London - The biggest names in Bollywood were assembled in towns across northern Britain Friday for a celebration of Indian film that will culminate in the International Indian Film Academy (IIFA) awards on Saturday.
Shilpa Shetty, Amitabh Bachchan, Emraan Hashmi, Geeta Basra and Sayali Bhagat were among the stars and starlets lending some Bollywood glamour to cities such as Leeds, Sheffield and Bradford.
Skies were grey but Shetty, affectionately adopted as an honorary Briton since her Big Brother race row earlier this year, said she was keeping her sunglasses on all the same.
'It's beautiful, isn't it,' she said about the formerly industrial region of northern Britain.
Hashmi, when asked whether he would buy a house in the county of Yorkshire, replied: 'I might.'
The four-day festival is expected to attract up to 30,000 visitors, and Saturday's award ceremony - the Indian equivalent of the Oscars - is to be broadcast to a global audience of nearly 500 million in 110 countries.
A total of 22 Bollywood productions, and three premieres, will be shown.
Bollywood entertainment in Britain has long made the progression from domestic consumption to the big screens of multiplex cinemas, reflecting the growth in the British Asian population, as well as the appeal of the movies.
Tickets for Bollywood blockbusters are now estimated to out-sell tickets for British-made films which, by comparison, are often seen as lacking the successful combination of song and dance, action, romance and comedy, the Financial Times said Friday.
Fans mainly include members of Britain's large Muslim community, which is concentrated in cities such as London, Birmingham, Bradford and Leicester.
Jyoti Deshpande of Eros International, which distributes Bollywood films across the world, said Britain is an important market that will typically take 40 to 100 prints of a strong film, which can be expected to gross up to 3 million pounds (5.9 million dollars) during its run.
'The market has broadened in recent years,' she said. 'That reflects higher production values and greater willingness of mainstream cinemas to show the films.'
Reena Combo of the British Asian leisure magazine Ikonz says that local audiences have an appetite for movies that reflect social realities.
For example, Phiri Milenge, a film starring Shilpa Shetty that tackled the tricky topic of HIV was popular in the UK, despite scandalizing some cinema goers in India.
However, the movies themselves struggle to attract significant white British audiences, despite English subtitles, experts said.
But that could change. The historical films Lagaan and Dev Das had some crossover success, while the British-made film Bride and Prejudice featured the Bollywood actress Aishwarya Rai.
Deshpande said that Bollywood films have become more international in style, which means they travel better.
There had been a decline in cinematic conventions puzzling to non- Asian viewers, such as a taboo on kissing, lengthy weeping over fractured family relationships and song and dance routines in flower- strewn gardens, said Deshpande.
Acceptance, she pointed out, depended - partly - on familiarity.