A lot of Indians decide their holiday destination based on the popular Bollywood shooting locations. For some, they are a means of armchair travel. The moment an outline of a movie or a song is decided; these exotic shooting locations are hunted for with unimaginable effort.
There are a plethora of options for selecting shooting locations from around the world. India’s geographic diversity provides Bollywood with innumerable domestic shooting locations. North, South, East and West, nothing is left unexplored. I have a list of movies from this decade (2011 – 2020) whose shooting locations need a mention.
Goa with the ravishing beaches and chilled out environment has always been one of the top Bollywood shooting locations. Well, Goa is a lot beyond beaches. Gauri Shinde’s ‘Dear Zindagi’ in 2016 has shown the tranquillity and the real pulse of Goa, beyond the beaches. Alia Bhatt, the protagonist is seen cycling by the dramatic lanes of Goa with arching coconut trees on both the sides. The unique architecture of Goa is well captured in the movie. The two unique features of the movie are the focus on mental health; and an almost unknown brief history and origin of the prevailing culture in Goa. Goa is well captured in the 2015’s Hindi thriller ‘Drishyam’ (Remake of 2013 Malayalam movie, Drishyam).
Ladakh and Kashmir
Sharukh Khan Starrer ‘Jab Tak Hai Jaan’, the last movie directed by the iconic Yash Chopra (2012), needs a mention here. Half of the movie was shot in exotic locations of London and other parts of the UK; the other half was shot in Ladakh and Kashmir. Samar’s (played by Shahrukh Khan) bike rides on the dreamy meandering roads of Ladakh are mesmerizing. They instantly trigger the dormant urge of biking on Ladakh roads, in many. A.R. Rahman’s dance number with Akira’s (played by Anushka Sharma) moves on the shikhara at Srinagar’s Dal Lake adds a contemporary colour to one of the most popular and age-old Bollywood shooting locations.
Bollywood audience is never tired of watching their favourite stars in Kashmir. There is an endless list of movies shot at Kashmir, the heaven on earth. The filmmakers skillfully blend the beauty of Kashmir with the various socio-political issues of the place. Vishal Bharadwaj’s impactful ‘Haider’ (2014) is a dark movie; inspired by William Shakespeare’s novel, ‘Hamlet’, set in Kashmir. 2016’s ‘Fitoor’, inspired by Charles Dickens’ novel ‘Great Expectations’, is a movie which captures every changing colours of Kashmir’s seasons. The red and orange fall colours to the snow-white winter, nothing is missed out. Imtiaz Ali’s ‘Rockstar’ (2011) was phenomenal is showcasing the beautiful Gulmarg in Kashmir, beautifully. A major portion of the film, starring Ranbir Kapoor, was shot in fairytale locations of Prague. Yet Kashmir, as a Bollywood shooting location, has again proved unparalleled.
From the heaven on earth, let’s now land on to one of the oldest cities on earth. Yes, I am talking of India’s sacred city, Varanasi. 2013’s Dhanush and Sonam Kapoor starrer ‘Raanjhanaa’ was shot at Varanasi. The iconic ghats (embankments) on the wide Ganga River, the age old temples, the famous Ganga Aarti and the chaotic spirit of the city are well captured in the movie.
Ranbir Kapoor and Deepika Padukone starrer ‘Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani’, a super hit coming-of-age romantic drama was shot at Himachal Pradesh. A trek in the mountains of Manali, Himachal Pradesh, bonds friends and changes lives. Hidimba Temple at Manali was a shout out-spot in the movie. The snow-covered Kashmir valleys – Gulmarg, Sonmarg and Pahalgam and at the regal locations of Udaipur and Chittorgarh in Rajasthan were featured in the movie. A major portion of the movie was shot in Paris. Yet the Bollywood shooting locations in India, didn’t fail to excite the audience.
Shimla, the capital of the state of Himachal Pradesh, has always been one of the top Bollywood shooting locations. Hrithik Roshan and Katrina Kaif’s 2014 blockbuster ‘Bang Bang’ is a romantic action drama which has been shot at numerous exotic locations of the world, yet the scenes at the Shimla Mall robs our heart. In spite of being shot in exotic French locations, the scenes on the hilly roads of Shimla touches our hearts.
Rajasthan reminds me of Shuddh Desi Romance, a sweet youthful romantic comedy of 2013; with the story set in Jaipur, Rajasthan. The movie starring Sushant Singh Rajput, Parineeti Chopra and Vaani Kapoor has a song dedicated to Jaipur, the pink city. The state of Rajasthan with massive forts and palaces on one side and the vast desert with high sand dunes on the other have always provided popular and grand Bollywood shooting locations. Talking of massive forts, Sanjay Leela Bansali’s, ‘Bajirao Mastani’, an epic movie of 2015 has to be mentioned starring Ranveer Singh, Priyanka Chopra and Deepika Padukone.
Vishal Bharadwaj’s ‘Rangoon’, released in 2017, takes us to India’s northeast. The movie starring Kangana Ranaut, Shahid Kapoor and Saif Ali Khan enables us to virtually travel through the state of Assam along the River Brahmaputra; and to Arunachal Pradesh. No other Bollywood movie was shot so extensively in Arunachal Pradesh, before this movie.
Anurag Basu’s touching romantic movie of 2012, ‘Barfi!’ will make one revisit Darjeeling, the Queen of Hills. Darjeeling in West Bengal is a Himalayan town with an old-world colonial charm. The clock tower of Darjeeling Townhall is called ‘Barfi Tower’; as Ranbir Kapoor, Barfi, the deaf-mute boy, climbed up on the tower to propose the beautiful Ileana D’Cruz.
Darjeeling and its heritage toy train has been Bollywood’s favourite for long. In this movie, you can see the beautiful hilly hamlets of North Bengal, at the foothills of the Himalaya (Dooars). Chhaw dance, Bengal’s mask dance regained new importance after the movie. The shots of Howrah Bridge and Kolkata trams give an excellent picture of the city of joy to the audience. The Bollywood superhits like Sujoy Ghosh’s ‘Kahaani’ and Soojit Sircar’s ‘Piku’ captures the City of Joy beautifully. Kahaani is a blockbuster of 2012 with Vidya Balan, Saswata Chatterjee and Parambrata Chatterjee. Amitabh Bachchan, Deepika Padukone and Irrfan Khan starrer, 2015 blockbuster Piku, is about a road trip from Delhi to Kolkata and a father-daughter relationship. Piku has influenced a lot of people to take their backpacks and set out on a long drive.
Speaking of Bengal, I have a personal favourite. ‘Lootera’ is set in 1953’s Bengal, a movie portraying the declining era of feudal lords. The first part of the movie is shot at Itachuna Rajbari (Palace) in Bengal. The movie makes us travel to the green rural Bengal and portraying the lifestyle of the prevailing zamindars of the region. The second part of the movie is set in the beautiful Himalayas. It was shot in Himachal’s Pradesh. The beautiful snow-covered Kalatop Wildlife Sanctuary, near Khajjiar, Dalhousie, stole my heart. I actually visited Kalatop after watching it.
Kerala, God’s own country has some of the best Bollywood shooting locations. S.S.Rajamouli’s 2015 blockbuster ‘Bahubaali’, starring Prabhas, Anushka Shetty, Rana Daggubati, Tamannah, Ramya and Sathyaraj, is shot in Kerala. Athirappilly Falls, the largest waterfall in Kerala, is in everyone’s bucket list; after the scene from the movie where Bahubaali carries the statue of Shiva on his shoulder. Munnar and Thekkady, with rolling green hills, lush tea gardens and mesmerizing lakes were beautifully captured in Rohit Shetty’s 2013 blockbuster, ‘Chennai Express’. The spectacular Doodhsagar Falls at Goa and Pamban Bridge over the Indian Ocean in Rameswaram, Tamil Nadu, have been beautifully captured in the movie starring Shahrukh Khan and Deepika Padukone.
The End Note
I would love to end my article on Bollywood shooting locations with the movie ‘Highway’, a unique love story from the bags of Imtiaz Ali. It has been shot across 6 states of India. Delhi, Gurgaon (Haryana), Faridkot, Firozpur and Nurmahal (Punjab), Ajmer (Ajmer Shariff Darga, an important pilgrimage site for Muslims) and Sambhar (Rajasthan), Aru Valley, Pahalgam (Kashmir) and Lahaul Spithi’s Nako, Kaza, Tabo (Himachal Pradesh) are the various locations. Looking for such amazing locations for one particular movie- the rural India, the arid desert and the mystic mountains; must have been painstaking for the crew/ team.
Bollywood is pivotal to our ways of life and has never failed to entertain us. Bollywood shooting locations are really means of triggering that dormant travel freak. With some age-old popular destinations, Bollywood helps us discover many lesser-known destinations.
A versatile writer and travel freak, discovering the world in her own casual way. Loves to immerse into the core of Mother Nature and extract her inherent beauty.