What kind of loser would visit a country for tourism after seeing it in a film? The answer is – hundreds of thousands of people. Indian tourism to New Zealand soared after moviegoers fell in love with the locations in Hrithik Roshan’s debut film Kaho Naa Pyar Hai and London’s ongoing popularity with South Asians stems not just from colonial ties but also from the hundreds of Indian films shot here every year.
Switzerland is another popular destination thanks to Yash Chopra. I was not one of these film tourists, even resisting Yash Raj Films and the Swiss Tourism Board’s recent entreaties to ‘come, fall in love again’ during their joint tourism campaign, simply because I’d been there, done that before – visit Switzerland I mean, not fall in love again (that happened fatally with the Goddess of Wealth, but that’s another story for the long winter that passes for spring in the UK).
The film that did it for me was Gautham Menon’s excellent Tamil film Vinnaithaandi Varuvaaya (VTV) – Ye Maya Chesave in Telugu and a hit in both languages. A couple of the songs were shot in European locations that I wasn’t familiar with. A quick perusal of the credits informed me that the place in question was Malta. Further research indicated that Malta had great food, sunny weather and world heritage locations, has English as an official language and was cheap to get to and stay in. And therefore, pausing only to collect Lady Wealth, I was off to the islands faster than you can reel off clichés like Maltese Falcons, Single Malts and Maltesers. Once I got there I explored glorious Malta, especially the walled capital city Valetta where VTV was filmed.
Gozo was next on the list. The island still has intact the set of the Popeye village where Robert Altman’s eponymous film starring Robin Williams as the sailor was shot. And then Comino where the original Blue Lagoon is, though the film itself was shot in Fiji, a film I saw only for anthropological reasons 79 times, nothing to do with Brooke Shields… I soon realised that this was not the first time I had shamelessly visited a place just because a film was shot there. A few years ago, my filmmaker friend Digvijay Singh (Maya) and I were on a road trip across California, ostensibly to explore the vineyards. However, by tacit consent, our SUV found itself in Death Valley, and before you could say Michelangelo Antonioni, we were taking pictures of ourselves beside the Zabriskie Point sign.
Back in chilly London (which of course is the setting for Antonioni’s Blow Up), there seemed really no point in stepping out, after Malta’s balmy weather. Upon examination of the post I discovered a Blu-ray of last year’s biggest Telugu hit Magadheera, and settled down in front of the old plasma. The film is a vehicle for Chiranjeevi’s son Ram Charan Teja and is a magnum opus. It is a reincarnation story that shifts between medieval South India and the present day and boasts of production values and SFX on par with 300 and Gladiator. Eat your heart out, Bollywood (especially the execrable Veer). Best of all, father and son appear together in a remixed version of Chiru’s hit Bangaru Kodi Petta song from Gharana Mogudu. Tamil fans can rejoice in the news that Magadheera is being dubbed into Tamil as Maaveeran.
I’m now packing my bags for Los Angeles (yes, yes, it’s a hard life) as, due to the kindness of its Director Christina Marouda, I’m on the advisory board of the Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles 2010, which just took place. Oh, and I’ll also be in Houston, Atlanta, Minneapolis, Austin and Raleigh-Durham, from where I attended a concert by (Chennai born guitar "July Matham" player) Prasanna and top Jazz pianist Vijay Iyer. More on all that to come. Tough job, I tell ya!
Words: Naman Ramachandran © Thamarai.com
Naman is an itinerant writer with no itinerary, whose spell-check spells words like ‘itinerary’ for him. He is also the author of Lights, Camera, Masala: Making movies in Mumbai, has a PhD in film and he also covers ‘India’, for Variety, ‘South Asia’ for Sight & Sound and ‘UK & Ireland film’, for Cineuropa.