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In the Spotlight

Chandigarh is fast emerging as a popular choice for shooting mainstream films.

Written by Jaskiran Kapoor |
March 30, 2013 2:19:57 am

Chandigarh is fast emerging as a popular choice for shooting mainstream films.

Director Neeraj Pandey’s Special 26 was a fine trot down memory lane. Set in the ’80s,this heist drama based on real-life incidents showcased Chandigarh like never before. Visuals of the “simple” Chandigarh airport before it got a facelift,the grey coloured cemented corridors of the Sector 17 bus stand,the roundabouts,the Hamara Bajaj scooters and Fiat Padmini plying on its almost-deserted roads — those were the good ol’ days,and Pandey recreated it for eternity.

Cut to the present,and Ashwini Dhir’s Son of Sardaar (2012) managed to halt the trains at city’s railway station,arguably one of the most well-maintained and managed stations in the country. Director-choreographer Prabhu Deva swooped in for three days to shoot for an item song with Jacqueline Fernandes. The golden fields are what he came looking for and before he left,a hearty Punjabi dinner is what he treated everyone to at Deluxe Dhabha in Sector 28.

While Rakeysh Om Prakash Mehra wrapped up Bhaag Milkha Bhaag in Punjab,Inderjit Film Combine’s romcom Lucky Kabootar starring Eijaz Khan and Kulraj Randhawa was shot in the city and an international project by Danic Tonovic is being shot in Patiala near Chandigarh with actors Emraan Hashmi and Adil Hussain. For almost two months,Oscar-winning director Kathryn Bigelow and her team recreated the sets for their film,Zero Dark Thirty (ZD30). From the Punjab Engineering College that was converted into an “American Embassy in Pakistan”,the old mosque,shops and roads in Manimajra,the quaint set of shops in Sector 15 to the dusty roads of Sector 26 Grain Market and manicured lawns of Pinjore Gardens,Bigelow showed how well Chandigarh could be explored and exploited for a film shoot.

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Ever since the late Yash Chopra opened doors to this gateway,the city has become a shooting hot spot for mainstream cinema filmmakers. “When you are travelling with 280 people,you need a place that is well connected and provided for. Chandigarh is at a vantage point — it’s central,it’s infrastructure is in place,and it has excellent transport and communication facilities. You have the station,the airport and road network,hotels and open spaces,and local line production units ready to help here,” says writer-director Abhinav Kashyap,citing his reasons for choosing Chandigarh for Besharam starring Ranbir Kapoor. Kashyap shot for almost a month in Industrial Area,at the Sukhna Lake,the southern sectors of the city,outskirts of Mohali and Hotel Aroma in Sector 22. Another reason for being here was because of the script. “My characters are from Delhi and come to Chandigarh in search of work,” adds Kashyap.

Where only fields and villages,and perhaps old ruins on the periphery made for shooting sights,filmmakers and location hunters are taking notice of the city as a whole,and as a result,are shooting more than 50 per cent of their films here. Notable among them have been ZD30,West is West,Besharam,Mere Dad Ki Maruti,Son of Sardaar and Joker. “I just love the straight lines,the hassle-free easy pace of the city and its soothing greens. I get to speak my language here and rest here,” said Akshay Kumar in an earlier interview about Joker.

Vindoo Dara Singh sounds like a cine tourism ambassador for the city when he points put how the place has impressive facilities,direct flights,and is,in the true sense of the word,“city beautiful”. “From Akshay Kumar,Sanjay Dutt,to Ajay Devgn and the Deols,all of them love Chandigarh,and ask their producers to give this city preference for shooting,” says Singh,adding how Son of Sardaar was planned according to the wheat phase of the region and Joker because they needed to showcase massive crop circles,and what better than the fields on the periphery of the city.

A lot of credit also goes to the increasing number of local production houses and the single window system,the Bollywood cell in the UT Guest house in Sector 6 that facilitates and streamlines the shooting process.

“We’ve even had a Kannada and a Bhojpuri film shot here last year,” says Vijay Kumar who looked after the cell last year. Now with the Department of Tourism,Kumar feels it’s the layout of the city that is it’s major attraction. “The lake,the IT Park,the hill view,the villages on the outskirts coupled with the closeness to the city,the people who don’t bother much and supportive police — Chandigarh is a convenient base,” he says.

Debutant filmmaker Ashima Chibber’s film might be a box office dud,but she took her camera into the lanes and back alleys of the city like never before for Mere Dad ki Maruti. The hostels,the inner sector roads,the market corridors,the police station — Chibber gave a new dimension and look to Chandigarh. “I am a Chandigarh girl,” she says,reminiscing about how every summer was spent with her aunts and uncles after her family moved to Hyderabad. “Chandigarh was always on my radar for my first film,” she adds.

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