The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Bollywood makes and 'breaks' stars
- Safety standards back under glare after British actress speaks out

London, Sept. 26: A British actress has slammed Bollywood for poor safety standards after her male co-star was hurt in an accident while filming a scene in which she, too, was going to be included.

Antonia Bernath, 23, a member of the cast of Subhash Ghai's Kisna, said: 'I was meant to be in that scene, too, and if I had been, I would definitely have died.'

She revealed: 'Risks are taken with actors that would never be taken in Britain.'

Her comments were echoed by the family of Nadia Khan, 26, the British Asian assistant director who was killed after being hit by a train while working for Kaizad Gustad's Mumbai Central earlier this year.

Nadia's sister, Huma Khan, 27, told The Telegraph today that she agreed 'absolutely' with Bernath on the need for Bollywood to improve safety. 'They should take safety measures,' she said. 'Whether British or Indian actors, they should not play with people's lives.'

Khan said her family had been told that Gustad had been charge-sheeted with 'culpable homicide not amounting to murder' but did not know much more about the legal process.

'My parents are devastated,' said Khan. 'They say they wish Nadia, who was the youngest of us four sisters, had not gone to India but had pursued her career here. She was placed between two live tracks, four and five. Other crew were in danger trying to get to her, dodging their way over live tracks. There could have been other casualties.'

Khan spoke of the effect of the tragedy on the family. 'People say it will get better with time but it doesn't,' she said.

Bernath's comments were made to a newspaper in Britain which reported that British actors are now making a beeline for Bollywood.

While Bernath has found the experience of working in India 'fascinating', she did warn fellow Britons of the dangers of working on Indian film sets. She gave details of the accident on the set of Kisna.

'In one scene, a heavy iron buggy overturned and fell on the legs of my co-star,' she said. 'He had to be hospitalised.'

It is true that the Indian film industry does have the potential to provide more work for British actors as well as technicians and location managers, especially on movies shot in the UK.

A new film, The King of Bollywood, stars Sophie Dahl, a model whose main claim to fame until now is she had a romp with the ageing rock star Mick Jagger in the back of his car. It is not being unkind to her to suggest she is not in the front rank of the British acting fraternity.

But Toby Stephens, who has worked for the Royal Shakespeare Company, certainly is, and he plays the leading English role, opposite Aamir Khan, in The Rising.

Romesh Sharma, who is directing Dil Jo Bhi Kahey, which has found a role for a British actress, 20-year-old year Annabelle Wallace, told the Sunday Times: 'Indian directors are always looking for fresh faces, fresh stories, fresh locations.'

Sharma added: 'The difference now is that they're confident enough to consider auditioning actors in London and casting them in leading roles.'

The Indian film industry, which is starting to enjoy an increasingly high profile in Britain, will certainly have to match safety standards in the UK if Indo-British cooperation is going to grow beyond a handful of English actors being taken on for roles in Bollywood.

Aishwarya Rai is expected to attend the premiere of Bride & Prejudice at the Odeon in Leicester Square on October 4. This venue is normally reserved for the likes of Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman and similar big names from Hollywood who know how to pull out the crowds and hype their latest releases.

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