Maharana Arvind Singh Mewar of Udaipur watched the British comedy-drama, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, at a special screening in Mumbai last evening. The film, starring Slumdog Millionaire (2008) actor Dev Patel, was shot over a couple of months at the Ravla Khempur palace on the outskirts of Udaipur last year around Diwali.
The 67-year-old royal is upbeat about film units, along with the intelligentsia, flocking to his city, which he’s promoting as a destination of excellence. His only grouse is that Udaipur has been passed off as Jaipur in the film: “We hosted the show, yet the dialogue refers to the location as the Pink City? It’s definitely a grouse.”
Royalty meets Oscar winners
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel that opens this Friday was filmed at Ravla Khempur, a palace turned-equestrian hotel in the village of Khempur outside the lake district of Udaipur. The palace was ideal for Dev Patel’s home for seven elderly retirees in John Madden’s British comedy-drama. It brought Oscar winners Dame Judi Dench (Shakespeare in Love) and Dame Maggie Smith (The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie, California Suite) to the Rajasthan city.
“We may get bigger names but it’ll be difficult to replicate such a collection of legendary stars,” says Maharana Arvind Singh Mewar of Udaipur. “The two Dames didn’t care for the one-hour drive on ‘kachcha’ roads every day in the heat and dust to the location. But being in India gave them a chance to see the real world from which they are usually isolated. At cocktail parties, they were humourous and easy to get along with and if you didn’t know, you’d never recognise them for the actors they are.”
Slumdog Millionaire’s (2008) Dev Patel, he says, is one of the best behaved young men he’s met: “Dev conducts himself impeccably even outside the sets and is mature beyond his years.”
The 67-year-old Maharana has been using his ‘connections’ to bring Hollywood and Bollywood, regional and low-budget film units to Udaipur, along with the intelligentsia, in an effort to promote a different kind of tourism that does not have to offer discounts during off-seasons. “Whether it’s a space programme, a culture fest or a film shoot, these people boost our economy and project Udaipur as a destination of excellence,” he reasons, adding that if New Zealand, Maldives and Scandinavia can aggressively woo Bollywood, why can’t we given that we have palaces, deserts and lakes too! “The Lake Palace is the most photographed building in India after the Taj Mahal. We promise cheap locations, safety measures, not a single day’s cancellation of shoots and a palace and lake that is kept spotlessly clean.”
But do the film units leave the location clean and undamaged when they leave? He says, “We have a clause in the contract whereby we take advance security which allows us to clean up after them if they don’t. And the palace interiors are off-limits.”