Yorkshire transformed into Bollywood film set for Gold

2,000 Yorkshire extras join Akshay Kumar in story of India's Olympic hockey team

Bollywood, Akshay Kumar, Yorkshire
Bollywood actor Akshay Kumar
(Image credit: MANPREET ROMANA/AFP/Getty Images)

A major Bollywood movie is being filmed in Yorkshire, using locations in Bradford, Doncaster and Rotherham – and it's not the first Bollywood film to shoot in Britain.

Gold, by director and writer Reema Kagti, features some of Bollywood's biggest stars, including Akshay Kumar and Mouni Roy. The BBC describes Kumar as a "Bollywood superstar" and one of the world's best-paid actors, outranking Tom Hanks, Ryan Gosling and Ryan Reynolds on Forbes magazine's list of the world's best-paid actors.

Gold tells the story of the India hockey team that competed in the 1936 Olympic in Nazi Germany and later at the London Olympics in 1948.

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Kumar plays Balbir Singh, the team's centre-forward, who is widely regarded as one of the best hockey players of all-time.

In the 1948 Olympics, Singh scored two goals for India as they beat Great Britain 4-0 in the final at Wembley Stadium. Gold will be released in August 2018 to celebrate the 70th anniversary of India’s historic Olympic hockey victory.

The film draws on British talent, with producers casting English actor Richard Cunningham from The Theory of Everything and Sherlock, along with 2,000 local extras.

It features many Yorkshire locations including Doncaster Racecourse, which doubles as Berlin's Olympic Stadium. Bradford's Midland Hotel, Harrogate's Old Swan Hotel and Leicester's Grand Hotel all stand in for different parts of the Bombay Club in colonial Mumbai, while Rotherham FC's old Millmoor stadium is used as an Indian hockey pitch and Dalton Mills in Keighley is a German army camp.

Gold is not the first Bollywood film to shoot in Yorkshire. The 2015 Bollywood movie Shaandaar also featured a number of landmarks in the county, reports the website Prolific North. The film, directed by Vikas Bahl and starring Shahid Kapoor and Alia Bhatt, is described as a “quirky comedy set to a backdrop of elegance and grandeur”.

It was filmed in Yorkshire locations including Allerton Castle near Harrogate, Skipton’s Broughton Hall and Eddsfield Airfield in Driffield, as well as Low Force waterfall near Barnard Castle in County Durham.

Britain's appeal to overseas film-makers includes tax breaks and a weak pound, a large pool of skilled crew and plenty of period locations.

Yorkshire has been luring Bollywood stars for at least a decade. The Bollywood Oscars, presented by the International Indian Film Academy, were held in Sheffield, the Daily Telegraph reported in 2007. This was because of the area's large Asian population and because the UK is the biggest audience for Bollywood films outside of India, with UK takings contributing 15-20 per cent of the industry's profits.

And it is not just Bollywood that is coming to Britain. British actors, mostly female, are also heading to India. The Sun reported in February that Emmerdale star Gemma Atkinson was the latest British actress head for Bollywood.

Atkinson follows many others, including former Miss Universe GB Lisa Lazarus, who appeared in the 2010 Bollywood blockbuster Veer, which made her a superstar in India. Brit Hazel Keech has appeared in seven Bollywood films, as well as the Indian version of Celebrity Big Brother.

With more than 2,000 Bollywood films turned out every year – compared to 500 in Hollywood and 50 in the UK – Mumbai has become an attractive destination for aspiring actors, offering plenty of roles.

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