It is like a romantic saga. We have always been drawn to Darjeeling and Sikkim, these two places for their snow, mist, fog, mountains, multicultural, tea and toy trains. From time immemorial, various locations of these two northeast India have depicted numerous stories of love, loss, adventure and freedom on the celluloid.
Darjeeling and Sikkim share an iconic bond with the film industry. The makers and producers of good cinema have come here for their craft to be unfurled in its true sense. Now let’s look into the details of the significance of these two places in terms of location and overall filmmaking business.
The age-old bond: If we walk through the corridors of film making, especially in terms of the Indian film industry, the contribution of the hill stations of Darjeeling and Sikkim is undeniable. Right from Raj Kapoor and Nargis starrer Barsat in 1949 to Barfi and Yaarian in recent times, many blockbusters have been shot here. Many more are due too. The panorama of the majestic locations of Sikkim was caught in the frames of famous film Jewel Thief where Dev Anand acted in his prime time. And how can we ever forget the mesmerizing tunes of Aradhana, which was shot in the hills of Darjeeling in 1969. The meandering roads of the hills and the glance of the toy train caught the attention of the entire population irrespective of their age. The list is endless if we talk about other hits like Bobby, Mera Naam Joker, and Road to Sikkim among others. The deep connection between Darjeeling and Sikkim and the film industry is still thriving.
Why Darjeeling is famous among directors: Filmmakers have been giving a lot of love and importance to this beautiful and serene hill station of north Bengal. Let’s find out the primary reasons for this.
Tea industry and Darjeeling are synonymous. The hill station is located at the elevation of 6710 ft. The youthful vibe and rich cultural heritage of the place attract both tourists and filmmakers. The pristine forests and holiness of this beautiful town create the perfect atmosphere for filmmaking. This UNESCO world heritage site is also famous for its beautiful weather and trekking opportunities. From Aaye Din Bhara Ke in 1966 to Barfi in 2012, Darjeeling has been the destination for numerous filmmakers. Now let’s talk about the famous shooting spots in Darjeeling, the most beautiful town in north Bengal.
- Darjeeling clock tower: The hourly dings, the musical note, and the huge colonial style tower make the entire clock tower area very filmy. This is one of the most significant locations of the town and an important landmark too. Several scenes and songs of Bollywood films have been shot with the tower in the backdrop.
- St. Paul School: Situated at the height of 7800 ft, this 190-year-old school is another beautiful shooting location which is famous for directors since 1970s. The school is located in the picturesque backdrop of the blue mountain range, and it is one of the biggest tourist destinations of Darjeeling. Various superhit films, right from Mera Naam Joker to Main Hoon Na have been shot on the campus of this school, which is a treat to eyes.
- Toy trains: If you are mesmerized by the serenity of Darjeeling, then toy train is another reason to fall for this place. Many filmmakers have told their heart-wrenching stories on these trains that offer a blissful joyride to tourists traveling from Darjeeling to Jalpaiguri. The charming view of the blue hills and tea estate and lush green forests is the sole attraction of this travel. The quaint train bogeys have featured in several films.
- Sukhna forest range: Under the reserved forest area, this forest range, also known as the Mahananda Wildlife Sanctuary is located on a plot of around 158 square kilometers. Because of its safari opportunities both in the morning and also in the evening, filmmakers flock to this place to shoot the adventurous episodes of their films. Besides, this forest range is a paradise for hundreds of birds, both domestic and migratory. Around 330 different types of animals inhabit in this place, and therefore, Mahananda Wildlife Sanctuary serves as an important shooting location for our films.
- Tea estate: A visit to Darjeeling has not been completed without exploring its world-famous tea estates. Both filmmakers and tourists could not resist praising the untouched and pristine beauty of the lush tea gardens that have been the signature site of this hill station. To enjoy the nature closely and be assimilated with the local culture and heritage, it is a must to spend a day in the tea estate. Though as a filmmaker, you need to seek permission from the Bengal government about any kind of shooting, be it film or commercial, at this place. But it is worth the attempt.
- Tiger hills and Mirik: Tiger Hills is the highest point in Darjeeling located at 8482 ft. The exotic view of the Himalayan ranges has been captured in many films by using advanced cameras and other latest technological methods. The sunrise and sunset create a sedative atmosphere in the valley. Mirik is also a well-known tourist spot located in the midst of calm and beautiful hills with lake Sumendu complimenting the atmosphere. This tiny place is also gaining popularity among nature photographers and filmmakers from across the globe. Passing through the verdant tea estates, this place is merely two-and-a-half-hour drive from Darjeeling.
Sikkim, the upcoming filmy hotspot
Sikkim is emerging as one of the most promising films shooting destinations over the past few years. Various regional and biggest Bollywood films are being shot in this place. Last year, a Hindi film, Ladki, was shot in various scenic locations, including Yumthang valley, Lachung, Gnathang valley and several places of north Sikkim. Shooting films provide a great opportunity for local talents as well. Right from line producer to technicians to dancers, a lot of regional touches is associated when films are shot in such natural and raw atmosphere. Since music legend A.R. Rahman has been appointed as the brand ambassador of Sikkim, a lot of enthusiasm has been around about this place.
Places that make Sikkim a much sought-after destination for directors
Wonders come in small packages. This saying comes true when you visit Sikkim. Tucked away in the lap of enormous Himalayas, Sikkim is the second smallest states in the country. It is the gateway of the northeast India. Let’s find out the charismatic locations of this state where every frame of a film shot creates magic.
- Gangtok: You may believe or not but the alluring charm of Gangtok is almost irresistible to tourists. This is the capital city of Sikkim, nestled in the eastern Himalayas. Once here, everyone will want to capture some essence of this place in their heart. Be it lush green forests, flowing river, serene beauty of the mountains or just enjoy having mental peace sitting in a corner tea shop, you can find everything here. This place is also famous as an economy film shooting spot with lots of packages being extended to film crew units.
- Yuksom: It is located on the western Himalayas. From Yuksom, you can experience several enthralling treks to Kanchenjunga and other peaks. This hamlet is famous for its rustic and pristine appeal. Yuksom is also known as the meeting place of three Lamas. The place is slowly gaining momentum in the field of commercial tourism. The pictorial oldest monastery of Sikkim is located in this place.
- Tsomgo lake: Tsomgo or Changu lake is a must visit place of Sikkim. When it comes to shooting a film, this place gives a stiff competition even to the foreign locales. It is located just around 38 kilometers from the capital city and lies at an altitude of 12400 ft. One of the highest lakes in India, Changu remains entirely frozen during winter, making it even more picturesque. During summer, the turquoise water of the lake creates an amazing atmosphere in the area with blue sky on top.
- Nathula Pass: The historic silk road is here. A visit to Nathula is included in almost all tourist packages. Again, this connecting point of Sikkim and Tibet is very famous provided you have the required pass to visit this place.
- Lachung: There are many reasons to fall in love with Lachung. Located at the altitude of 8610 ft, it is one of the most loved snow destinations of Sikkim. The quaint mountain range coupled with the azure Changu lake enhances the beauty of this place. As a filmmaker, this could be the ideal place to shoot the most romantic scenes of their film.
- Ravangla: Nestled amid the Tendong and Maenam hills, Ravangla has already served as a perfect film shooting spot for many directors of the east and the northeast. It is a scenic town between Pelling and Gangtok. The most popular treks of Sikkim also start from here. This place is also considered as the paradise of bird watchers.
- Rumtek Monastery: The enthralling Rumtek monastery is one of the oldest prayer zones of Sikkim. This is place is an ode to the Buddhist culture. We have seen in various films how monasteries provide an aesthetic and pictorial contribution to any film shot on its campus. Rumtek is even beyond that experience. It is a place of peace and serenity.
- Jawaharlal Nehru Botanical Garden: It is located in the close proximity of Rumtek Monastery. According to experts, the Nehru botanical garden is another important shooting location. It is the home to many rare and exotic species of plants and herbs. You can find various rare orchids here as well. Acres of lush green lawn and beautifully procured trees make this place a must-visit location for both filmmakers as well as tourists.
- Zuluk: Now comes the unusual one. Zuluk is one of the most underrated and undiscovered tourist places in Sikkim. Located at an altitude of 10000 ft, this place is considered as the ancient silk route of eastern India. From the top of Zuluk, you can get a panoramic view of the Kanchenjunga. Zuluk can be an interesting shooting location for those trying to experiment with their locations. Also, this is a nice and tiny hamlet with the indigenous population.
- Yumthang valley: In terms of beauty and serenity, Yumthang valley is no less than a costly shooting location in Switzerland. The difference is, in here, the shooting charge is less. During monsoon, the valley looks at its best and displays the most enchanting colors of the nature. Located at the elevation of around 3500 meters, this scenic valley is the hub of many exotic wildflowers.
Package perk to film units: The Bengal tourism development corporation is ready to woo filmmaking crews that are scouting for shooting locations. Several packages designed to cater to their individual needs and overall support. Logistic assistance, accommodation, bulk booking of various outdoor facilities and technical support, along with booking private properties at discounted rates, such cooperation is being extended to the filmmakers and their teams by the government of both these states.
The USP behind locations: Many regions of Darjeeling and Sikkim are free for shooting. Even the popular places mentioned above are available at a very economical rate. That is why the increased number of both regional and national level directors are moving in these places with the teams. And the number will rise further. Films based on world tourism, wildlife, and conservation of nature and its resources are also shot in these two places on a regular basis.
Conclusion: Darjeeling and Sikkim are thriving locations for film shooting. With all required amenities and support system build here, these two places are changing the cliché concept with the outdoor shooting. New, pristine locations, young local talents, and supportive governmental gesture are all the budding and experienced directors looking forward to turning their ventures into reality in the hills.