Though the first time Yash Chopra shot in Switzerland was for the 1985 film, Faasle, it was in Chandni (1989) that the picture-perfect locales of Switzerland were captured in their full splendour. The film, an overwrought love triangle, tells the story of Rohit (Rishi Kapoor) and Chandni (a yummy Sridevi) who fall in love but are separated after a terrible accident leaves Rohit paralysed. Chandni moves to Mumbai where she meets Lalit (a tragically-debonair Vinod Khanna), the boss of the travel agency she is working in.
On a business trip to Switzerland, Lalit meets Rohit who is there for a miracle cure (look ma, no wheelchair!) and the two become friends and speak of love little realising they are talking about the same woman.
Mountains, a majestic backdrop
The film was a blockbuster hit and not only revived the sagging careers of an aging Rishi Kapoor and director Yash Chopra, but also proved that Sridevi was Bollywood's queen bee. Chandni, like most movies of the time, cheerfully disregarded logic, continuity and detailing. Rohit tells Chandni that they should go to Switzerland for their honeymoon and cut to song, the two are in Switzerland with the mountains forming a majestic backdrop for the canoodling couple.
There was also Darr (1993), the second of King Khan's anti-hero movies between Baazigaar and Anjaam. In Darr, Shah Rukh plays Rahul, an obsessed lover who will go to any lengths to get his girl, Kiran (Juhi Chawla). In the movie, Kiran and her husband played by an unfortunately wooden Sunny Deol, go to Switzerland to escape the deranged Rahul. Cut to pretty chalets and green meadows. The fantasy song ‘Tu Mere Samne' finds Juhi and Shah Rukh cavorting in the snow with SRK wearing a colourful tropical shirt, while Juhi starts off sensibly clothed in pullover and leggings but goes through inexplicable costume changes through the song sporting the mandatory chiffon sari, a mini skirt and the mythological costume that was popular at the time. Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge (1994) from the Yash Raj stable was the directorial debut of Chopra's son, Aditya — it was yet another paean to Switzerland. Simran misses the train when she gets off to buy a cowbell — the souvenir shops are full of them. She writes a postcard while waiting for the train — gazillion people (including me) send postcards from the railway station at Jungfraujoch, the roof of the world. And then there was the horse carriage ride that reminded me of the horse carriage ride I took around Interlaken, the oldest and most popular tourist destination in Switzerland.
A preferred destination
Thanks to YRF, Switzerland has become the preferred destination for Indian tourists. In the words of Urs Kessler, CEO of Jungfraubahnen, the number of Indian tourists on the swish railway to the top of Europe has burgeoned from 1,000 in 1997 to 75,000 in 2010.
The pretty little Swiss town of Interlaken in association with Jungfraubahnen, Interlaken Tourism and The Victoria-Jungfrau Grand Hotel & Spa returned the compliment by naming Chopra Ambassador of Interlaken.
Interlaken is the starting point to go to Jungfraujoch, the saddle between Monch and Jungfrau, the third highest peak of the Bernese Alps. Interlaken has also seen a massive tourist influx with over 55,544 visiting, showing a 27 per cent increase from last year. At the picturesque Kleine Scheidegg station, in a fancy ceremony, a Jungfraubahnen train was named after Yash Chopra. A high honour indeed, considering the only other Jungfraubahnen train to be named after a person is Adolf Guyer-Zeller, the visionary who got the concession for a rack railway through the mountains. Incidentally, next year is the centenary year for Jungfrau Railways and all sorts of exciting things have been planned.
The Victoria-Jungfrau Grand Hotel & Spa also honoured Chopra by naming a luxury suite after him. The CEO of Victoria Jungfrau Grand Hotel & Spa, Hans - Rudolf Rütti said that while the hotel has had a series of distinguished guests from Queen Victoria and Mark Twain to Daniel Craig (oooh!), Chopra is the first to have a suite named after him. Sipping the celebratory bubbly, and peering blearily (jet lagged) at the Veer-Zaara posters up in the Yash Chopra suite, I let my mind drift to Raj, Simran, a cowbell and a missed train. They should've known that 6.28 from Spiez means 6.28!