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Rajasthan: Destination For Hollywood Movies Shooting

Updated: December 11, 2010 1:27 pm

A host of Hollywood stars are on a cinematic passage to India. In fact they are in the Pink City of Jaipur to shoot for an all star cast comedy The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel from a script by OI Parker and Deborah Moggach based on the novel by Moggach. The film, whose shooting are going on full swing at Jaipur and in surrounding areas will star Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Tom Wilkinson, Bill Nighy, Dev Patel of Slumdog Millionaires fame. The film co-financed by Participant Media and Imagenation Abu Dhabi. With Searchlight Pictures holding the worldwide rights. This film will be shot in Jaipur, Udaipur and other locations in Rajasthan for two-and-a-half months and after Octopussy, a James Bond thriller that was shot in Udaipur, more than 25 years ago will have the longest shooting spell in India. A number of famous Hollywood movies shot in Rajasthan are: Shakespeare Wallah, at City Palace, Alwar; The Jungle Book (1994), at Mehrangarh Fort; The Jewel in the Crown, at Udaipur; The Deceivers, Heat and Dust, The Far Pavilions (all at Jaipur); Octopussy, at Udaipur; Siddhartha, at Deeg; Sonar Kella, at Jaisalmer; Autobiography of a Princess, at Jodhpur; Das Wilde Leben, at Jaipur; Holy Smoke, at Jaipur; Kama Sutra at Jaipur and at Pushkar; Darjeeling Limited at Jodhpur. Rajasthan is definitely the most popular destination for Hollywood films in India. In fact, this state is one of Asia’s most popular tourist spots.

                Rajasthan lies in the lap of the vast Thar Desert and has a rich history, culture and tradition. With some beautiful surroundings and heritage sites, Rajasthan has some amazing sites to offer filmmakers. The lakes in Udaipur, the palaces in Jaipur, Jodhpur, the desert areas of Jaisalmer and, of course, the famous Palace on Wheels luxury train are just some of the attractions that Hollywood can’t ignore. Octopussy captured the scenic beauty of Udaipur as it shot in the palaces at the Jagmandir and Jagniwas islands amid Lake Pichola. The award-winning movie The Warrior (2001), starring Irrfan Khan, and Mira Nair’s Vanity Fair (2004), starring Reese Witherspoon, were shot in the beautiful locales of Rajasthan. One Night with the King (2006) starring Omar Sharrif had its plot based in the Middle East and the deserts of Rajasthan were found the best alternative to Gulf sands.

                The Fall (2007) by Tarsem Singh (director of Jennifer Lopez’s path-breaking thriller The Cell) stunningly captured the beauty of Jodhpur. Last year, Wes Anderson’s The Darjeeling Limited, starring Adrien Brody, Owen Wilson and Jason Schwartzman, was shot in the Palace on Wheels and may well have influenced many Westerners to take a trip around Rajasthan on this luxury train. Salman Khan’s first international project, Marigold (2007) co-starring Ali Larter and directed by Willard Carol was shot at Jodhpur and the famous Khimsar Fort bordering the Thar Desert. Oscar-winning sound engineer Resul Pookutty was spotted setting up his equipment with his team. He placed boomer at several places to even record the chirping of the birds on the nearby trees.

                The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel’s director John Madden, said: “This is a gorgeous script witty, moving and hilarious with a wonderful feel for its subject India. It’s rare to find one that traverses comedy, romance, and melancholy with such a lightness of touch and it’s proved to be a magnet for the cast of your dreams: actors I know and would want to work with in every film Judi Dench, Tom Wilkinson; and actors I’d feel lucky to be in the room with Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy, Dev Patel, and an amazing ensemble. It’s a great project about a world that defies all categorisation. No one could come to India and that too Rajasthan and not be changed by it.” The picture will reunite Madden with his Shakespeare in Love stars Judi Dench, who won a best-supporting actress Oscar for the Miramax romantic comedy, and Tom Wilkinson.

                The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is “a movie about a group of British senior citizens, who travel to India to live out their dotage an outsourcing, after a fashion and find a new lease on life”. Author Moggach describes it as a “comedy of manners between east and west” that evolved out of the question “how about… outsourcing the elderly? How about setting up retirement homes in developing countries where it’s sunny and labour is cheap?” Moggach then “created an Indian whiz-kid called Sonny who sets up a retirement home in Jaipur and fills it with Brits”.

                When Ravi Kapoor, an over-worked London doctor, is driven beyond endurance by his disgusting and difficult father-in-law, he asks his wife: “Can’t we just send him away somewhere? Somewhere far, far away.” His prayer seems to have been answered when his entrepreneurial cousin, Sonny, sets up a retirement home, recreating a lost corner of England in a converted guesthouse in Jaipur. Travel and set-up are inexpensive, staff willing and plentiful and the British pensioners can enjoy the hot weather and take mango juice with their gin. After the disappointing critical and box office returns of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, Proof and Killshot, Madden is on something of an upswing with fine notices for his work on the upcoming Helen Mirren and Sam Worthington thriller The Debt.

                Oscar-winning actress Nicole Kidman, visited Udaipur last year to shoot for an ad film directed by Shekhar Kapur, is the latest Hollywood celebrity to visit the desert state of Rajasthan. Another Oscar-winning actress to visit the state was Julia Roberts, who stayed in Jaipur during a family holiday with her husband and children last year. The other prominent Hollywood celebrities to visit Udaipur include pop singer Madonna, actor Richard Gere and Madonna’s ex-husband Guy Ritchie. Hollywood’s power couple Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie had taken time out of their shooting schedule for A Mighty Heart in Mumbai to visit the desert state in 2008. Rajasthan is also a favorite of Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger, who last visited the state in 2008 with daughter Jade. He stayed at Hotel Rambagh Palace while in Jaipur. British comedian Russel Brand married US pop star Katty Perry at Ranthambhore in November this year. Similarly, actress Elizabeth Hurley chose Udaipur as the setting for her lavish wedding with NRI tycoon Arun Nayar in 2007.

By Prakash Bhandari from Jaipur

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