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Pretty castle county beckons Bollywood

London, Nov. 25: The development authorities in Yorkshire have extended the maximum possible assistance to Vikram Bhatt to shoot his supernatural thriller 1920 against the backdrop of beautiful castles and other striking locations that Britain’s biggest county has to offer in the hope that other Indian film-makers will follow his example.

The movie is the first to be shot in Yorkshire since it hosted the International Indian Film Academy (IIFA) awards that were presided over by Amitabh Bachchan in June this year.

With remarkable generosity, a Yorkshire university, Leeds Metropolitan, also conferred honorary degrees on Bachchan, Shabana Azmi, Yash Chopra and later on Shilpa Shetty.

Many prominent Indians in Britain have expressed dismay that Bollywood, 90 of whose leading lights wallowed in nearly £4 million of Yorkshire warmth and hospitality during the IIFA jamboree, lifted not a finger to help when the county was deluged by the worst floods in living memory a few days later.

However, Screen Yorkshire, the agency which is funded by, among others, Yorkshire Forward and the UK Film Council, hopes that some economic benefits may ultimately come its way if Indian productions can be persuaded to shoot in what is extraordinarily beautiful territory.

For Bhatt’s 1920, a tale set in that year of a haunted house that brings a curse to its residents, Screen Yorkshire has cut through red tape and helped him find and organise shoots at such evocative locations as Bolton Abbey, Allerton Castle, Bramham Park and Ripley Castle.

Sally Johnson, chief executive of Screen Yorkshire, said: “The IIFAs have given Yorkshire an excellent head start in building a long-term relationship with the Indian film production community which will be mutually beneficial. Screen Yorkshire hopes that 1920 is the first of many more Indian productions to film here in Yorkshire.”

Screen Yorkshire has also funded a number of trainee placements on the production “in order to build knowledge and understanding of Indian film productions amongst Yorkshire crew”.

Tom Riordan, chief executive of Yorkshire Forward, is an eternal optimist who commented: “We knew that when we brought the Indian film industry to Yorkshire and Humber, they would fall in love with the combination of our stunning locations and thriving media and creative industry, but to welcome our first Indian film to the region just six months after the IIFA awards came to our region is really fantastic news. By bringing Indian films to the region, we are raising awareness of Yorkshire and Humber with the millions of fans of Indian cinema across the world, who often travel to visit the locations of their favourite films.’’

Whether tourists from India will head for Yorkshire after seeing the movie — rather than simply the department stores in London’s Oxford Street — remains to be seen.

Bhatt said: “The house is one of the key characters in this film — as soon as I saw Allerton Castle, I knew it was the perfect location. Hopefully this film will show other Indian filmmakers what Yorkshire has to offer and we will see many more films made here in the future.’’

His cast includes model-turned-actor Rajneesh Duggal, Anjori Alagh, Adah Sharma, Indraneil Sengupta, Raj Zutshi and Smita Hai. There is a song by Parveen Sultana.

Bhatt has complained that on the very first day of his shoot, when he desperately needed a dark sky to lend spookiness to his scenes, the weather cleared, bathing Yorkshire in bright sunshine.

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