It will be a tough task to find an Indian who has not seen the ‘Mere Sapno Ki Rani’ song featuring Rajesh Khanna and Sharmila Tagore. The iconic song is still a super hit even after half a century of its release. It is not only the superb tune of the song, the picturesque setting on which it was shot has made the song such a pleasure to watch. The entire song was shot on the hill cart road towards Darjeeling where the car of Rajesh Khanna followed the Toy Train where Sharmila Tagore was seating.
Darjeeling and its surroundings were so popular among the directors and actors of Bollywood that they kept on coming back there. Aradhana, in fact, was not the first one shot there. The tradition started long back in 1961.
Jab Pyaar Kisi Se Hota Hai (1961) was the first film to be shot in Darjeeling. The Dev Anand and Asha Parekh Starrer directed by Nasir Hussain was a big hit and majority of the film’s outdoor scenes were shot in the Queen of the Hills.
Hariyali Aur Raasta (1962) was the next to be shot on the mesmerising terrains of Darjeeling. The Vijaya Bhatt film which had Manoj Kumar and Mala Sinha as lead actors were almost entirely shot here.
Professor (1962) was the first film of legendary Shammi Kapoor shot here. The unforgettable tunes of ‘Main Chali Main Chali’ was shot on the Mall of Darjeeling. The Lekh Tandon directed film was a super hit.
It was not very long when Shammi Kapoor returned to the hills of Darjeeling with his charismatic film China Town (1962). Also starring Shakila & Helen, the movie was directed by another legend in the Bollywood industry – Shakti Samanta and was a blockbuster hit.
Aaye Din Bahar Ke (1966) was the first Colour Bollywood movie to be shot in Darjeeling. The Dharmendra – Asha Parekh magic was amazing on screen and the film went on to become a great hit. It was the beautiful Tea gardens of Darjeeling that became the shooting location for the most part of the film.
Hamraaz (1967) – the old one – was another memorable movie shot on the hills of Darjeeling. The Sunil Dutt and Mumtaj starrer musical thriller was a huge grosser for the year and is still liked by people. Most part of the film, including the masterpiece – ‘Neele Gagan Ke Tale’ was shot here.
Within two years of massive success with his earlier flick, Dharmendra was back to the Queen of hills with another romantic movie – Baharon Ki Manzil (1968). Co-starring Meena Kumari, Dharmendra played a superb role in the film and it proved to be a milestone movie for him. The Yakub Hasan Rizvi directed movie was a blockbuster hit.
Jhuk Gaya Asman (1968) is surely remembered for the song – ‘Kaun Hai Jo Sapno Me Aya’ where Rajendra Kumar is seen driving his car through the curves of Darjeeling Hills. Another great movie where the Hill Town is portrayed superbly. The film, directed by Lekh Tandon and starring Saira Bano along with Kumar, was again a great hit.
It was 1969 when the legendary, Aradhana (1969) was shot here. The song has surely made the film immemorable. However, it was only Rajesh Khanna & Sujit Kumar’s part that was shot in the actual location. The parts of Sharmila Tagore seating in a Toy Train was in fact shot later in a studio. Tagore was busy shooting ‘Aranyer Din Ratri’ with Satyajit Ray.
Dev Anand, who started the list, in fact, came back in less than a decade with Mahal (1969). The foggy setting of Darjeeling played a crucial role in creating the suspense in the movie. Mahal, one of the best thrillers made by Anand, was almost entirely shot in Darjeeling.
Dev Anand was again back to the Queen of Hills with Joshila (1973) co-starring Hema Malini. A part of the film was shot at Darjeeling and also a great view of the Kunchenjungha was shown here.
Sagina (1974) was shot in Kurseong, near Darjeeling. The movie, which was a Hindi Remake of Tapan Sinha’s classic Sagina Mahato, directed by himself, was a mediocre performer but the beauty of the hills of Darjeeling was amazingly captured by the director.
Though most of the superstars of his time shot their films in Darjeeling, Amitabh Bachchan was quite late to come here. It was with his film, Do Anjaane (1976), that Bachchan came here. A part of the super hit movie was shot at the St. Paul’s school of Darjeeling.
Both Rajesh Khanna & Shakti Samanta revisited their lucky hill town with Anurodh (1979). An adaptation of Bengali hit ‘Deya Neya’ was shot in the hills and tea gardens of Darjeeling. The multi starrer was a super hit and ended up lifting Khanna’s career from a downfall.
Lahu Ke Do Rang (1979) had star casts like Vinod Khanna and Shabana Azmi but was not a very big hit. It was entirely shot in Darjeeling but since the film didn’t do well at the box office, it was soon forgotten.
Barsaat Ki Ek Raat (1981) was again a super hit shot at Darjeeling. The film was a Hindi remake of Anusandhan, a Bengali blockbuster directed by Shakti Samanta and that brought Amitabh Bachchan back to the hills. The film was entirely shot here and the beauty of the hills is amazingly captured in the lens of the director.
For the entire decade of the eighties, political turmoil kept Bollywood away from Darjeeling but when it came back – it was a bang. Like all previous movies, this time it was the biggest star of the next generation to come here – it was Shahrukh Khan with his film Raju Ban Gaya Gentleman (1992). The film was shot in the alleys of Darjeeling and it went on to become a massive hit.
Chor Aur Chand (1993) was another film starring Aditya Pancholi and Puja Bhatt which was shot at Darjeeling. Mostly the songs of the film were shot here but it is not among the popular ones.
Bada Din (1998) was the directorial debut of famous Bengali Indipop singer Anjan Dutt. Dutt was a student of St. Pauls Darjeeling and when it came to shooting film he could think of no other place. The hill town was shown extensively in the movie and the song ‘Meri Ankhon Mein Tum Ho’– shot at the Mall- went on to become a super hit.
Main Hoon Na (2004) was Shahrukh Khan’s coming back to the gorgeous queen on the hills. Co-starring former miss universe Susmita Sen, the movie went on the become a super hit. The plot of the movie is based at the St. Paul’s school and other localities of the hill town was portrayed in the movie.
Sharmila Tagore’s son Saif Ali Khan got the opportunity to recreate the magic once her mother created. In Parineeta (2005) he rode the Toy Train, this time for real, Though the shooting of the toy train was done on the Siliguri – Darjeeling line, no part of the movie was actually shot at Darjeeling but that does not stop us from relating to the hill city.
Via Darjeeling (2008) is one of the best films shot in the city. The thriller which moves around the disappearance of a honeymooning husband has a star cast full of some of the Bollywood’s most talented actors – Kay Kay Menon, Vinay Pathak, Rajat Kapoor, Simone Singh, Sandhya Mridul – was fabulously filmed and well accepted by the viewers.
Barfi! (2012) was one of the most important performance for another Superstar of the present generation – Ranbir Kapoor, who walking on the steps of his Granduncle Shammi Kapoor came to Darjeeling. The city of Darjeeling, the forests, tea gardens, the toy train was superbly picturised in the film. It got amazing success and became one of the biggest films of the time.
Yaariyan (2014), though, is based on Sikkim, a large part of the movie was shot here. The young generation comedy was an average rated movie but the hill city was well featured in it.
Jagga Jasoos (2017). which was a return of the Ranbir Kapoor – Anurag Basu combine (Also did Barfi! together), was partly shot at Darjeeling. The Movie was again a hit continuing the legacy of the hill town in featuring in really successful Bollywood movies.
Over the years, Darjeeling has been a major tourist attraction and that has been well exploited by the movie makers of the country also. The scenic beauty, peaceful climate and amazing localities have always brought the reel heroes to this land and they have always created magic. This is just another reason why Darjeeling should always be on your bucket list.