“We have to go to Switzerland!” is what my mother says, every time my family decides to travel to Europe on holiday (the trip has not yet happened, but we’ve made more than a dozen ‘plans’ in the last decade). I thought Mom’s love for Switzerland began with watching Yash Chopra’s Chandni (1989), but she revealed that it was Aditya Chopra’s Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (1995) that made her fall in love with the country. She was not the only one to whom Bollywood had been able to sell the dream of Switzerland – there are countless Bollywood fans who have already made their way there, to relive those filmy moments.
It goes without saying that Switzerland has some of the most beautiful snow-capped peaks, lush green valleys, blue lakes and glaciers in the world, among many other wonders. The biggest proponent of this dreamland in India was Yash Chopra, athough he was not the first one to discover Switzerland for Bollywood. Showman Raj Kapoor was the first Indian to shoot in Switzerland, in 1964. He was making his first colour film, Sangam, with Vyjayanthimala, Rajendra Kumar and himself. Since it was the first time he was shooting in colour, he decided
to shoot the film in foreign countries, among which was Switzerland. Three years later, Raj Kapoor’s brother Shammi Kapoor shot parts of An Evening in Paris in Switzerland, with director Shakti Samanta.
Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge
It was with the advent of Yash Chopra, however, that Switzerland truly made a place in the hearts and minds of people in India. Chopra fell in love with Switzerland back in the 1970s, when he was there on a honeymoon with his wife Pamela, although it was only in 1985 that he was able to shoot for the first time in Switzerland, for his film Faasle. It was the 1989 smash hit Chandni that really started the ball rolling for Bollywood in Bollywood. Chandni had shown a honeymoon sequence between Sridevi and Rishi Kapoor, and from then onwards, Switzerland became synonymous with romance, and a favourite with Indian honeymooners.
In film lingo, “cut to Switzerland” became the go-to term, to shoot dream song sequences against the breathtaking Swiss backdrops, to portray budding romance. The songs with these backgrounds became so popular that for most film-makers, it was a must-do thing in their films. At any given point in the 1990s, there would be at least a dozen Bollywood films and songs being shot there. In the ‘90s and 2000s, there were a slate of films being shot there, from Hero No.1 and Biwi No. 1 to Ajnabee, Dhai Akshar Prem Ke, Haddh Kar Di Apne, Hero-Love Story of a Spy, Dulhan Hum Le Jayenge, Deewana Mastana, Yes Boss, Ishq and Mann. Back in India, the only place that could have matched up to the scenic locales of Switzerland was Kashmir, but courtesy the conflict between India and Pakistan, filmmakers had to check out new locales.
Bachna Ae Haseeno
Younger film makers like Siddharth Anand and Vijay Krishna Acharya were among the latest directors to shoot in Switzerland, for their films Bachna Ae Haseeno (2008) and Dhoom 3 (2013) respectively. In fact, Yash Chopra was also supposed to shoot Jab Tak Hai Jaan (2012) in Switzerland, but with his demise, that plan had to be abandoned. Chopra and his film company Yash Raj Films shot more than half a dozen films in Switzerland, which prompted other films makers like Pradeep Sarkar (Laga Chunari Mein Daag), Rakesh Roshan (Krissh 3), Anil Sharma (Hero-Love Story Of A Spy), David Dhawan (Hero no.1, Biwi No.1), Sriram Raghavan (Agent Vinod) and Abbas Mustan (Ajnabee) to shoot their films and songs there.
Laga Chunari Mein Daag
Talking about the relationship between Bollywood and Switzerland, trade analyst Taran Adarsh says, “Hindi Cinema has this magic, wherein any place shown cinematically makes the viewers want to go and explore it, and the same thing happened with Switzerland. Yash Chopra shot a lot of his work there. He used to tell me that he goes there only if shooting there is going to enhance his story and scenes. He loved the place, and was a firm believer that on the big screen, it would look beautiful. It also opened doors for tourism for the country from India, it kind of became a honeymoon special.” Bollywood is so famous in Switzerland that a Bollywood themed
restaurant, The Restaurant Bollywood, operates in Jungfraujoch, serving Indian food.
Yash Chopra holds a special place in the heart of Switzerland. In 2011, the city of Interlaken awarded him the honorary title of “Ambassador of Interlaken”, and Jungfrau Railways named a train after him, an honour shared only with the railway’s founder, Adolf Guyer. In addition, the five-star Victoria Jungfrau Grand Hotel & Spa in Interlaken named a suite after the legend. Post his demise in 2012, the government unveiled a Yash Chopra statue in Interlaken, which now stands in Kurssaal Garden in the central Swiss town. Lake Lauenen (Lauenensee), near Gstaad/Saanen, is also called ‘Lake Chopra’.
Talking about the association with Switzerland, Aashish Singh, vice president (production) of Yash Raj Films, says “Our journey with Switzerland has been fantastic, and we have shot 14 films there. It is a known fact that Mr. Chopra opened the doors for Bollywood there, which impacted tourism in such a way that many other surrounding countries also benefitted. In fact, Switzerland became aspirational for newlyweds. When Mr. Chopra would shoot there, the authorities would roll out the red carpet, and he wouldn’t need to take any permissions.”
In the past few years, Switzerland tourism has upped the ante, to attract even more tourists. They roped in Ranveer Singh as the brand ambassador for Switzerland Tourism, and officials are expecting a 25 per cent increase in footfalls from India this year, over last year’s 3.5 lakh Indians who visited the country. In fact, Switzerland has already seen a 24 per cent growth in tourists from India, compared to last year, in the January to July period. Singh was chosen as the ambassador partly because he is from the Yash Raj family, and his personality, which is high energy and fun, matches the image Switzerland Tourism wanted to portray. The country has a lot to offer in terms of adventure, food, cuisine and other activities, and every season it has something different to offer to its visitors. It is, clearly, a relationship that will only grow in the years to come.