Bollywood: Exploring newer pastures!
Remember Akshay Kumar cycling through the ghats of a picturesque temple town in his latest film, Pad Man? It’s not a well-known fact, but the backdrop of the scene is that of a town called Maheshwar in Madhya Pradesh. This sleepy town is just one of a number of nondescript locales from across India that are providing new landscapes for Hindi filmmakers to frame their stories.
A NEW SWITZERLAND
Small towns and villages seem to be the new Switzerland as far as Bollywood shooting locations are concerned these days. Hrithik Roshan – after shooting in Varanasi (UP) – is shooting in Sambal village in Rajasthan for his film Super 30, and will soon film in Patna (Bihar) as well. Varun Dhawan and Anushka Sharma are in Chanderi (Madhya Pradesh) for the shooting of Sui Dhaaga. Actors Shraddha Kapoor and Rajkummar Rao are also shooting for Stree in the same town.
The list continues: Shahid Kapoor has been shooting in Tehri (Uttarakhand) for the past 10 days for Batti Gul Meter Chaalu, which will also be shot across Haridwar, Rishikesh, Mussoorie and Nainital. A few days ago, Arjun Kapoor and Parineeti Chopra shot on the streets of Pithoragarh (Uttarakhand), and Sushant Singh Rajput and Bhumi Pednekar have wrapped up Son Chiriya’s first schedule in Chambal (Madhya Pradesh). Also, Sushant and Sara Ali Khan recently shot Kedarnath in the temple town.
What is it about unusual locations that’s making them film-makers’ favourites? Filmmaker R Balki, who directed Pad Man, says, “It (newer locales) brings an element of freshness, but shooting at unusual locales just for the sake of it doesn’t make any sense. They (the locations) have to match a story’s world and requirements. We chose Maheshwar, as it was closest to what I had thought of – a raw, untouched temple town – while writing the script. It never crossed my mind that we were shooting in an unusual town.”
Look back and you realise that the shift towards the hinterlands started in the 2000s, with films like Manorama Six Feet Under (2007), Dev D (2009), Ishqiya (2010), Paan Singh Tomar (2012) and the Gangs of Wasseypur (2012) films. The trend continued with other projects such as Shuddh Desi Romance (2013), Raanjhanaa (2013), and Haider (2014). Anaarkali of Aarah was shot in Aarah, Bihar while Lipstick Under My Burkha had real locations in Bhopal as the backdrop. A Death In The Gunj was filmed in McCluskieganj (Jharkhand).
Exhibitor-distributor Akshaye Rathi feels it makes sense to showcase India’s diverse landscapes. “India has an extremely rich geography – from oceans and mountains to jungles. It makes complete sense to showcase the country’s beauty. How many times will you see the same London skyline, New York’s bylanes or Paris’ beauty?” Actors, too, love shooting
at such new locations. Speaking about shooting in Chambal, Bhumi says, “It was amazing. After the shoot, when I go back to the hotel and look at myself, I feel happy and it gives a very satisfying feeling about a day well spent. It’s a different feeling altogether.”
Experts point to “technical” reasons as well. “Nowadays, the kind of incentives and financial assistance (in the form of subsidies) that filmmakers get from various state governments encourage them to explore newer places. Also, when you base a story in a smaller town, you’re immediately reaching out to the grassroots level,” says Rathi.