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Schoolgirls & set jetting

The Spice Girls are not the only devotees of girl power to be back in the limelight this week. Young ladies at St Trinians school, one of Britain’s best-loved fictional institutions, are returning to the big screen. They arrived last Monday with a premiere at London’s Leicester Square.

Spawned from a cartoon series by Robert Searle, the girls made their screen debut in the 1954 film The Belles of St Trinians, which reared several sequels. This latest slapstick installment, which includes girls (and teachers) played by the likes of Colin Firth, Rupert Everett, Stephen Fry, Lily Cole, Jodie Whittaker and OC actress Mischa Barton, is a take-off on British public school life. Director Barnaby Thompson described the film as an “antidote” to the excited, saucer-eyed depiction of public schoolery seen in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

This time St Trinian’s haughty headmistress, Camilla Fritton, is told her school may have to close due to a financial crisis. Having none of this, the rambunctious girls draw on their wiles to plan a heist at the National Gallery. The target: nothing less than Johannes Vermeer’s Girl With a Pearl Earring.

At the premiere, Colin Firth (Darcy in the BBC’s Pride and Prejudice as well as the love interest in Bridget Jones’s Diary) commented: “I thought it would be much cheekier and pervy but then I saw the first film and we haven’t even come close!”

Also cutting a dash in the cast is British South Asian starlet Amara Karan. An investment banker in London for years, Karan made her screen debut in The Darjeeling Limited. Variety described her as having made a “strong impression as the sexy ‘sweet line girl’.”

Elsewhere this week, the British tourist industry has finally cottoned on to the fact that countless Bolly offerings are filmed in the UK. It is trying to get Indian film-lovers to visit Britain by flogging the concept of not jet setting, but “set jetting”. As the name suggests, this refers to those who holiday in spots where films have been filmed or, indeed, set.

Tom Wright, chief executive of VisitBritain, which has a office in Mumbai, elaborated: “Showcasing destinations through film helps maintain the enduring popularity of Britain’s beautiful landscapes and countryside, centuries of history, iconic characters, actors and actresses and literary greats.” David Rochester of Halifax added: “We’ve really noticed the emergence of the set-jetter in recent years.” Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham, Mujhse Dosti Karogi and I…Proud to be an Indian are among films thought to be luring Indians to Blighty.

Of course, it works the other way round too. Aaja Nachle is currently in the box-office top 10 here. Such Bollywood successes, along with Hollywood hits filmed and set in India (such as The Darjeeling Limited) make it a dead-cert that Brits will be returning the gesture by set-jetting their way to India.

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