Movies and I share a special relationship. Whether it be a Shah Rukh Khan movies from the 90s or Nawazuddin's thrillers, there is always time to spare for films. The reel weaves a world of fantasies and realities, capturing imaginations and taking you on roller-coaster ride of emotions. Films inspire stories, experiences, and more often than not, travel.
Recently, I went on a binge where I sat and watched influential period films over the past decade. From Aamir Khan's swash-buckling innings in Lagaan to Ranveer Singh's heart-moving performance in Lootera and Hrithik Roshan's abysmal attempt at recreating the ancient civilisation of Harappa & Mohenjo Daro in the movie Mohenjo Daro, Bollywood has tried to recount the history of India in its productions -- sometimes effectively, sometimes not. But, each period film has provided moments of cinematic and production brilliance.
Transporting you through time, they take you to what might have been. We, on the other hand, will take you to what is. Here are some gorgeous locations where some of these films have been shot or have inspired set design for others.
The song Zinda, sung by Amit Trivedi, has always had a special place in my heart. Its moving lyrics with Ranveer's top-notch acting create a powerful, emotionally-charged atmosphere. Shot at Kalatop in Dalhousie, the snowy surroundings offer the perfect winter retreat. The Vikramaditya Motwane venture captures the essence of Bengal to its fullest. Lootera showcases the lesser known sides of Bengali life through the calm of the Itachuna Rajbari Pond in Hooghly and the striking ruins of the Jain Temples in Deulghata in Purulia. Through Ranveer Singh and Sonakshi Sinha, West Bengal opens its door to its well-kept secrets.
This tale of eternal love told in this Ashutosh Gowariker directorial is the stuff of fairytales. While the marriage between the Rajput princess, Jodhaa, and the Mughal Emperor, Akbar, happens because of political reason, the love saga that transpires touches hearts. The set design by Nitin Desai brings about a genuine authenticity to the story. Seeking inspiration from the interiors of the Agra Fort and the Amer Fort in Jaipur, the entire set was recreated in Karjat, Maharashtra. Desai creates exact replicas of the interiors from the previously mentioned forts to give this once-in-a-lifetime tale of love the perfect setting to bloom. The garden where several scenes of the film take place is essentially based on Mughal gardens like the Char-Bagh. The geometrical patterns in the railings of the sitting place shows the refined meticulousness of Desai's brilliance.
Though this Shahid Kapoor film went under the radar failing to create waves at the box office, it's set locations did garner several eyeballs. Vishal Bhardwaj's craving for a location which gave off a cold, depressing vibe to accommodate the time the movie was set in brought him to India's edge in Arunachal Pradesh. Dense jungles and areas untouched by industrialisation near the Siang River, like Pasighat and Pangin, gave Bhardwaj's team the setting they desired.
Another movie that bombed at the box office, Mohenjo Daro, was a tribute to the populous and prosperous city sharing the film's name and serving as the capital of the Indus Valley civilisation. The first scene of the movie is stunning, as you are forced onto the edge of seats immediately, just awestruck by the splendid allure of the region. Through the bird's eye view shot, you are exposed to the scenic marble-lined river gorge and the mighty Dhuandhar Waterfall in the small town of Bhedaghat, in Jabalpur district of Madhya Pradesh. After Hrithik's brief, but astoundingly tedious encounter with a crocodile, another resounding bird's eye view shot of the region shows you what paradise must look like in summer.
If a list of eye-popping set location doesn't include a Bhansali film, then you really aren't doing justice to the story. Sanjay Leela Bhansali is known for the extraordinary, lavish, and for immersing your wildest imaginations in a world of pure magic. He does this so very often with all of his films. Home to the Western Sahyadris, Maharashtra is often overlooked when it comes to pristine beauty, but not by this astute director. Shooting about 28 km from Kolhapur near the once indomitable Panhala Fort, Bhansali brings about a sense of Rajput royalty and impregnability to this alluring destination. The movie seeks inspiration from the Chittor Fort in Rajasthan which has been recreated in Mumbai. Keenly following the archetypes of Rajputana architecture, the replica—though not as elegant as the original -- does bring about for an authentic environment.