London Diary: Bollywood beckons starry eyed Brits for acting roles

If India ever beats its Asian rivals in the international “soft power” stakes, it would be entirely down to Bollywood

London Diary: Bollywood beckons starry eyed Brits for acting roles

Hasan Suroor

Bollywood beckons ‘goras’ & ‘goris’

If India ever beats its Asian rivals in the international “soft power” stakes, it would be entirely down to Bollywood. Not the much-vaunted Yoga or classical dance, but India’s escapist Hindi cinema. And not because of its quality, but because of its pull for starry-eyed Indian-origin wannabe actors in the West struggling to make it in domestic cinema.

Hundreds of Bollywood-struck young men and women in Britain have only one dream: getting a break in Hindi cinema. All want to be a Katrina Kaif or a Dev Patel. And a stint with any Bollywood film school is seen as the quickest route to stardom, prompting British film training schools to look for collaborators in Mumbai.

The latest is Birmingham City University. It has entered into a “partnership” with Mumbai-based Ronkel Media Education Institute, which promises to give its students “real-world experience working on motion picture productions” through work placements on collaborative film projects. Expect the university to be deluged with applications: mission accomplished.

Monetising Greta Thunberg

Greta Thunberg, the Swedish schoolgirl behind the global wave of environmental evangelism, has spawned a vast money-spinning line in merchandise supposedly aimed at promoting her cause. “Thunberg merchandise” ranges everything from “Greta” T-shirts and tea towels to bags and mugs emblazoned with her face and quotable quotes, including her famous “How Dare You!” challenge to policymakers.

There is even a Greta air car freshener and a “Viking warrior” garden gnome with a £40 tag. So, what’s wrong with that, you might ask. The problem, experts say, is that “they’re especially hard on the environment”. Many are made from non-biodegradable material such as synthetic fibre likely to damage environment. And there’s the small matter of carbon footprints as most are shipped —rather flown in from China.Intriguingly, the normally-quick-to-react Ms Greta has chosen to remain silent on this occasion.Hard to believe she doesn’t know about it.

Decoding Palace intrigues

There are Kremlinologists and Sinologists, and then there are “Palace Watchers” who specialise in divining what’s going on in Britain’s royal family. Who’s in, and who’s out? Who’s the Queen’s flavour of the season, and who’s in the doghouse? Much of is based on gossip, and clues gleaned from things like the Queen’s guest list for the family Christmas lunch or some throwaway remark.

The New Year’s big breaking news gleaned from such clues is that Prince Harry and his wife Meghan Markel are no longer in the Queen’s good books. Palace watchers breathlessly reported the falling out after noticing that the couple were “glaringly absent” from the collection of framed family photos on Her Majesty’s side table when she recorded the annual Christmas Day message.

Those who featured in the photos included Prince of Wales and his wife, the Duchess of Cornwall; Prince William and his wife Kate with their three children. The omission of Harry and Meghan is seen as a “snub” to the couple after their recent outspoken public comments about how they’ve struggled with being in the public eye. They also stayed away from the traditional Christmas break with the Queen, and instead had a private holiday in Canada.

No wonder, she’s not amused

Bye, bye tourists

Remember the time when tourists were assiduously wooed and treated like the royalty come to town?Well, no longer. Not in many parts of Europe at least where they are increasingly seen as a nuisance —accused of contributing to pollution and traffic congestion, and often behaving badly.

Whereas once tourism experts were paid to devise strategies to attract more tourists, they are now paid to curb “over-tourism” —one of the new words Oxford English Dictionary has adopted, defined as an excessive number of visitors heading to celebrated locations, damaging the environment and affecting residents’ lives.Several cities have already imposed restrictions ranging from a tourist tax to banning tourist coaches from certain areas.

Oxford is considering a £1-a-night tax on hotels while Edinburgh wants to add £2 per night to the price of any hotel or Airbnb stay during the first week of a holiday. Similar measures are being considered by a number of English towns, and several local London authorities including Westminster, home to some of Britain’s most popular tourist attractions.

Meanwhile, Bath, famous for its Roman baths and Jane Austen connections says it has had enough of “day trippers” and has decided to clamp down by banning coach parties from driving through its listed areas.“Bath suffers from a large number of coach tourists who spend almost nothing in the city”, said Barry Gilbertson, chairman of the City of Bath Unesco World Heritage Advisory BoardSuch restrictions are common in many cities in Continental Europe.

Bye, bye tourists?

And, lastly, Boris Johnson and his girlfriend Carrie Symonds spent their New Year’s holiday in a luxury villa in Mustique island which costs £20,000 a week to rent. But apparently, they didn’t pay for it, and it’s to be officially declared as a “gift”.

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