The Times They Are A Changin’: Is Bollywood’s Obsession With London Dying?
Bollywood film clashes seem to be the flavour of the season with a number of films scheduled to release on the same date this year. This week’s small-budget release, Guest Iin London starring Paresh Rawal, Kartik Aaryan, and Kirti Kharbanda, has been postponed to July 7th and it will now clash with Sridevi’s comeback film, Mom, because of YRF’s Bank Chor (which releases this week).
And talking about Guest in London, did you ever realize how there was a time when Bollywood’s need to evoke an air of international sophistication was always satisfied by choosing London as a locale? Well, London city was a big Bollywood favourite, besides the Swiss Alps (popularized by Yash Chopra), whenever there came the need to showcase picturesque backdrops. The city was the hottest destination for all kinds of Hindi cinema. Not only that, several cinema halls in London were usually dedicated to screening our films, in return. Moreover, according to statistics, frequently filming in the city actually boosted the tourism in the city, making it an attractive destination for Indian tourists.
DDLJ, K3G and more
India’s obsession with its colonial masters was pretty evident with films such as Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jaayenge and Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham, which were extensively shot in the capital city. That scene when Amrish Puri feeds the pigeons in London is probably still etched in the viewer’s mind with many even aspiring to call it their home, one fine day. Subhash Ghai’s Pardes even had a patriotic song that included London in the lyrics: “London Dekha Paris Dekha Aur Dekha Japan… Saare Jag Mein Kahin Nahi Hai Doosra Hindustan.”
London also seems to be the favourite destination of filmmaker Karan Johar, who makes it a point to celebrate his birthday amid the scenic beauty that the city offers. And K3G and Ae Dil Hai Mushkil were yet another series of films from the Johar camp to showcase the allure of the land of the Brits. Other notable films that have romanticized London are the Kangana Ranaut-starrer Tanu Weds Manu Returns, Namaste London, SRK’s Fan (they showcased Madame Tussands for a scene), Cheeni Kum, Goal, Chak De! India, and more.
A shift in sensibilities
Anurag Kashyap had once exclaimed how Indian filmmakers have an obsession with hygienic and clean spaces and an inability to deal with reality which is why they choose foreign destinations. So for Gangs of Wasseypur, he chose the path less taken and showcased India’s bustling streets and the industrial wastelands of Bihar. Likewise, a number of indie filmmakers are, these days, choosing small-towns as the backdrop for their films. Until last year, Bollywood’s Haryana obsession was quite evident with films such as NH10, Sultan, Dangal and Laal Rang whose narratives highlighted the local flavour and the regional peculiarities of the state.
And all those directors who still wish viewers delve into those exotic landscapes and panoramic views that foreign locales offer are actually experimenting with some never-seen-before (in Bollywood) locations such as Croatia (SRK’s Fan), Bangkok (David Dhawan’s Partner, Rascal, Main Tera Hoon among others), France (which seems to be Bollywood’s newest obsession with films such as Befikre, Kangana Ranaur-starrer Queen, Imtiaz Ali’s Tamasha and more).
Anurag Basu is one of the few directors who spearheaded this change when it comes to choosing exotic locations for their films. His recent film Jagga Jasoos starring Ranbir Kapoor and Katrina Kaif has been shot in Cape Town, Thailand and Morocco. He also once broke the mould for Gangster when he decided to shoot for the film in Seoul.
So the question here is: how and when did this change (in the mindset) happen? Well, some people blame it on Brexit. What we think is that filmmakers are increasingly becoming more and more experimental when it comes to cinema and filmmaking. Nowadays, indie and regional films are finally getting their due and this period can probably be considered as the golden age of Indian cinema. Maybe, you can call this Bollywood’s (the fraternity) own coming-of-age saga because, over the years, it seems to have finally reached a stage of maturity with the realisation that there is a world beyond London.