Katrina Kaif, Sophie Chowdhry, Geeta Basra to Jiah Khan, more and more British Asians are looking for their true calling in the glamour industry of India . So much so that there is kind of a Brit boom in Bollywood right now.

The fact that most of these British born actors are not fluent in Hindi and speak with an accent also hasn't acted as a deterrent either. Upen Patel speaks with his unique Gujju Brit accent and even after three major releases, he has struggled with his dubbing.

Katrina Kaif has also not had it easy while mouthing dialogues. But today they are contenders for the top spot in Bollywood.

Coupled with that, most of these people are amateurs with no acting background. The only thing they mostly flaunt is a stint at some high profile acting school and probably a strong modelling background. But that is enough for the producers who are keen to cast them in leading roles. Probably the polish and sheen (of being bred in Britain)that they bring along with them is enough to tempt the makers and the audiences alike.

Interestingly the non Asians have not been left behind either. Rachel Shelley acted alongside the versatile Aamir Khan in Lagaan while Antonia Bernath appeared in Subhash Gai's Kisna. Sophie Dahl did a crossover Indian/English film with Om Puri, titled King of Bollywood. The most successful has been Alice Patten (daughter of British politician, Chris Patten) who played the female lead in the BAFTA-nominated Rang de Basanti, one of the most critically acclaimed commercial successes of year 2006.

And that's not all; British women are also open to doing regional cinema. Like 29 year old Londoner Sonal who is busy making a Bengali remake of the Hollywood slasher flick, I know what you did last summer. The aspiring star thinks this is better than being typecast in Asian only roles in Britain and waiting tables for years to get a break in Hollywood . Not knowing the language has not come as a barrier in any way.

Bollywood opening up like never before has helped this trend in a big way. There are Bollywood events happening in almost every part of the globe and Britain is no exception (the more recent being the IFFA awards in Yorkshire ). Bollywood films have often featured in the top ten UK countdowns. Post Shilpa Shetty's Big Brother win, things have only got better. The tremendous love and support she received in the UK after being a victim of racial bullying and her win there after has made her the ambassadress of Bollywood in the UK . Her film Metro has had its world premiere there and looks like this is just the beginning. All this is more likely to attract youngsters even more towards Bollywood glitz.

Even British journalists find Bollywood alluring and have done their bit to enlighten people out there. Jessica Hines known for her association with Aamir Khan (he has supposedly fathered her son Jaan) is the author of the book 'Looking for the Big B: Bollywood, Bachchan and Me'. There is Anna Morcom who too has written in detail about Indian cinema and featured the likes of Yash Chopra.

If things go on like this, it's quite obvious that the Brit boom will only get stronger in the years to come.

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