Bollywood is rediscovering this city of royals, lakes and monuments that offers a scenic and culturally rich backdrop for shooting and exudes hospitality and warmth for film crews. It also pulls filmmakers for the Bhopal gas tragedy that continues to haunt India and the world.
Anusha Rizvi’s hugely acclaimed satirical comedy ” Peepli Live“, which is also India’s Oscar nomination, has a Bhopal connection as it was shot in Badwai on the outskirts of the city.
Well-known filmmaker Sooraj Barjatya flew down here to film his family drama “Ek Vivaah… Aisa Bhi” and Prakash Jha’s successful multi-starrer political thriller “Raajneeti” too has the city as the backdrop.
“It’s the city’s beauty and warmth,” said Jha who will shoot his movie “Aarakshan” with Amitabh Bachchan and Saif Ali Khan here again.
“Besides the story of films suiting the locations of Bhopal, I find the people of Bhopal very warm. The administration is both helpful and supportive and that helps me do my work very comfortably,” Jha told us.
Bada Talab, Jahanuma Palace, Gauhar Mahal and Kerwa Dam are some of the favourite locations.
Bhopal is well-connected with Mumbai – barely a two-hour flight away – and hotels here are good enough to cater to the needs of the stars.
Manoj Srivastava, commissioner of Bhopal, said: “Its virgin beauty, the warmth of people, disciplined crowds and a supportive administration are actually attracting the Bollywood filmmakers to Bhopal.”
Reminiscing an incident, Srivastava said when a well-known actress came here once, she turned up her nose.
“When she landed in Bhopal, she was heard complaining, ‘Oh, what a place the director has brought us to.’ But after going around the city and the lakes she was mesmerized by the beauty and was forced to say – ‘Oh, it’s such a beautiful place!”
It’s not Bollywood alone that has fallen in love with the city.
This year Ravi Kumar shot “Bhopal: A Prayer for Rain” that chronicles the events around the Dec 2-3, 1984, gas tragedy – the world’s worst industrial disaster – in which tonnes of toxic gas leaked from Union Carbide’s pesticide plant, killing and maiming thousands.
He shot the yet-to-be released film with a mixed cast that boasts of big Hollywood names like Martin Sheen, Mischa Barton and Kal Penn as well as Indian actors Rajpal Yadav and Tannishtha Chatterjee.
Last month Britain based actor-singer Sofia Hayat joined the cast of “Diary of a Butterfly” in Bhopal. The film is being directed by Vinod Mukhi and produced under the banner of Bhaggyashri Productions in association with Prince Movies.
British filmmaker Michael Anderson’s cinematic adaptation of Indra Sinha’s famous novel “Animal’s People” will have Bhopal as the backdrop.
Highlighting the city’s high point, social scientist Shiv Visvanathan said: “Bhopal is a symbol of tradition and modernity together. It has an old and a new city. It has erstwhile royals and is the centre of the country. Now the directors are sensing it and flocking to it.”
There are reports that the city will have a film city soon.
“We have a plan to have our own film city. We are in the final stage to identify the land,” Culture Minister Laxmikant Sharma told us.
Bhopal also has an old connection with Bollywood celebrities like Jaya Bachchan, Jagdeep and Raza Murad who hail from the city. Veteran writer Javed Akhtar too spent his formative years in the city.
B.R. Chopra’s 1957 superhit “Naya Daur” starring Dilip Kumar and Vyjayanthimala was shot outside the city and Dilip Kumar used to practise tonga riding here for his role in the social drama.
It was here that internationally renowned Hollywood-based Indian filmmaker Ismail Merchant based his 1993 directorial debut “In Custody” that starred Shashi Kapoor.
In 1999, “Bhopal Express”, a film based on the 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy starring Naseeruddin Shah and Kay Kay Menon was shot here. The yet to release Paresh Rawal-Raghuveer Yadav- starrer “Kusar Prasad Ka Bhoot” was also shot here.
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