Are you a movie buff? Well, if you are a traveler soul and feeling lost during this lock-down, you can travel India\s heartland without even leaving your couch. These are the curated list of popular movies from Bollywood which will surely make you feel walking through the bu-lanes of these locations.
As is the case with Dibakar Bannerjee’s Khosla Ka Ghosla for Delhi, Sujoy Ghosh’s Kahaani for Kolkata, Shoojit Sircar’s Piku for both Delhi and Kolkata. Dil Chahta Hai equals Goa, with a smattering of Sydney, and much of Mumbai, of course. Vishal Bharadwaj’s Omkara is as Meerut as Meerut gets. And if you’re interested in touring across Uttar Pradesh, no better way to start than with Kanpur in Aanand L Rai’s Tanu Weds Manu; or better still, begin with Fursatganj in Shaad Ali’s Bunty Aur Babli. Besides, Anurag Kashyap’s Gangs Of Wasseypur or Abhishek Kapoor’s Kedarnath are great enough guides for the hamlets they survey.
How about attempting a list of Bollywood films that may not be massive hits, but offer you an insider’s view that basic desi tourism might not offer? Films that take you to places that you possibly haven’t been to, and probably won’t. A movie is simply the cheapest ticket to that town, as it exists now. Railrecipe, brings a curated list of movies which would take you to the lanes of memories of traveling India. Grab your pop-corn bowls and here we go:
- “Mohalla Assi” walks you through Varanasi: Varanasi or Benaras is understandably India-exotica for the east. What Neeraj Ghaywan’s Masaan did was peel off the surface and reveal a small town with all its foibles and fault-lines that a picture on National Geographic can never capture. Furthermore, what Chandraprakash Dwivedi does with Mohalla Assi (based on Kashi Nath Singh’s novel Kashi Ka Assi), is stop you at Varanasi’s eightieth ghat, get you into the narrowest gullies, introduce to the local ladies and gents, along with hippies and charlatans, and experience Kashi as someone who lives there, rather than only visits.
- “Dum Maro Dum” walks you through Goa: Indians having travel fantasy always dream about this destination due to their very own reasons. Even in Bollywood films, there’s the Goa of love, lives, and locals. Then there’s the Goa of the mafia, drugs, raves, under the scorching sun and inside our mythical movie imagination. Rohan Sippy’s Dum Maaro Dum is a stellar trip across the stunning state. Certainly a far cry from every other ‘item’ number being shot on Goan sands, with a bunch of bikini-clad women holding beers in their hands.
- “Milan Talkies” walks you through Prayagraj: Director Tigmanshu Dhulia’s gritty Haasil (2003) was a refreshing peek into the campus politics of Allahabad University. His 2019 pic, although hardly a masterpiece in comparison, is a deeply nostalgic ode to the director’s hometown—allowing you into spaces that only a hardcore local can take you through.
- “Chef” walks you through Kochi: This Saif Ali Khan starrer is an official adaptation of Jon Favreau’s culinary drama of the same name. So if you’ve seen the original, you already know the context and story. Director Raja Krishna Menon can take you around his hometown. Given that Bollywood films rarely travel down South with such detail, this is a trip to God’s own city totally worth taking, albeit from your couch.
- “Lipstick under my Burka” walks you through Bhopal lanes: Most of Prakash Jha’s movies, for instance, are set in Bhopal. But the beautiful lake town is supposed to be a generic Indian city in all those films. Alankrita Shrivastava’s feminist manifesto changes that—driving you deeper and deeper into the makaans, malls, mosques and mohallas of one of India’s most charming state capitals. You feel like you’ve lived in the city, as much as you feel for the characters trapped within it.
- “Shuddh Desi Romance” walks you through Jaipur or Pink City: This movie is soaked in such shudh desi ghee of realism that the characters come alive, along with real Jaipur itself. The fact that the lead character (Sushant Singh Rajput) plays a tourist guide in Maneesh Sharma’s film helps you navigate the Rajasthan capital through a genuine veteran’s eyes.
- “Pad Man” Walks you through Maheshwar: How do you see this beautiful little town on the banks of the Narmada, with incredibly minimalist forts and temples overlooking over a placid river? Well, drive down a few hours from Indore. Even better, if you want to enter homes and secret lanes as well—watch R Balki’s Pad Man. It’s as good as being there.
- “India’s Most Wanted” walks you through Patna: Well, how many of us go to Patna purely for tourism. For a thriller, mostly set in Nepal, the Arjun Kapoor starrer, through drone shots and views from the ground-up, takes us through Bihar’s capital a whole lot better than Vikas Bahl’s Super 30, which is entirely centered in the town anciently known as Pataliputra. This is significant, because you hardly see in Patna in pictures (not even in Bhojpuri films).
- “Bobby Jasoos” walks you through Hyderabad or “City of Nizams”: Old Hyderabad has its own unique lehja and sights of course. No better way to negotiate this than with Vidya Balan as detective Bilquees ‘Bobby’ Bano, taking you across the city, through its classified by-lanes, and dropping you home safe, since you never stepped out anyway. Habib Faizal’s Daawat-e-Ishq looks at Hyderabad finely too, although there’s much of the equally inimitable Lucknow to catch there as well.
- “Yahaan” walks you through the land of paradise or Kashmir: Yahaan, a gentle love story in times of war, between an army man and a local girl, introduce to movie audiences? Besides debutant director Shoojit Sircar? Kashmir—in moonlight monotone, like you’ve never seen before, in all its bleakness, and glory. Fun fact: Who shot Yahaan? Swedish cinematographer Jakob Ihre. His most recent work? HBO mini-series Chernobyl.
- “Gully Boy” walks you through Mumbai: Zoya Akhtar’s Gully Boy, is a must watch, especially to observe the intersection of high-rises and low slums, where Mumbai loves and lives. Gully Boy is also the only Mumbai city-film I’ve seen, without a single shot of the Arabian Sea. Which is true for most of those who live in this sprawling metropolis. Screw the sea—they can barely feel the ground beneath their feet.
Do watch these not so famous movies and you will surely feel the pulse of lanes of these locations which are not shown in other movies. Share your thoughts in comments and let us know which one you loved the most.