Lonely Planet’s “Filmi Escapes: Travel With Movies” provides a roadmap for the Bollywood-crazy tourists, says Anuj Kumar

If you visit any tourist spots in Uttarakhand, the guide will invariably tell the wide-eyed traveller the filmy importance of the place. If it is Nainital, the tales will start from Kati Patang. If it is Kasauli it has to be Koi…Mil Gaya. Bigger the film, bigger the relief on the tourist’s face.

Recently, on a visit to Naldhera, one was surprised when on a hill top the shoulders drooped not by fatigue but by trivia when the guide announced that Bobby Deol’s Badal was shot here. Have they chosen a lesser known place in the Bollywood hierarchy, the doubt in their mind reflected in their collective aahs! The seasoned guide recovered to tell the aging souls that some portions of Rajesh Khanna’s Kudrat and Mithun Chakraborty’s Pyar Jhukta Nahin were also shot here. What the natural beauty couldn’t do, a rich Bollywood past did it for Naldhera.

In the Bollywood obsessed country this is a common sight. Here people develop taste for destinations through movies. Juhi Saklani, who has penned Lonely Planet’s “Filmy Escapes: Travel With The Movies”, confirms and cites the example of Ladakh, whose reputation grew exponentially after the release of 3 Idiots. Out of the blue, Pangong Tso lake changed Ladakh’s reputation from a territory of rough and tough adventure seekers to a place accessible to anybody with a healthy heart. “Something similar happened with Kashmir. After years of tension, when Shah Rukh Khan shot for Jab Tak Hai Jaan in Gulmarg, tourism got a boost in the State. So there is a synergy between the two,” asserts Juhi.

Dibakar Banerjee admits as much in the foreword when he says that he was introduced to Kashmir through Yash Chopra’s Doosra Aadmi. In the same year he watched Amar Akbar Anthony where Parveen Babi was serenaded by Amitabh Bachchan in a buggy on Mumbai’s coastline. Years later, when he landed in Mumbai as a trainee the buggy was high on his to-do list.

A seasoned travel writer and a compulsive Bollywood follower, Juhi says she has been inadvertently working towards the book all her life. “I checked interviews, books, behind the scene videos, Facebook pages of the stars, talked to assistant directors, double checked with hotel managers and local guides and watched all the films featured in the book.”

Interspersed with stills, anecdotes and trivia, the most interesting part is the use of film dialogues to describe the uniqueness of a place, something even guidebooks miss. And who better than Raj Kumar when it comes to dialoguebaazi! In Lal Patthar, he plays an old man with a passion for Fatehpur Sikri and when in his inimitable style he tells a group of visitors that everyone sees the Taj by moonlight, but if you haven’t seen Fatehpur Sikri by moonlight, you haven’t seen Agra. When somebody points out that it is not there in his guidebook, he thunders, “To hell with your guidebook!”

From Sridevi’s dance on the sands of Jaisalmer to the hill romances shot in Darjeeling, the book also brings out Bollywood’s dalliance with the South India as well. Few remember Mahesh Bhatt’s fascination for Ooty. From Kaash to Raaz he shot five of his productions there proving that Ooty is not just Mithun Chakraborty’s darling. Insiders know that the place is also popular as a patch-up destination. In Mani Ratnam’s Roja Arvind Swami and Madhu were boating in Ooty while the story was set in Kashmir.

“Places like Ooty, Panchagani and Khandala haven’t suffered despite repeat use in films. “Youngsters still want to do what Aamir Khan suggests in the Khandala song,” says Juhi.

Amidst all the filmy paraphernalia, Juhi, who has worked with Outlook Traveller, has not missed out on the nuts and bolts that constitute a guidebook. She suggests an array of eating and staying options in each of the destination.

However, there is no space for Bihar and Jharkhand, hotspots for some of the recent gritty works of Bollywood. “The places are alive in Bollywood but unfortunately, are not tourist friendly. In Bihar there are not many options beyond Bodh Gaya. States like Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh have natural beauty but security issues make them unfriendly for tourists,” reasons Juhi.

Interestingly, between the glossy hotspots, Muzaffar Ali, known for reflecting the rich tapestry of Lucknow in Umrao Jaan picks Goutam Ghose’s Paar as one of the films that brought out the regional flavour on screen with distinction. The scene where Shabana Azmi and Om Puri cross a swollen river in Bihar with a herd of pigs may not be a touristy sight but an overwhelming one for sure. But then this not the map for the road less travelled!