From Bollywood star Kareena Kapoor to Hollywood heartthrob Brad Pitt, Ladakh--with it barren windswept mountain slopes and serene wetlands is emerging as the new hot spot for filmmakers across the world keen to capture the region's breathtaking beauty.
Whether it is the high altitude Pangong Lake where Kareena and Aamir Khan shot for 3 Idiots or the ancient Thiksey monastery where Pitt filmed for a travel show directed by Hollywood director Tarsem Singh back in 2006, Ladakh has a unique landscape to offer.
The Rang De Basanti director Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra who was recently here (largest district district in Ladakh) on a family holiday said that the place inspires him.
"I come to Leh a lot. The place actually inspires me. I have shot a lot here and my films will continue to showcase the beauty of this place," Mehra said.
The tourism ministry is of the view that with more and more film crew arriving here, the number of tourist heading towards Ladakh has seen a sharp increase.
"Ladakh has a variety of landscapes to offer. From beautiful lakes to calming monasteries to thrilling locations for adventure sports. There is something for everybody here," said Nisar Hussain, Assistant Director Tourism, Leh.
"From last 2-3 years there has been a heavy inflow of film crew here. While some part of Ghajini was shot here, Aamir Khan was again our guest for 3 idiots. We are also expecting Amitabh Bachchan in August. This is certainly one of the reasons behind the increased number of tourists we receive every year," Hussain added.
Big-budget films like YashRaj's Tashan, Mani Ratnam's Dil Se, Raj Kumar Hirani's 3 Idiots, J P Dutta's LOC, Pooja Bhatt's Paap along with Danny Denzongpa Frozen have been shot here showcasing the raw, untouched beauty of Ladakh.
Vijay Krishna Acharya, who directed Saif Ali Khan, Kareena and Akshay Kumar in Tashan, says he was drawn to the place for its "uncorrupted" character.
"Ladakh was just the apt location to portray my jaded characters in the film. Moreover the contrast of the desert like mountains, the snowcapped peaks and the confluence of rivers is marvelous. I am completely in love with it and would definitely come again," said Acharya.
The hotel owners of the region have vivid stories to tell about the stars that have come to shoot in the region.
"Aamir loved the clean environment, the monasteries and the culture of the place. He told me that he would love to come back here with his wife Kiran. Some time back I read his interview that from now on his best tourist destination is Ladakh," said Gulam Mustafa, owner, The Grand Dragon hotel where Aamir stayed with R Madhavan and Sharman Joshi for the shooting of '3 Idiots'.
"Aamir also loved the my oil paintings. He even asked me to draw something for him so I presented him a sketch on three idiots. He loved it," Mustafa added.
Similarly Mohammad Ashraf, owner of Hotel Lasermo was eager to talk about Bollywood's hottest couple Saif and Kareena who were his guests in September last year.
"Saif Ali Khan has come here three times. We had him with Kareena last year. It has been our honour to have them here as they have been gracious guests. They told me that it is strange why people go outside India when we have so much natural beauty here," said Ashraf.
As director Acharya puts it, Ladhak has a character of its own with an untamed, noble spirit, which will continue to charm the people. "You have to go there to understand it," he said.