If you’re a film buff and love to hit the road, then we’ve got the perfect list of travel destinations for you. Each of these spots is witness to a landmark moment in Indian film history. Watching the movies beforehand is not essential, but highly recommended.
1. Nilgiri Mountain Railway, Tamil Nadu
Mani Ratnam’s Dil Se (1998) didn’t exactly set the box offices on fire, but the opening song, Chaiyya Chaiyya, picturised atop a train became an all-time hit. Only Ratnam could have melded together Rajasthani costumes, Punjabi tunes, a Bollywood hero and public transport in such dramatic fashion.
Chaiyya Chaiyya was shot on top of the Nilgiri Mountain Railway that slowly winds its way from Mettupalayam in the foothills of the Nilgiris to magical Ooty. The metre gauge train does one trip each way everyday. Book ahead.
2. Ramanagaram Town, Karnataka
Ramanagaram, known as Closepet till Independence, is an interesting tour destination. The region abounds in several granite hills which are great for climbing and are also home to great wildlife. Ramanagaram also houses a large silk market. But the town is also famous because David Lean shot parts of A Passage to India here in 1984. And some 10 years before Lean, the town provided the setting for Ramgarh in Ramesh Sippy’s Sholay.
3. Bhuj, Gujarat
An ancient village, Kanuria, outside Bhuj, was transformed into fictional Champaner where Aamir Khan turned a ragtag bunch of villagers into a cricket team that whipped the British in Lagaan. The film opened to rave review worldwide and became India’s official entry into the Oscar awards, even winning a nomination.
Bhuj, though, is hard country. Kanuria hadn’t seen rain for years before magically seeing unprecedented showers a week after the Lagaan crew packed up.
4. Maratha Mandir theatre, Mumbai
If you thought that doing anything in Mumbai was expensive, think again. Catching a noon show of one of Bollywood’s most popular movies will cost you less than a fraction of a multiplex ticket at this Mumbai institution. The people at Maratha Mandir have been showing Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge non-stop since October 1995. And to this day, the movie regularly draws in more viewers than other Bollywood releases.
Maratha Mandir theatre, Mumbai.
5. Cellular Jail, Andamans
The Cellular Jail remains a grim and forbidding place. After the Revolt of 1857, several freedom fighters were incarcerated at this isolated prison. Chances of escape were dim, what with the sea and hostile tribals in the jungle.
When Priyadarshan made Kala Pani in 1996, audiences were astonished and horrified. The film helped reinforce the dark but important place the Cellular Jail occupies in Indian history.
6. Sheesh Mahal, Amber Fort, Jaipur
Claim to fame: When K. Asif’s magnum opus Mughal-e-Azam released in 1960, he had already spent nine years and a fortune on its production. The movie, thankfully, was a superhit and remained Bollywood’s greatest grosser for 15 years, till Sholay came along. The song, Pyar Kiya To Darna Kya, sung by Lata Mangeshkar, became an immortal classic, enacted by Madhubala and picturised on a lavish set modelled on this marvellous Hall of Mirrors in the Amber Fort.
7. Vidyasagar Setu, Kolkata
Mani Ratnam’s Yuva was not a blockbuster, but the movie had glorious frames full of Kolkata, the river and the bridges. A memorable scene in the movie is the chase over the Vidyasagar Setu bridge. (Not the Howrah, as many people think.) The setu took 14 years to build.
Vidyasagar Setu, Kolkata.
8. The mustard fields of Punjab
Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge, the only movie to get two entries in our list, made Punjab look like it never had before. The bright yellow of the mustard fields stood in brilliant contrast to the London of the first half of the movie. Since then, many movies have tried to tap into the recall value of these beautiful flowers.
9. Nahargarh Fort, Jaipur
The maharajas of Jaipur launched hunting expeditions from within the walls of this partly ruined fort at the edge of the Aravallis. Built in 1734, the fort offers splendid views of Jaipur.
It received a new lease of life when Rakesh Omprakash Mehra’s Rang De Basanti became a runaway hit. The songs in the movie were outstanding, none more so than Pathshaala, which was shot around the pool within Nahargarh Fort.
10. “Dhobi Ghat”, Mumbai
Two small Mumbai crooks probably make the unlikeliest protagonists for comedy, especially when one of them spouts Gandhian philosophy. But Munnabhai and Circuit have cemented their place in the Indian psyche. Of all the locations used in the movie, the “dhobi ghat” in south Mumbai, stood apart. It was where that the hero and the sidekick sang, danced and discussed life. Gandhi makes a cameo appearance at the washerman’s colony, too. Long a staple on the foreign tourist circuit, Munnabhai made the “dhobi ghat” very ethnicool!