I recently watched ‘Tamasha’ (2015), a beautiful film that displays, among other things, the picturesque scenery of Shimla in several sequences. The film depicts a young Ranbir Kapoor on The Mall Road, enchanted by stories he hears from a street storyteller, played by Piyush Mishra.
It immediately reminded me of another Bollywood film that I watched not too long ago—’Bang Bang!’ (2014)—in which Katrina Kaif is portrayed living an uneventful life in Shimla, working as a bank receptionist.
Recently, I also watched a famous black-and-white romantic musical of the 60s, ‘Love in Simla’ (1960), the title of which itself embodies the city’s hedonistic holiday feel.
Maybe it’s because I have been visiting the city often lately, that I happen to notice parts of it when illustrated on celluloid.
There are numerous other references of the city in films old and new: the heritage Shimla-Kalka toy train figures prominently in ‘Jab We Met’ (2007), Scandal Point appears in ‘Krantiveer’ (1994), and The Ridge surfaces in ‘Main Aisa Hi Hoon’ (2005). Aamir Khan-starrer ‘Three Idiots’ (2009) has several scenes shot at the Victory Tunnel and various other tourist hotspots in the city. One of the finest hotels in the city, the Welcome Heritage Woodville Palace also serves as a setting for various films including ‘Chori Chori’ (2003).
Other famous institutions in the city have formed the backdrop for several Bollywood films: Bishop Cotton School provides the background for ‘Udaan’ (2010) and ‘Gadar: Ek Prem Katha’ (2011), St. Bede’s College is shown in ‘Raju Chacha’ (2000), and the Indian Institute of Advanced Studies features in ‘Black’ (2005).
Shimla has been a picturesque location for Bollywood films since the cinema industry started in India. It is also one of the first cities in India to have got theaters. Other notable films shot in the city include ‘Main Tera Hero’ (2014), ‘Raaz 2’ (2009), ‘Kya Kehna’ (2000), ‘Kareeb’ (1998), ‘Aa Gale Lag Jaa’ (1973) and ‘Baadal’ (1951).
Most of these films focus on iconic landmarks like the Town Hall, Christ Church and The Mall Road—probably the reason why people who visit Shimla often find it so easy to recognize them.
Given this track record over the years, it seems that despite Bollywood’s love for exotic foreign locales—in places like Switzerland, Spain, and most recently Corsica—the queen of hills will continue to hold a special place as a shooting destination in times to come.
Neha Kirpal is the author of “Wanderlust for the Soul”, a collection of short stories based on travel in different parts of the world. She has worked in the print, electronic and online media, and currently freelances for various publications. Her hobbies include reading, writing, travelling, listening to music and watching movies.