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Many makers of Hindi films are opting for Indian locations that bring out the character of the place in which the plot of the story is based, observes Mritunjay Kumar

 Indoor and outdoor locations do not merely create a beautiful backdrop. They also provide with a beautiful canvas that is colored with story ideas. Sometimes, it’s not the director’s skills or the soulful music that go into the making of a blockbuster. The cinematographer’s depiction of locales leaves a lasting impression in the people’s minds.

Locations play such a powerful role that they can enhance the overall impact of the film. In today’s times, filmmakers create an aura of authenticity by imparting the appropriate backdrop to their cities. In Kahaani, the lens romances Kolkata’s emblematic images of the Howrah Bridge, Durga Puja and Victoria Memorial. So thoughtfully were they shown that they became an intrinsic part of the film. Like Kolkata, Mumbai and Delhi have also had their moments on the big screen. A number of films have revolved around them.

Some among our B-town films have been camping in nondescript villages and towns of India. They are benefiting from the qualities that the simple, charming and cost-effective locales are bringing to them.  Horror films and thrillers, for instance, are introducing the national audience to the face of the cities where danger lurks in street corners and mystery unfolds within crumbling buildings.

Mani Ratnam’s Raavan is said to be a modern interpretation of the epic Ramayana. The film wouldn’t have been so visually attractive without Athirapally forests in Kerala, Ooty in Tamil Nadu, Jhansi in Uttar Pradesh, Kolkata, and the Malshej Ghats in Maharashtra: places that the cameraman’s lens fell in love with. Kareena Kapoor’s dance on Yeh Ishq haye in Jab We Met created magic in Ladakh and other sequences of the film were shot in diverse locations, right from ganne ka khet which was shot in Chandigarh to the slopes in Shimla and Manali.


Kangana Ranaut and R. Madhavan in Tanu Weds Manu sat pretty on a charpoy in a village in Kanpur. Udaan was filmed in Jamshedpur, Peepli Live in Uttar Pradesh/ Haryana and 3 Idiots in Ahmedabad followed suit. Ludhiana’s famous fort Sarai Lashkari Khan is the place where some of the most popular scenes of Rang de Basantiwere shot. Riteish Deshmukh and his reel-turned-real life partner Genelia D Souza’s Tere Naal Love Ho Gaya was shot in various locations of Patiala. Not only that, many Hollywood directors have been helming their movies in our national locales such as the Dev Patel starrer The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel that was shot in Rajasthan and the Julia Roberts starrer Eat, Pray, Love which had sequences shot in Haryana. Prakash Jha’s Aparahan filmed in Bihar was released in 2005. Jha’s romance with small towns continued with RajneetiAarakshan and the soon-to-be-released Chakravyuh that was shot in Bhopal.

In recent times, the authenticity of the locale has acquired more importance than ever before. The recently released Gangs of Wasseypur directed by Anurag Kashyap is another such example. It would have been impossible to depict the film’s atmosphere without setting camp at Wasseypur in Dhanbad. And then, of course, there are period films like Paan Singh Tomar, which took the plot to places like Chambal and Roorkee. Ishaqzaade in which Arjun Kapoor played a grandson to the patriarchal grandfather and the actress Parineeti Chopra was a small-town girl living in a house full of overprotective male members was largely shot in Hardoi, Uttar Pradesh.

One doesn’t have to belong to the film industry to know that shooting in these locales is cost-effective. Permissions can be sought more easily, while crowd management is infinitely easier. However, while less expenditure, authentic locales and imparting genuineness to the characters are significant considerations, this approach has more to it. Filmmaking, at the end of the day, has a direct link with the heart. Many filmmakers of our industry hail from some of these small towns. Hence, they get an opportunity to showcase their hometowns through their films. What is nice to see is they’re all giving us a chance to connect with our roots too.



Kahaani starring Vidya Balan in an immaculate performance is based in Kolkata. The film has a mysterious plot which journeys through the heart of the city. In keeping with the trend of today’s times, the film, therefore, depicts the spirit of Kolkata with all its idiosyncrasies, images and language. Why was Kahaani a success? Despite its unmistakable regional feel, the story had a plot that captivated the viewer. Even the non-Bangla-speaking viewer had no choice but to immerse one’s self in the goings on of the film.

Kahaani or no Kahaani, Kolkata has always been a favored destination for shooting films and TV commercials. The city’s ambience gives a great opportunity to use one’s imagination to the fullest. Not surprising, therefore, is why many gravitate to the city: and even if they are not making Bangla movies.


Vidya Balan is among the most gifted actresses in today’s times. Maybe, it is her looks that prompts filmmakers to cast her in the roles of Bengali women in Hindi films.Parineeta is the film that showcased her talent as a serious actress for the first time. The film captures the bygone era wonderfully, and takes you through some perfect locations. Shot entirely in Kolkata, it a beautiful montage of the city’s picture-postcard locations. The Durga Puja sequences in the film were shot in the pandals on the final day of the festival, and the people who were captured by the lens were actual devotees.


Mani Ratnam’s Yuva brought Kolkata back to mainstream Hindi cinema in India. Though he didn’t hire any local actor, Ratnam created the magic of the city with his well-known cinematic insight. The film highlights the multilayered Kolkata with its British-era buildings and archetypes — metros, trams, the Victoria Memorial, hand-pulled rickshaws and the Howrah Bridge. The film also manages to bring out the murkier and the darker side of the city of joy besides popularizing its elements of interest among the modern-day tourists.


“Parts of Bengal are almost frozen in time; the old houses, signposts and streets still look the same. It is easier to recreate the old era here,” says Anurag Basu whose filmBarfi! is set in the 70s. Although a major part of the movie was shot in Darjeeling, whatever shot in Kolkata showcased every significant nuance of the city. In the film, those hand-pulled rickshaws and yellow and black taxis are beautifully portrayed and lampposts in the street truly depict the olden days of the city.



Ae dil hai hai mushkil jeena yahan, zara hatke zara bachke yeh hai Bombay meri jaan… Mumbai has always been Bollywood’s first love. The ‘City of Dreams’ for millions, the ‘Financial Powerhouse’ of the country, the ‘City that never Sleeps’, the ‘Entertainment Capital’- these are just few of the ways in which Mumbai is defined. For years, filmmakers have been showing sprawling beaches and up-market locales on one hand, and bustling neighborhoods and huge slums on the other. The glitz and glamour, the murky underbelly…the city has every quality that is essential to manifest one’s cinematic vision. Mumbai has been the backdrop of many a film in the last century. The romance continues.


Karan Malhotra’s Agneepath is the latest flick to explore Mumbai. The village is Mandwa, not very far from Mumbai, where mobs rule and the villain Kancha’s writ runs.The film captures the two main festive occasions of the city: Dahi Handi and Ganesh Chaturthi with all that Mumbai masala. From Marathi lingo to Marathi attire and a few glimpses of the chawl culture, the city is depicted with all its well-known characteristics.


Kiran Rao’s directorial debut Dhobi Ghat is the perfect accolade to Mumbai. She uses her characters smartly to show the much talked about spirit of Mumbai without getting maudlin. It captures the different strata of people who coexist in the city. Mumbai, an inspiration for many filmmakers, has been highlighted in many films. What makes Dhobi Ghat among the few films of its kind is that it explores the bylanes that we haven’t really seen before.


Wake Up Sid has all the reasons to make you fall in love with Mumbai. This Ayan Mukerji film covers everything right from the streets to beaches. The city becomes a character, with its rains playing a crucial role in it. The film plays the perfect tourist guide for the new visitors to the city or ones who are planning to visit the city of dreams.


indiagate silhouette

Bollywood has found a new love. It is called Delhi. Delhi’s images have become part of many films, and not just that, many makers are showing specific ‘kinds of Delhi’ as an integral part of their story. You want to showcase a middle class family, it’s Delhi. You want to showcase a big fat wedding, it’s Delhi. You want to showcase old India with historical monuments, it’s Delhi. You want to showcase college stories, it’s Delhi University campus. Since it is the capital of the country, most socio-political dramas are also based in Delhi.


Delhi is a place with mind-blowing diversity, and one film which shows its different shades is Rang De Basanti. Director Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra retained all the ingredients of a modern and vibrant Delhi. Mehra, because of the film’s political backdrop, chose Delhi as its shooting location. From college canteen to India Gate, from historical forts to roadside dhabas, the movie showed many qualities that are identified with the city. The film was ‘Dilli-ness’ all the way, and it struck a chord in the hearts of viewers.

In his next flick Delhi 6, Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra zoomed in on Chandni Chowk. The Masakali’s chirping and Kala Bandar’s overhaul and azaan from Jama Masjid were the striking and unforgettable features of the film. Mehra went beyond the standard symbols of Parliament House and the Qutub Minar and set the movie amidst tightly packed houses, bustling markets and impossibly narrow streets cramped with pedestrians and rickshaws.


 “When you think of Emma, you think of Delhi, with its sprawling gardens…. If I have to make a film on the perfect saris and perfect jewelry, it should be Delhi,” said Rajshree Ojha, director of Aisha. This film explores the other side of Delhi. The couture comes into focus as we see the swish set polo and party in farmhouses. It’s as real a side of Delhi as any. So, India Gate takes a backseat and fashion boutiques step forward.


Delhi has so many faces, and representing that through cinema is an absolute delight. In Vicky Donor, director Shoojit Sircar showcased CR Park and Lajpat Nagar very beautifully: the people, narrow lanes, busy markets and traffic included.  The film has small colonies where most houses share walls so that one neighbor is within the ear’s reach of the other. Bengali and mostly Punjabi speaking-people were in focus: the ones with ambition and big dreams.


Band Baja Baraat has a jhatak-matak Delhi flavor with the necessary dance moves and magic of Indian weddings. Director Maneesh Sharma and writer Habib Faisal are both Delhi-ites and hence they bring out the zany best in the city. With an orderly yet loud boy, a cracker of a girl, bread pakodas and colorful jhalars, BBB nails the freshness of Delhi. The film also celebrates the joy of Dilli lingo, and you see everything from Sainik farms to Janakpuri and Rohini.

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Somanjana Chatterjee

Somanjan Chatterjee is San Francisco based consulting editor