BOLLYWOOD'S LOVE FOR SWITZERLAND
BOLLYWOOD'S LOVE FOR SWITZERLAND

By Suhel Johar

Magic Lantern

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Ever since the militants took over the Kashmir valley, enterprising Bollywood producers have made a beeline for Switzerland. The country offers all manner of locales that can come in handy for a film, be it lakes, snow-capped mountains, verdant meadows, a multitude of flowers and picture-book pretty houses. Red tape is at a minimum, as the Swiss Government is keen on promoting tourism, which fetches it the most revenue. The Swiss authorities go out of their way to help film crews. Visas for stars and film units are issued within 24 hours. In addition, travel arrangements are seen to and technical facilities are made available readily.

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For the Indian producer, harassed at home by unpunctual and absentee superstars, shooting in Switzerland also means continuous shooting and quick winding up of his movie. Is it a wonder then that most Bollywood movies have a couple of songs shot in Swiss locations? According to statistics, more than 100 Indian films have been shot in Switzerland since 1994. In fact, more Indian films than Swiss films have been shot in Switzerland. Whether it is 'Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge', 'Hero No 1' or 'Chori Chori Chupke Chupke', Hindi movies have a lot of footage originating in that country.

While the cowbell made so popular by Kajol in 'DDLJ' remains a must-buy souvenir for most Indians, the Swiss public is getting to see more and more of Govinda's gyrations. In fact, Switzerland remains a favorite shooting location for David Dhawan and Govinda. Producers from the South have also been shooting for their films extensively in Switzerland.

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Right from 'Vijay' to his latest, every film of Yash Chopra has had some sequence shot in Switzerland. If the hero and heroine are not rich enough to visit that country, then a dream sequence is introduced for their benefit. Yash has endeared himself so much to the local populace in that country that one of the lakes where he shoots frequently is referred to as 'Chopra Lake' by them.

It wasn't Yash, however, who introduced the Swiss Alps and lakes to Bollywood but the maverick Raj Kapoor, who first shot 'Sangam' in Switzerland way back in the sixties. The film had Vyjayanthimala and Raj Kapoor cavorting and singing in the snow. Just the other day one was watching a rerun of 'An Evening in Paris' and was amazed to see so much of Switzerland in it. Shammi Kapoor sings the song 'Akele Akele Kahan Jaa Rahe Ho' on the snow-clad Alps while Sharmila Tagore wends her way up in a cable car. This, when the Kashmir valley was more popular with the Indian film producers in the sixties.

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The list of films shot in the Swiss Alps includes 'Dhadkan', 'Biwi No1', 'Kya Kehna', 'Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham', 'Ajnabee', 'Indian', 'Haan Maine Bhi Pyaar Kiya Hai', 'Ek Rishtaa' and 'Jodi No.1' apart from almost all Govinda films in recent times. It is believed that Swiss locations work out cheaper for Indian film producers because all the infrastructure facilities required for shooting are available locally and the producers do not have to lug heavy equipment from Mumbai.

In fact, many Swiss companies have been working with Indian filmmakers for over two decades. A Swiss Government agency, 'Film Location Switzerland,' which specializes in location scouting, helps filmmakers find the right locations.

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