Romancing the scene

Very often, our travel dreams are fuelled by the scenic splendour depicted on the silver screen. Let’s join Preeti Verma Lal in exploring a few destinations that have vied with the stars in commanding attention

Matterhorn, Switzerland.

Often, countries walk out of maps and step on to the silver screen becoming props and backdrops for intense storytelling and nail-biting climaxes. For decades, Hindi film-makers have used different countries and their locales to take forward their narrative. A few landscapes and landmarks merely as picturesque props of film-making, others intricately linked to the film. Here are 10 Bollywood-inspired destinations around the world:

Snowy Switzerland

Snow everywhere. Frosty wind. Yet, wrapped in chiffon, Sridevi swirls around in Switzerland’s biting cold. No one ever fathomed how she kept the cold at bay, but the film Chandni took a million people to the Swiss Alps. Yash Chopra brought so much fame to the Alpine country that the iconic Lake Alpenrausch has been christened as Chopra Lake. 

Yash Chopra, however, was not the first one to step into Switzerland with his crew. In 1964, when Raj Kapoor became the first film-maker to shoot beyond the national border, Switzerland was showcased in Sangam. Many followed soon after — parts of An Evening in Paris and Prem Pujari were filmed in Switzerland; Dhoom 3 (Verzasca Dam in Ticino), Dhai Akshar Prem Ke (Swiss Alps); Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (bridge scene shot in Saanen); Jab Tak Hain Jaan; Vaastav (Schadau Castle); Khoobsurat (Gruyeres Castle); Bachna Ae Haseeno (on the way from Gstaad to Rougemont).

Iconic London

Big Ben & the Houses of Parliament, London
Big Ben & the Houses of Parliament, London

It is often said that Camden Town in Central London is the perfect Bollywood setting. Throw in any story in Camden and it will hit a suitable location. Not just Camden, London has been the film-makers’ list for very long. Remember Lamhe and its London locales? And soon after, the iconic Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (1995) in which the camera lingered around Trafalgar and Leicester squares. In the 1960s, London came alive in Night in London and Pyar Ka Sapna followed by Purab Aur Paschim in the early 70s. Since then, London has been a regular silver screen fixture. Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham, Jhoom Barabar Jhoom, Cheeni Kum, Paa, Namastey London, Namastey England, Mubarakan — the London love in Hindi films refuses to die.

Bustling New York

“One shot of New York and you know it is New York.” Film director Kabir Khan once famously said. Such is the popularity of NYC that even a film (forgettable one, sadly) was named after the city. New York. One of the earliest hit shot in New York was Kal Ho Naa Ho, by Karan Johar who is often described as a pioneer of New York-based Bollywood dramas. Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna panned through the landmarks of New York. Jeans, English Vinglish, My Name is Khan were also filmed in the city. 

Sunny Sydney

So many films have been shot in Sydney that it could happily double up as a studio. It all began on February 1, 1938, on the Cronulla sand dunes where Forty Thousand Horsemen was shot using a cavalry division of the Australian Light Horse. Since then, the Sydney Opera House, the turquoise beaches, the Harbour Bridge have popped up as props in Hindi film storytelling. Most of We Are Family was shot in Sydney and cine-goers still remember vignettes of Harbour Bridge, Queen Victoria Building, Sydney University and Darling Harbour in the film. Other films shot in Sydney include Bachna Ae Haseeno, Dil Chahta Hai, Heyy Babyy and Hadh Kar Di Aapne. 

Sizzling Singapore

Much before Krrish (2006) gave Singapore a Bollywood-push, as early as 1973 Govinda-starrer Banarasi Babu used Singapore as a story backdrop. The nation looked different then, but the film did showcase Singapore on 70 mm. Nearly 90% of De Dana Dan was shot in Pan Pacific Hotel while the remaining reel flitted between Singapore landmarks such as Singapore Eye, Orchard Road & malls. Elgin Bridge is vivid in Pyaar Impossible! while Badrinath ki Dulhania had frames set in Henderson Waves Bridge. Tiger Balm Gardens and Fountain of Wealth can be seen in Aur Pyaar Ho Gaya while Dear Zindagi has glimpses of The Fullerton Pavilion.  

Timeless Thailand

Pileh Lagoon, Thailand
Pileh Lagoon, Thailand

Forget the Hangover series. And the one with James Bond for a name. Think Student of the Year and beaches of Koh Samui and Khao Yai. Hrithik Roshan’s debut film Kaho Na Pyaar Hai was also shot in Thailand while ‘Do U Know’ song of Housefull 2 was picturised in Sheraton Krabi Beach Resort and the action scenes of the film were captured in Krabi Wildlife Reserve Park. In Salman Khan’s Ready, the ‘Dhinka Chika’ song was shot at Don Mueang International Airport and Rama VIII Bridge. The registrar office shown in the movie was actually the Pattaya Exhibition and Convention Hall. In Mahesh Bhatt’s crime drama Awarapan, one can see glimpses of the old city of Mueang Boran. 

Dizzying Dubai

Remember that scene in the film Welcome where Anil Kapoor goes to extort money from Paresh Rawal at his wife’s boutique? That scene was shot at Dubai’s Dragon Mart. The song ‘Satakali’ from Happy New Year was shot in Dubai Mall, often touted as the world’s largest mall. ‘Haan Hasi Ban Gaye’ from the movie Hamari Adhuri Kahani was shot in Qasr al Sarab, parts of the film Dabangg was shot in Dubai Metro Station while ‘You’re my love’, the hit song from Partner had Media City in the background. 

Sensational South Africa

Stunning beaches, beautiful mountains, wildlife and adventure spots, luxury experiences, and the overall scenic landscapes of South Africa make it the perfect prop for a Hindi film story. According to The Network International, 43 Indian films were partially or totally shot in South Africa. M.S Dhoni: The Untold Story features a scene shot at the Chapman’s Peak Drive; Maiden’s Cove Beach, which lies between two beaches, was featured in Cocktail; Aamir Khan (Ghajini) shook a leg in Muizenberg Beach known for its colourful Victorian bathing boxes. Other films shot in South Africa include Aashiqui 2, Aankhen, Dhoom 2, Ek Tha Tiger, Heyy Baby and Jagga Jasoos.  

Scintillating Spain

Who can ever forget Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara’s protagonists slathered in tomato juice? So much tomato in one frame that it could feed a hungry nation. That film spawned Tomatino festivals in India and everyone googled the Spanish town of Bunol where the festival is held every year. With scenes also set in Barcelona, Seville, and the beaches of Costa Brava, the movie was the first major Indian production to shoot extensively in various locations in Spain. Such was the impact of the film on tourism that the then India’s ambassador to Spain, Vikram Misri, said the film “was singlehandedly responsible for making Spain a household name in India and increasing tourism from India.” That success was followed by Dil Dhadakne Do, which was filmed on a ship belonging to Pullmantur, Spain’s biggest cruise operator.

Sagrada Familia Cathedral, Barcelona, Spain
Sagrada Familia Cathedral, Barcelona, Spain

Vivacious Vienna

“Loving the cold... shoot in beautiful Vienna! #AeDilHaiMushkil.” When film director/producer Karan Johar tweeted this, Vienna immediately popped on film-lovers’ must-see list. The world’s most liveable city is known for its palaces, parks, waltz, coffee and of course, Beethoven, Mozart, Freud, Strauss Jr, Gustav Klimt who called the city home. Vienna’a stock as a film location is on the rise and many Hollywood films (The Third Man to Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation) have been shot in the city where the first cinema opened in 1902 and is famed for the Viennale Film Festival. Bollywood films shot in Austria include Kuch Tum Kaho Kuch Hum Kahein, Mast, Ab Ke Baras, Chal Mere Bhai, Albela, Kyaa Dil Ne Kahaa, Tera Jadoo Chal Gayaa and Yuvvraaj.

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