But now Leeds and the wider county have won a starring role in a film that swaps that gritty realism for pure escapism - new Bollywood blockbuster Shaandaar (‘magnificent’ in Urdu/Hindi).
Several historic houses across the region - including Leeds’s Temple Newsam House, Harrogate’s Allerton Castle and North Yorkshire’s Carlton Towers - serve as the backdrop for the colourful musical spectacle about a ‘big fat Indian wedding’ and the drama that unfolds during the celebrations.
Tourism chiefs hope the film will help showcase the region’s delights to millions of Bollywood fans across the world - as well as attracting other production teams to the county,
It was Leeds-based Chris Hordley - and his team at Creative England - who were the catalyst for the production coming to Yorkshire.
They held a fact-finding tour of the region for the film’s producers last year, and the team immediately fell in love with the county’s stunning locales, returning a few months later to shoot the movie. With the movie being released this week at UK cinemas, Yorkshire folk can now pop along and see their beloved county in a whole new technicolour, Bollywood-infused light.
Mr Hordley said: “Yorkshire has it all.
“We are dripping with beautiful country houses and we can host lavish productions, both contemporary and period.
“A big part of our work is to show the potential that Yorkshire has got for filming.
“It was also a chance for some collaborative work - the team consisted of both Indian and Yorkshire crew.”
He explained that Shaandaar is one of a number of international feature films Creative England’s Production Services team has supported in Yorkshire in the last year.
“The film is visually stunning, a testament to the rich and varied landscape Yorkshire offers to the film industry,” he said.
“But our work is not just about bringing fantastic locations to the screen - by working with local studios, facility companies and freelance crew we are helping to grow the creative industries, putting Yorkshire firmly on the international filming map.”
Bollywood - the popular nickname for India’s film industry - is the most prolific in the world, churning out up to 1,000 films a year.
With budgets getting ever bigger and foreign locations proving a real draw for filmmakers in the last decade, it is hoped that Yorkshire can capitalise.
Shaandaar, billed as a quirky romantic comedy, stars one of Bollywood’s most popular leading men Shahid Kapoor and newcomer Alia Bhatt as a couple whose attempts at love are constantly thwarted by Alia’s proud father.
Vivek Bajrang Agrawal, producer of Shaandaar, said: “Filming in Yorkshire was great.
“The countryside here is beautiful and very different from anywhere else in England or Europe.
“We had Leeds as our base, filming was easy and comfortable as permits were easy to obtain and the people here know about film shoots which made it even more comfortable.
“We’d love to come round again soon.”
Sir Gary Verity, chief executive of Welcome to Yorkshire, said: “I am delighted that with an increasing number of international film studios choosing to base their films in Yorkshire, we are seeing more of our great county on the big screen.
“Fans of Bollywood around the world will get to see a snapshot of Yorkshire.
“We would be delighted to welcome to Yorkshire any fans who want to come and see the real life locations that have been filmed in Shaandaar.”