Kerala – God’s Own Country is a land of great nature’s bounty and hence, promises some spectacular visual treats. Every year, millions of tourist flock to this idyllic coastal state that has now quickly become a global superbrand. Even Bollywood, the largest National film industry in the world, has time and again expressed its love and fanfare for this state. A large number of Bollywood films have been shot in Kerala, and most of them have gone on to become commercial hits. Let’s look at some of the famous Bollywood movies shot with Kerala as its blank canvas.
This superhit romantic thriller by Mani Ratnam was famous for its mind-pleasing soundtrack. One of the film’s highlight song, ‘Tu Hi Re’ was shot at Bekal Fort in Kasaragod district. The song instantly strikes a chord with your heart and the two lovers- Arvind Swamy and Manisha Koirala’s chemistry are at full blossom in this song. The antiquity of this scenic fort, which appears to emerge out of the sea, has been perfectly picturized. The majestic fort, of the 17th century, is the most massive Fort in Kerala.
Dil Se (1998)
When Mani Ratnam chose Kerala as background for a principal character’s storyline and one of the critical locations for this 1998 blockbuster, little did he know that it would go on to become one of the most iconic chapters in the history of Bollywood. The visuals of Shahrukh Khan and Preity Zinta’s exciting moves in the water still run through our imagination. The ‘Jiya Jale’ song was largely shot in Thekkady, and most notably, the Periyar River forms the narrative of Khan and Zinta’s watery romance. Smartly choreographed by Farah Khan and mesmerisingly sung by Lata Mangeshkar, ‘Jiya Jale’ song remains one of the most romantic songs till date.
Ms Zinta plays the character of a Keralite bride, and so Kerala features prominently in the song. Few sequences were shot at the Athirapally Waterfalls where Zinta dances with a group of men. But what captures your imagination is the second half of the song which takes you to the breath-taking backdrop of Alleppey backwaters. The lead actors romancing in a houseboat is a scene which brightens up the environment around.
The inspirational Mani Ratnam movie, loosely based on Reliance Industries founder Dhirubhai Ambani, had its critical song sequence shot in Kerala. Lead actress Aishwarya Rai dancing to ‘Barso re Megha’ song in the backdrop of Athirapally Waterfalls in Thrissur was a delight. The bursting cloud and persistent rain were perfectly in sync with A.R.Rahman’s magical beats. What’s interesting is that the rain showed in the song is real, and the waterfall gave the scene a fanciful feel to it. These elements were enough for the song and the movie to become a big hit.
A movie which raised many eyebrows- a storyline in which a 60-year-old-man falls in love with an 18-year-old teenager, was perhaps too ahead of its time, but the film’s shooting location did leave a mark in the audience’s mind. Just like most of Ram Gopal Verma’s fantasy flicks, Nishabhd is a genuinely unique love story which was shot amidst the awe-inspiring hills of Munnar. The makers set up an extensive set in the quaint hill station for shooting this film. This is also the first and the only scene of legendary actor Amitabh Bachchan in Munar, in a career spanning over five decades. The film’s lead actress Jiah Khan is also seen exploring the tea gardens on her vacation visit to Munnar. The house where she lives is the Seven Mallay Bungalow in Munnar.
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Because of the big stars and the big production banner, Tashan was right on top among the “Most Awaited Movies of 2008”. It was after this movie that Kareena Kapoor’s ‘size zero’ figure became a craze in Bollywood.
Interestingly, Tashan had its two key shots framed at Alleppey’s backwaters. The first, in which the lead trio set out in Alleppey in search of money and finally get the money delivered from the hands of Kathakali artists. And the second when Akshay Kumar proposes on his knees to Kareena Kapoor on a houseboat in Kerala, reciting a hilarious speech prepared by Saif Ali Khan.
Although the movie didn’t do well at the box office, its soundtrack, however, became popular among youngsters. Also, Saif Ali Khan and Kareena Kapoor’s real-life chemistry took off during the shooting of this movie. Four years later, they married off in style in what was described as “India’s wedding and social event of the year”.
This Mani Ratnam’s epic Hindi Thriller had much of its shooting done in Kerala. Abhishek Bachchan’s character Beera’s hideout was among the forests in Malayatoor Reserve Forests in Idukki. But the most notable Keralite scene was the song ‘Behne de’ which takes place at the Athirapally Waterfalls in Thrissur. The lead pair climbs a huge rock and make their way around the waterfall, into the nearby jungles. Interestingly, this was Aishwarya Rai’s second song at this location, the first being Guru with the same lead actor.
Life of Pi (2012)
The fact that Life of Pi had its shooting in Kerala also tells you more about the surging popularity of Kerala. Hollywood director Ang Lee chose Munnar’s Tea and Rose gardens for some key scenes in this American survival drama film. The film, based on a novel with the same name, showcased enchanting beauty of the hill station Munnar. The movie had its worldwide premiere as the opening film at the New York Film Festival and later won the prestigious Golden Globe and Academy Awards.
Ekk Deewana Tha (2012)
Amy Jackson’s Bollywood debut movie used the paddy fields and backwaters of Alleppey enticingly. She plays the role of a conservative Malayali Syrian Catholic lady who eith a typical Romeo-Juliet love story. Although not extensively shot, but the scenes taking place in Alleppey are actually money shots and feature prominently in the movie’s trailer also.
Chennai Express (2013)
Shahrukh Khan and Deepika Padukone’s pair lived up to their expectations once again (after Padukone’s debut Om Shanti Om) with this movie. Entirely shot in India, it would be hard to take Kerala’s visual contribution out of this movie. Devikulam, a place just 9 Km from Munnar, is the location of the colourful song ‘Kashmir Main, Tu Kanyakumari’. The picturesque hilly setup became a scenic panorama amidst the tea, coffee and spice plantations. Also, the scene where the two lead characters are arguing and their jeep runs down the slope and drowns takes place at the Devikulam Lake in Munnar.
In fact, the film features multiple locations in Kerala. In another famous song titled ‘Titli’, Khan and Padukone look wonderful romancing at Messapulimala Hill Station in Idukki. Padukone looks elegant in her traditional saree look and the lush greenery around makes the shot look like a painting. This place is also the World’s highest Tea plantation. The mesmerising landscape was a perfect complement to the romance between Khan and Padukone. The song became a super hit.
Madras Café (2013)
The political thriller based on the Sri Lankan civil war and assassination of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi had some of its action scenes shot in Kerala. In one scene, the Indian army decides to take on Bhaskar, the leader of fictional LTF, at his camp. So the army men move slowly past the forests surrounding the Athirrapally Waterfalls in Thrissur. The scene only briefly shows the waterfall. However, it provides the perfect setup for showing guerrilla warfare. In another scene, the lead character John Abraham meets his boss in a houseboat in Cochin. Other areas of Fort Kochi also feature in the movie. The movie was a commercial success and even went on to win the prestigious National Film Awards.
Baahubali: The Beginning (2015)
An out of the blue movie which broke all the records not just in India, but in the entire world. One of Baahubali’s epic scene has Kerala as its location. You can be forgiven for thinking that this scene is an extraordinary graphics work. But the shot in which Baahubali (Prabhas) carries the stone of Shivling on his shoulder takes place at Athirapally Waterfalls, Thrissur.
The mighty Baahubali against the backdrop of the majestic Athirapally Waterfalls gave a dramatic effect to the scene. It became one of the film’s key posters. The roaring waterfall gushing down a cliff was indeed captivating for the audiences.
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Bipasha Basu and her husband Karan Singh Grover turned up the heat in this horror thriller based on a Thai film. Starting from the film’s opening shot, stormy night in Kerala; the roller coaster journey takes you to some of the magnificent places in Kerala.
The movie’s two famous songs ‘Katra Katra’ and ‘Awaara’ looks so erotic yet elegantly shot. In fact, it almost feels like a video of Kerala Tourism. Serene Backwaters and the lush green landscape, all sprung to life in these scenes.
Alleppey is prime location of this Shraddha Kapoor- Tiger Shroff starrer action movie. The complete filming of the song ‘Girl I Need You’ took place here. From romancing on traditional boats to bamboo rafting, and also enjoying a coconut drink break, both the actors look beautiful together. They also have a sequence in traditional attire which they carry off quite elegantly. The film was a big success, and there was also a sequel to it two years later.
The Saif Ali Khan starrer Chef’s principal location was Kerala. Thanks to some appealing visual effects, there are some picturesque scenes of Kerala in this movie. Right from the scene until Khan lands at the Cochin International Airport to the Alleppey backwaters, there is so much for the visual appetite. The shots look aesthetic, and one starts loving the theme instantly. Fort Kochi and other areas also feature in this storyline. The film makes the audience realise the importance of doing what one actually wants in life. Apart from that, there are also a lot of Malayali characters in the script.