Travel Bug by Bollywood
Well-heeled boy groups from India want to do Spain like in ‘Zindagi Na Milegi Dubara’, bull run included.No true-bred Indian can visit Switzerland and not pay homage at the Montbovon village in Fribourg where some crucial scenes were filmed for ‘Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge’ the cult hit of 1995 produced by Yash Chopra and directed by his son Aditya. While in Alpine territory, travel agents tell the story of a besotted honeymooning couple from India who was hell bent on finding the church ‘with the pointed steeple’ – the way they remembered from the movie. They hired a taxi – quite expensive in the country, mind you – and went around in circles till they found it. But upon entering, they found that the interiors were different from what was shown in the movie – where Kajol kneels down in prayer hoping to find true love, as Shahrukh goes about as if on speed in the neo-Gothic alleys – the altars were not the same! Having come so far, they continued their investigation and getting some local help, reached the nearby church of St Grat. The discovery must have been as gratifying as everything else during their honeymoon.
(Buoyed – and possibly moved – by such stories, Yashraj Films joined hands with Switzerland Tourism and started their own travel company Enchanted Journeys. Attractions included hassle-free visits to locations of DDLJ, Chandni and Lamhe but was shut down recently.)
Other movies that influenced itineraries‘Dor’ a film by Nagesh Kukunoor released in 2006 extensively shot in Rajasthan also featured life in a typical haveli of the desert state. A critically received film, ‘Dor’ (Strings) revived tourists’ interest in the culture and tradition of the state which otherwise centred around the desert and the many touristy festivals.
Though it bombed at the box office, the sweeping cinematography and engaging narration of ‘Delhi-6′ presented the crowded and gutter-strewn old Delhi (Dilli) in a new light. Suddenly there was more to explore and experience in these parts than paranthas and kebabs.
The vendor-choked back alleys of Kolkata became more alluring – or sinister, depending on how you look at it – after the 2012 hit ‘Kahaani’ starring Vidya Balan.
The scenic Pangong Lake in Ladakh continues to draw crowds – and not just motorcyclists on the Khardung La run – after the phenomenal success of the 2009 film ’3 Idiots’. The brackish waters which flow all the way into Tibet is usually beyond reach for any kind of activity as parts of the water body itself forms disputed territory with China.Another recent buddy drama ‘Kai Po Che’ (a Gujarati phrase meaning ‘I have cut the kite’) released in 2013 was shot extensively in the state capital Ahmedabad and captures the city’s many little seen and heard nuances; travel companies have reported a surge in demand from tourists headed for the city following the movie’s release.
It goes without saying that the success of a movie is also intricately tied to how the featured location is perceived by the audience/potential travellers. If the storyline is wafer thin or the telling style falters, then however breathtaking the location is, at best what it will attract are wondrously-raised brows and no serious query. Save for the initial default-hype that comes with a superstar release, Salman Khan’s ‘Ek Tha Tiger’ failed to roar after the first weekend. The tourism board of Turkey had roped in Salman to promote the country’s many wonders in India; more was accomplished by Salman’s sound bytes at press conferences than by the movie itself.
‘Agent Vinod’ starring Saif Ali Khan released in 2012 was shot across half a dozen countries but tanked so bad that audience remembers it for the whacky dub ‘Travel Agent Vinod’ than for any of the countries it was shot in.
A personal favourite: Of the many movies released in India that spurs one to travel my favourite is the almost ‘Road, Movie’ a Dev Benegal film released in 2009 with Abhay Deol. Here Abhay drives a battered 1942 Chevy truck across the harsh desert; en route he discovers love, adventure and freedom. I wonder why nobody makes movies like that or there isn’t – yet – any travel agency that gives you a taste of the ‘trucker life’ which dominates the Indian highways.