India is not just a destination, it is an experience of a lifetime. It does not matter if your idea of a perfect vacation is to bask in the lap of nature, or to explore the vibrant, loud, yet serene and mystical way of life. India is the place for a larger than life experience; very close to a cinematic one, well-scripted with colours, drama, emotions and rhythmic buzz of life for background score. Let's take a look at some films that have best captured various shades of India, inspiring the wanderer in us to undertake the long journey from the heart of the Himalayas to the depths of the Indian Ocean, and changed our things-to-do-in-India list from mere sightseeing to relishing a slice of life.
A feature documentary by Canadian filmmaker Sturla Gunnarsson, Monsoon captures the essence of 'the soul of the country'. For India, monsoon is not just a weather system, but a much-awaited force that touches almost every aspect of life on the Indian subcontinent. The film traces the annual journey of Indian monsoon from the time it hits the southern coastal state of Kerala, and crosses the entire width of the country to reach 'the abode of clouds' Meghalaya to conclude its journey. The visual masterpiece with stunning landscapes looks beyond the enchanting beauty of the rains and tells the tale of monsoon through stories of people from almost all walks of life–revealing how monsoon is weaved into the fabric of life in India. Say India and the first thought to cross your mind could be a postcard image of a vibrant country, but this film gives you a glimpse of an India dressed in deep shades of grey and green.
The Darjeeling Limited (2007)
Wes Anderson’s long-distance train, The Darjeeling Limited, may not be for real but the picture of India it paints is pretty close to reality. Believed to be inspired by the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway's toy train that offers joy rides between Darjeeling and Ghum, the film is about three bickering brothers–Francis, Peter and Jack–who haven't spoken to each other in a year, yet come together to embark on a spiritual train journey across India. Deeply layered in comedy and chaos, the film is a story of self-discovery as the three brothers discover and absorb various shades and hues of Indian culture. Mostly shot in Rajasthan, The Darjeeling Limited is a visual treat that reflects the raw energy and earthy beauty of the state.
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2012)
Enticed by luxury-oozing pictures of the newly-restored Marigold Hotel, a group of British retirees travel to India to spend their remaining life in the lap of luxury at the exotic palace-turned-hotel. However, they arrive to find that what they believed to be a luxurious haven for retirees is actually a skeleton of an era gone by. While some stay back out of no choice, others take the adventure in their stride. As they open up to the warmth and affection of people around them, their shared experiences transform their life, opening way to new possibilities, love included. The film beautifully encompasses all that India stands for–light, colours, smiles, and life. Such was the enchantment of the country that the cast and crew came back to India with The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel in 2015. Says a lot. Doesn't it?
Monsoon Wedding (2001)
The fact that Indians love festivities and celebrations is no secret. All they need is a reason. And what better reason than a wedding in the family. Picturise this–an exuberant Punjabi wedding set in the most romantic time of the year, monsoon. Mira Nair's Monsoon Wedding is an amiable and insightful portrait of a modern extended family that comes together to celebrate a traditional wedding at home in India. The film has it all: a stressed father, an enthusiastic mother, an excited bride-to-be, a sceptical sister of the bride and relatives from all around the world under one roof. The film is an accurate depiction of how colourful and chaotic Indian weddings are and no matter how crazy they get, you'd still want to experience the madness to the fullest.
Almost all James Bond films tempt you to pack your bags and go on an adventure trip to some far away land. After featuring in Bond films, many places around the world have gained reputation for being spectacular destinations. Who can forget the enthralling view of Phuket's Phang Nga Bay and the stunning tall vertical rock island Ko Tapu (now known as James Bond Island) in Man with the Golden Gun (1974) or the stunning sixth century Hagia Sophia church in Istanbul where Soviet Embassy official Tatiana Romanova meets James Bond in From Russia with Love (1963). India got its own share of 'Bond on a mission' glory when the 1983 Bond film Octopussy was largely shot at Taj Lake Palace and Jagmandir Island Palace hotels on Lake Pichola in Udaipur. This is where, disguised as a crocodile, Bond swims to the lair of mysterious jewel-smuggler, Octopussy.
The Other End of the Line (2008)
Most Hollywood films featuring India have done very little to break the common stereotypes about Indians, which has triggered many debates on various platforms. The recent being Coldplay's video of Hymn for the Weekend for which the band was accused of cultural appropriation. The video drew flak on internet for portraying India as a land of mysticism from a time gone by. If not the mystical charm of India, it has been the slums of Mumbai that inspired Hollywood filmmakers. The Other End of the Line gives a much realistic picture of life in an Indian metro city and that of the modern Indian middle class which could be infatuated by the Western culture, but still is strongly bound to its roots. The film follows a call centre employee in India who falls in love with an American advertising agent she has only spoken with over the phone.