On Wednesday it was the Darjeeling of yesteryear, devoid of all political strife and tension; full of laughter, fun and frolic; exactly the Darjeeling of the 70s that Anurag Basu has decided to portray in his film Barfee. The shooting the romantic thriller starring Ranbir Kapoor, Priyanka Chopra and Ileana D’Cruz, commenced at the Ghoom Railway Station, 8 km away from Darjeeling.
Darjeeling Hills in North Bengal has been witnessing an agitation for a separate state since October 2007. However with the change of guard in West Bengal and a hurricane settlement of the political impasse (On June 7, 2011, chief minister having declared the issue settled) tourists have been making a beeline for the Queen of the Hills. The return of the tourists has heralded in a feeling of normalcy and peace. The return of Bollywood has definitely spiced up the whole process.
While the Hill town slept, preparations were on from the wee hours of the morning for the shoot at the highest Railway station in India- the Ghoom Railway Station at an elevation of 7,407 ft. By 5am the shooting had started and continued till late in the evening on Wednesday.
As news spread like wild fire of the shoot and of the presence of Bolywood heart throb Ranbir Kapoor, crowds began to swell. Along with Kapoor, D’Cruz and Rupa Ganguly were also present.Cutting across all ages people flocked at the Railway station to catch a glimpse of Kapoor. Later the tourists returning from nearby Tiger Hill also joined in rescheduling their itineraries.
“From Tiger Hill, we were supposed to visit the Ghoom Monastery, Batasia Loop. However we decided to stay back and watch the shoot. It is a bonus to our Darjeeling trip” stated Rajesh Kapoor from Delhi.
Serpentine traffic jams threw Hill life out of gear, not that anybody minded. It was the jittery police having a tough time keeping the crowds at bay. “It is not everyday that one gets a chance to see Ranbir Kapoor in ones backyard. I have told my husband that we will eat out. I have skipped cooking lunch and am here” stated Diki Lamu, a housewife.
Ghoom was steeped in festive mood, as shopkeepers left shops to catch a glimpse of the shoot, school students skipped classes and devotees cut short prayers. “It is the auspicious day of Saka Dawa today. I had come to offer prayers at the Monastery with my family. Hearing about the shoot, I rushed to the station” stated Tenzing.
Darjeeling left no stones unturned to serenade Kapoor. With every appearance, the crowds, specially the youngsters shouted in ecstasy. “If only I could get his autograph” wished Sangeeta Chettri, a College student.
With the crowds swelling, the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) was also deployed. It was a definitely an interesting situation for them. “We are usually in tense situations and here we are controlling Bolywood star struck crowds” stated a personnel.
“I am thoroughly enjoying Darjeeling. However it is a bit difficult with this huge crowd” stated Anurag Basu, Director, talking to HT. Basu stated that even Kapoor is in love with Darjeeling.
“On June 13, as he was driving up from the plains, over the phone he told me that he was thoroughly enjoying the beauty of Darjeeling. He was here with his parents as a kid and has fond memories of this place” stated Basu.
The shooting will be on in Darjeeling Hills tentatively till June 21. Along with locations in town including the Happy Valley Tea Estate, Chowrasta, Lebong Cart Road, Birch Hill Road the famous tourist spot Mirik Lake along with Tindhria Railway Station will also feature in the film.