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Bollywood targets UK movie base

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    Bollywood targets UK movie base

    A 34m investment scheme to encourage Bollywood film-makers to work in Leicester, England, has been launched with the backing of the UK Government.

    The scheme offers investors the chance to back up to 10 films made in the city with the lure of tax-relief incentives.

    Will Aishwarya Rai be visiting Leicester?

    Leicester's appeal lies in its large Indian community, which makes up 25% of the city's population.

    Entrepreneur Rajeev Saxena said the films would mix traditional Bollywood plot lines with modern tales.

    The scheme will be launched by Patricia Hewitt, the UK Trade and Industry Secretary, and has the backing of Leicester City Council.

    If Indian films are to develop and continue to broaden their appeal, authenticity is vital
    Vinod Popat, Midlands Asian Television

    Investors in the scheme receive generous tax breaks under a plan started by the UK Chancellor Gordon Brown in 1997 to stimulate film production.

    Mr Saxena said: "Obviously we wanted a base where there were plenty of people who can speak Hindi and many of them can take part as extras in the films.

    "But the cultural diversity of the area, the food and other factors make it a home from home."

    'Beautiful locations'

    Bollywood films have been made in England in the past, including the successful film Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham, but this is the first plan to produce so many films.

    Actor Dipesh Majithia told the BBC Bollywood producers wanted to work in the UK because of the "beautiful locations".

    "People in the UK want to work with Bollywood producers because Bollywood is one of the biggest players in the film industry," he said.

    The overseas market has become increasingly lucrative for Indian producers with some films seeing up to 30% of their sales from foreign showings.

    The stars in the Leicester-made films would be Bollywood favourites, such as Aishwarya Rai, the former Miss World, and Lara Dutt, the former Miss Universe, but the production, cutting, editing and post-production work would be done in the UK.

    "Local people would benefit - extras, catering and the hotel trade would all get business from this scheme," said Mr Majithia.

    Vinod Popat, chief executive of Midlands Asian Television, said: "Many Indian films include scenes in England, but producers simply show an aeroplane leaving India, then cut to a set of a castle to make it look as if they are in England.

    "That is fine for Indians who have not been out of India but non-resident Indians know it is not the real thing. If Indian films are to develop and continue to broaden their appeal, authenticity is vital."

    Mr Saxena said the Leicester-made films would not veer too greatly from the established formula for Bollywood films.

    "Frankly the reason the formula has been like this for so long is because it works and it is what the punter wants," Mr Saxena said.