Remember the song ‘Apni to har aah ek toofan hai, uparwala jaan kar bhi anjaan hai’ from Dev Anand’s famous mopvie ‘Kala Bazaar’? Actor Dev Sahab and actress Waheeda Rehman were travelling in the same train coach.
Dev Anand is sitting on the lower berth, while Waheeda is resting on the upper one. Dev Anand is actually worshiping god through his singing. At first, Waheeda thought Dev is singing to woo her, but later she realises his true intent and starts listening to his musings carefully. The film’s director Goldie, Dev’s brother, was quite an expert at filming song sequences. There are many more such examples. The mesmeric, long-journey trains have been for long a favourite motif of Bollywood filmmakers.
Movies like Anupama, Ganga-Jamuna, Solwa Saal, Aashirvaad, Ajnabi, Zamane Ko Dikhana Hai, Chhoti Si Baat, Baaton Baaton Me, Aaradhna,Chennai Express, etc. have focused exclusively on trains to further their narrative. The Indian Railways have always been a prime element of Bollywood movies. That’s why filmmakers love to shoot in the original location. These locations are also to be widely seen in the upcoming movies. Salman Khan is himself a huge fan of these locations. Bodyguard, Kick, Bajrangi Bhaijaan, etc, almost all of his movies feature these locations. Now he believes railway to be fortunate for his movies. Railway flourishes with celebrity’s acknowledgements, as these feed to the railway’s huge earnings. Many directors only like to shoot certain scenes on the original locations in order to give their movies a realistic look.
Today’s leading director Kabeer Khan likes to shoot on railways. He says, “Often, I like shooting on real locations like this. It was very important for me to shoot Bajrangi Bhaijaan at an original location. I know it’s quite problematic, but it also eases our work at the same time.”
Clearly this affection of filmmaker towards railways brings a new joy to the railway fraternity. Because railway profits double when films like Tees Maar Khan, Ra.One, Dabang, Chennai Express or Bajrangi Bhaijaan feature railway as a key location for their shootings.
Passing shots of railways can be spotted in every second movie, but the railway is happy with that as well. Indian Railways receive a hefty price for those shootings as well. But the real fun is when the movies like Wanted and Chennai Express shoot at these locations for days. The railway earns straight upto Rs 10 lakh from two days of shooting time.
Usually, railway’s earnings depend on the services they provide. According to a recent estimation, filmmakers have to pay around one or two lakhs per day. These days, filmmakers have to pay up to Rs 50,000 to shoot on a three tier station while the fee goes up to one lakh for a two tier station. Western Railway charges Rs three lakh for shooting in a four coach moving train.
Filmmakers receive special concessions in case the shooting continues for more than a few days. They, of course, have to pay a hefty bank deposit and another Rs 25,000 to the CRPF for security, refundable after the railway officers issue.
This is the reason why railway has turned soft for the film industry over time. Several stations including CST, Lonavala, Chauk, Apta and Vadibandar are some of the filmmaker’s most favored shooting destination. And they like spending over two lakhs for a day’s shooting. PRO of western railway says, “These days the process of issuing permits for shooting takes a maximum of five days, while earlier it used to take around 10 to 15 days. In certain conditions, the process speeds to provide the permit within three days. On top of it, the railway also provides several additional services to filmmakers in normal charges. ‘There is no doubt that railway officials’ special assistance make our work easier’, says Dabang director Arbaaz Khan. ‘In the railway premises we can shoot as we like.’
Favourite train stations
The filmmakers usually chose railway stations depending on their movie’s requirement. But Boribandar, CST, Chouk and Lonavala are the filmmaker’s favourite stations they love shooting at. But Apta, a railway station 11 kms away from Panvel is the directors’ favorite destination. From the yesteryear’s films like Amar Prem to Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge, Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, Guru, Mohabbatein, Khaki, Slumdog Millionare and TV serials have been shot here (like?). But other than Apta, stations including CST and Navi Mumbai are some of the other stations in Western Railway that attracts directors. Some other locations are carsheds of Kandiwali and Mahalaxmi, Goregaon, Matunga, Mahalaxmi station platform, Lower Parel workshop, Mumbai Central and the crowded areas of Churchgate station. And that’s not it, movies are also frequently shot at station like Bandra terminal
Remembering BR Chopra
Talking about any movie, even remotely related to railway, the discussions of BR Chopra’s movie ‘The Burning Train’ is bound to come up. It was India’s first movie completely focused on trains. In this movie, the first Delhi to Mumbai superfast train starts its journey with engineer Vinod Khanna’s tireless efforts. But midway, the train catches fire and the brakes fail. This was a conspiracy to ‘derail’ the train.
The movie follows an exciting plot. Over a dozen stars including Dharmendra, Hema Malini, Vinod Khanna, Parveen Babi, Vinod Mehra, Danny, among others were passangers in this train. Yet, the movie didn’t survive long at the box office. With a 300 per cent collection in the beginning, the movie is still in the averagely successful movies. Despite that, Chopra Sahab’s efforts are believed to be meaningful and are still widely appreciated. He is still admired in the industry for the fact that he was the first to have made a movie on train tragedies. But his inspiration for the film was a Hollywood hit The Towering Inferno.
Scenes to remember
The list of scenes shot at railway stations and platforms is long. But there is a series of tragic scenes that have left their mark on the spectators. Remember Hrishi Da’s remarkable movie ‘Anupama’. In the last scene, the timid girl Sharmila Taigore rebels against her father for Dharmendra. She boards the train to leave for his house. Her friends are at the station to see her off. Her father is watching hiding behind a station pillar. The camera freezes on her father and the movie ends.
This scene is a landmark for most movie buffs. But Director Ashutosh Gowarikar cannot be praised enough for his work in ‘Swadesh’ with Shahrukh. ‘Bisleri drinker’ Shahrukh is waiting thirsty in a train coach.
The train stops at a platform, as he starts looking for a Bisleri seller, he finds a boy selling cups of water for 25 paise. He buys water from him and hands over a five rupee coin. He goes through his coins to return him the change when train starts moving. The boy follows the train to return his change. The way this whole scene turns out is really touching.
In the recent film ‘Bajrangi Bhaijaan’, the movie depicts a rather beautiful picture playing around the girl child ‘Munni’. The train shots are constant and grips the audience. The train here becomes symbolic of reunion.
The involved talks of film buffs on such scenes is a never ending discussion. It’s just like the railways are a part of our lives, so are these movie scenes and train stations.