Despite the cataclysmic disaster that hit Uttarakhand on June 16 last year, the hill state emerged as one of north India’s favourite shooting destinations in the year gone by.
A submerged idol of Hindu Lord Shiva stands in the flooded River Ganges in Rishikesh. (PTI photo)
At least a dozen prominent films and television serials, including three international ventures, were canned in the picturesque locales of the state post the devastating flashfloods of 2013. The disaster was expected to hit Uttarakhand’s popularity as a shooting destination. However, the ensuing year brought a resilient ray of hope for the state in the form of several films and TV shoots held post the Himalayan Tsunami.
New York based director Leigh Fitzjames shot an international documentary comparing yoga practices in India to that in New York, New Zealand and London. The documentary titled Eight Limbs Yoga was shot in Rishikesh between January and March 2014. German-Bavarian film Best Chance by eminent German director Marcus Rosenmueller was shot in Rishikesh and Haridwar in December 2013.
“It was a wonderful experience shooting in Uttarakhand. The jungles, the mountains, the holy Ganges and the spiritual flair of the countryside are simply spectacular,” producer Michael Menke told the Hindustan Times.
In fact, USA-based BAFTA shortlisted filmmaker Lisa Sabina Harney went on to incorporate aspects of Uttarakhand disaster in her international documentary Satyagraha-Truth Force. Extensively shot in Haridwar, it focused around Hindu seers’ struggles against extensive illegal mining in the Ganga river basin in the state.
“There is nothing more pressing today than the issues we face on a global scale regarding our environment. The purpose of shooting the film in Uttarakhand was to underline how the battle to save the Ganga is important not just for India but also for the world,” Harney told HT in an emailed interview.
Bollywood and Television shoots
A big-banner shoot held in Uttarakhand was that of Yash Raj Films’ Dum Laga Ke Haisha starring Ayushmann Khurrana. Directed by Sharat Katariya, its shooting took place in Haridwar and Rishikesh in February 2014. The latest film which is being currently shot in Dehradun is director Tigmanshu Dhulia’s Yaara.
Dhulia had earlier shot portions of his award-winning film Paan Singh Tomar in Uttarakhand. Bigg Boss fame Ajaz Khan-starrer Love Day was also shot in Dehradun in May this year
Lagaan fame director Ashutosh Gowariker’s maiden TV production venture Everest was widely shot in the interiors of Uttarakhand, including at a glacier in Uttarkashi district, between February and May 2014.
Prominent regional films
Besides Bollywood flicks, a few regional films were also canned in the state post the June 2013 tragedy. Prominent among them was famous South director Jayam Raja’s Tamil movie Taniurvan which was shot in Mussoorie, Rishikesh, Dhanolti and Shivpuri in March. Also, iconic filmmaker Satyajit Ray’s son Sandeep Ray shot Bangla film Badshahi Angti (Emperor’s Ring) in Haridwar, Rishikesh and Dehradun in March this year.
The film is based on a novel by the internationally acclaimed director and traces detective Feluda’s visit to Uttarakhand for unraveling a theft case. Director Shubhadarshini Singh canned season 2 of Ek Tha Rusty, the TV adaptation of famous author Ruskin Bond’s stories, in Mussoorie in March-April 2014. Yash Pratap Chaudhary shot Himani Shivpuri starrer Avadhi in Dehradun in October last year.
Notably, dozens of films like Student of the Year, Koi Mil Gaya, Kisna, Bunty Aur Babli, Lakshya, Aisha, etc. have been shot in Uttarakhand over the past years.
Ray of hope: more opportunities
Commenting on the film industry’s increasing confidence in the hill state post disaster, Uttarakhand-based line producer Sanjeev Mehta said, “Filmmakers are considering more and more opportunities of shooting here once again which is good news for the state,” said.
Pankaj Sharma, another state-based shoot coordinator said, “It’s indeed a heartwarming sign and also a ray of hope for Uttarakhand which is still undergoing rehabilitation and restoration works.” repeated
Call for facilities
While a few pre-planned shoots, including that of a Karan Johar film, were reportedly called off/postponed after disaster, the lower and ‘safer’ reaches of Uttarakhand continued to draw filmmakers in hordes throughout the year.
However, calls for need to restore damaged roads, improve infrastructure and provide adequate facilities to filmmaking crews have repeatedly been raised all along.
“The state government needs to undertake efforts to strengthen basic shooting facilities in terms of equipment, lodging etc. to make Uttarakhand an even more propitious place for shoots,” pointed SPS Negi, president of Uttarakhand Film Association.