Reel sites, real sights

Reel sites, real sights
Watching a film being shot on a location is one of everyone’s favourite pastime. I was at the Taj Mahal when I saw Shivarajkumar in the middle of a crowd. Suddenly, I realised that even those who do not watch Kannada films were curious about the shooting and the attention shifted from the monument to the movie. However, filmmakers in Karnataka do not always have to go out of the State to do their shoots. 

The scenic locales and historic ruins of the State form a picturesque backdrop for the narration of stories. It is not just Sandalwood, but also many film directors and producers from Bollywood, Kollywood and Tollywood prefer the locales of Karnataka for their sheer variety. From a cosmopolitan city like Bengaluru to the cultural essence of Mysuru, the ruins of Hampi and the lush fabric of Malnad, every destination has been featured in films.

Mani Ratnam loves Karnataka ever since he shot his first film Pallavi Anu Pallavi here. Almost every film of his, be it in Tamil or Hindi, have sequences and songs shot here. Both Rajinikanth and Kamal Hassan love the State as well.  Kamal Hassan has shot several movies, right from the ‘silent’ Pushpaka Vimana to the loud and funny Panchathantiram and Sati Leelavathi, in Bengaluru.

Amitabh Bachchan’s films like Mard and Coolie have been shot in and around Karnataka. Ramanagara made it to the map of popular destinations thanks to Sholay. Let us go on a trail of destinations in Karnataka that are popular as film-shooting sites.

The tempting capital

Bengaluru has been the backdrop of so many films for several decades. From the recent Three Idiots, that was shot in the Indian Institute of Management, to Coolie, shot in Cantonment Station and Cubbon Park, Bengaluru’s twin sobriquets, Garden City and IT Capital, has made it a perfect setting for films. The Bangalore Palace is popular for song sequences as well — a song from Akshay Kumar’s Rowdy Rathore was shot here. Aamir Khan shot sequences of Ghajini here as well. Nostalgia plays a big role as people watch old black and white Kannada films, just to get a glimpse of hale or old Bangalore.

Royal appeal

Mysuru with its palaces is a perfect backdrop for period films. It’s not just Mysuru, but the towns and destinations around it have been featured as well in movies and TV serials. The Lalitha Mahal Palace is a permanent fixture in almost every movie, especially those featuring Rajinikanth. In fact, he prefers to shoot a lot of his films in Karnataka, including his latest Lingaa which had sequences shot near Melkote. A large pond called the Kalyani, Akka-tangi kola (sisters’ponds) and the Rayagopura are some of the popular shooting locations in Melkote. Mani Ratnam shot Thalapathi and Guru in the locales around Mysuru and Melkote. Madhuri Dixit’s debut movie, Tezaab was shot near Mandya. The variety of landscape here — from palaces to temples, waterfalls to rivers, mountains to forests have beckoned many a filmmaker here.

Allure of the coffee land

The coffee country with its misty mountains and waterfalls is the ideal backdrop for several romantic films. The Kannada movie Simple Aagi Ondhu Love Story starring Rakshit Shetty and Shweta Srivastava, an experimental film with all newcomers was shot in this beautiful landscape, especially around Pollibetta and Madikeri. Vishnuvardhan and Suhasini’s Muthina Haara also featured Talacauvery and other places in Kodagu. In fact, the protagonist of this film is a soldier from Kodagu. The coffee country is a popular spot for Bollywood movies as well.

Charm of monsoons

Think of monsoons and the cascading flow of Jog Falls and the Western Ghats of Shivamogga with its pristine rivers and backwaters come to my mind. It seems to be Yograj Bhatt’s favourite destination too. In his movies, Mungaru Male and Gaalipata, the landscape of the region is not just featured as a backdrop but has become almost another character. Shot in pristine Malnad region during the monsoons, with Jog Falls in its full glory, Mungaru Male became a promo for Karnataka tourism. Kodachadri became a very popular destination after Gaalipata. A Tamil film Kumki was shot atop Jog falls as well. Lingaa was shot in and around Thirthahalli taluk, another favourite area of filmmakers for its rustic charm. Another popular old Kannada film shot here is Sanskara, set in rural environments.

Girish Karnad’s Kanooru Heggadithi was set in this region during pre independence era while Girish Kasaravalli’s Tabarana Kathe was set in Mudigere. The home of Malgudi Days was picturised in Agumbe, while the temples of Belur and Halebeed were featured in the old movie Sankarabharanam. Sringeri with its old temples and River Tunga has been the backdrop for several Tamil and Kannada films, especially an old Rajinikanth film in Tamil called Mullum Malarum. Lakya Dam is another popular locale for song sequences and romantic films.

Beckoning coast

The Konkan coastline, the beaches, the fishing hamlets, the temples, the forests, the backwaters — from Karwar to Mangaluru are sought by filmmakers. It was the Rajkumar-starrer Ondu Muttina Kathe (directed by Shankar Nag) that brought the sea alive with its underwater sequences. The Kannada film Myna made Uttara Kannada popular besides Karnataka-Goa border. Yana in Uttar Kannada became a very popular destination after Nammoora Mandara Hoove with Shivarajkumar, Ramesh Arvind and Prema in the lead. Rangi Taranga, a recent Kannada film, is set in a village near Puttur. 

Fort of beauty & valour

A visit to Chitradurga Fort brings back memories of the fort featured in the movie Nagarahavu starring Vishnuvardhan. The movie augmented the popularity of the fort and it became a preferred shooting location for filmmakers as well. Hamsageethe is another famous film shot here. Sudeep’s Veera Madakari also featured the fort.

Northern jewels

Hampi and Badami are two of the most popular historic destinations of Karnataka that have been featured in several movies in all languages. Mani Ratnam’s Guru was shot in Badami Caves and Pattadakal. Telugu blockbuster Magadheera was picturised in these two sites as well. A song from Rowdy Rathore featured Badami Caves and Hampi. Hampi has been  featured in several international movies too — the famous being Jackie Chan and Mallika Sherawat starrer The Myth.

Besides Hampi and Badami, the entire region of North Karnataka has many popular destinations for films. Puneet Rajkumar’s Prithvi was set in Ballari as the movie explored the mining racket. A Telugu film Aagadu with Mahesh Babu in the lead was also shot here. Bahuparak, another Kannada film, is set in an old house in North Karnataka. Several  monuments in Bidar and Vijayapura have formed a backdrop for several movies, both new and old.

Karnataka has been the backdrop for many cinematic moments. Be it the rustic charm of villages or the modern, sophisticated appeal of cities, places in the State are widely sought after by many. So, how many have you crossed off your bucket list? Time to travel!
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