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Getting high on life

Punit Malhotra, director of I Hate Luv Storys, tells us why New Zealand is simply irresistible
Hindustan Times | By Punit Malhotra, New Delhi
UPDATED ON JUL 07, 2010 02:30 AM IST
Beauty is when even the most experienced cinematographers are hard-pressed for the best camera angle. In such places, you simply need to aim anywhere and start shooting. As a filmmaker in Queenstown, you don’t have to hunt for good locations — the place itself is one giant, exquisite locale.

We’d been scouting for a location to shoot parts of I Hate Luv Storys — we were looking for landscapes that resembled the Switzerland in Hindi films from the 90s. I came across Queenstown in New Zealand, and decided to start shooting there in mid-January. The place turned out to be perfect. We got an opportunity to shoot around Glenorchy, the location for Lord Of The Rings.

Peace and adventure

Queenstown is a resort town in the south-west region of New Zealand. It’s primarily a tourist destination and bustling with activity throughout the year. But unlike other places, people leave you alone in Queenstown if you want some peace and quiet. The lakes, surrounding hills and greenery give you the impression that you’re at an idyllic hill station, and the cool weather just adds to that. It’s small in terms of area, and even if you’re sitting in a cafe or ambling, there’s beauty all around.

Our 18 days in Queenstown just whizzed by since we worked without a break. On the odd day that we did take an off, Imran and the rest of the crew went jet skiing and sky diving. Queenstown is touted as the adventure capital of the world, and although we didn’t have any adventure sequences in the film, everyone was excited to try them out. If it weren’t for our tight schedule,

we’d also have tried tramping and fly fishing.

Wine Pit Stop

Now, I don’t drink, but visiting the southernmost vineyard in the world is an experience I would definitely not pass up. While the others indulged their craving for wine, I had an exotic meal of fresh cottage cheese, salmon and steak. It was heavenly.

There are also a lot of stalls by the roadside. I can’t ever forget the fried fish and chips I had at one of these stalls. But you should also the great fresh bread and fruit, coffee, ice-cream, and the exotic cheeses that the locals make. Tourists, especially youngsters from Australia, throng the bars and nightclubs. Shops shut around 6 pm, and then the nightlife takes over. Then they all pour out on the roads, singing and having fun.

New Zealand has an active film culture. The locals were supportive throughout our stay. In fact, there’s a place which allows you to hire equipment such as cranes and trolleys. Members of the local film commission invited us to meet government officials, and from the way they treated us, we knew how film friendly the place is. We’ve shot in Egypt, the States and the UK, but New Zealand is incomparable to all those. It’s a little far from India but the journey is totally worth it. You’ll see when you watch the film!

Getting There

By flight: The journey from India to the Middle Earth is a long one, marked by a couple of stopovers. Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines offer flights to Queenstown via Hong Kong and Singapore respectively.

As told to Aalap Deboor

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