Bollywood Peaks

Switzerland is interesting.

It’s beautiful. It’s not broken or dishevelled. It’s not shiny and busy. Driving in, it reminds me of the calendars from my childhood home. Snow peaked mountains, clear lakes and velvet grass. Wooden homes, with flower pots on window sills, tucked in at odd spaces. As we pass hotels, the neutral Swiss flag waves enthusiastically. Right next to it, the Indian tri-colour is just as happy.

India’s obsession with this landscape is well documented. Switzerland has for years been the go-to location for romantic Bollywood escapades. Nothing quiet says romance as whisking a girl, dressed in a soft pastel sari, from the busy streets of Mumbai to an isolated mountain top near Lucerne, and proclaiming your love, preferably in song. Naturally, the whole country is sold on the ticket. Every year bus loads of tour groups make this cinematic pilgrimage, pointing their cameras at where Bollywood royalty once danced. I just didn’t realize how strong, or influential, the Indian contingent would be. I hear more Indian accents than German. And there’s a touch of spice in the air.

It’s one thing to put up flags and customize service for your biggest customer base, but to pick up popular Indian phrases and use them with absolute comfort, is an effort that gets noticed. I can’t help but smile when the cable car guy shouts, “Chalo, chalo, shanti se chalo!” or when he whoops out, “Ganpati Bappa, Maurya!” on our safe return. His audience is giddy with joy. This is a story that will be told over several rounds of Kingfisher. And be written about on blogs.

On the mountain top things are a blinding white with a smudging of dark woollens. Everything seems in order till I catch a flash of bright green. There’s something very familiar about that green. Box-office, block buster familiar. Non-Indian tourists give the bright cut-outs a confused look over. Indians break into a big grin. Standing in the snow are two Bollywood superstars, in a still from one of the most successful films of all time, a movie that passes through Switzerland, full of cow bells, mountains and of course song-and-dance. These are after all Bollywood mountain tops.

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13 thoughts on “Bollywood Peaks

  1. Although I am not a big fan of silly song and dance on top of Jungfrau, DDLJ is truly a legend – the association of cowbells with romance that it has created, is definitely unforgettable! 🙂
    And of course, sarson ke khet as well back home!

  2. Nice one. Much as it is cliched, I silently loved the idea of the Bollywood restaurant on Jungfraujoch..
    Ps: are you done with your Matador writing course? Useful? I remember your posts on Matador when I was writing there

    • Haha, yes but this one is just a regular canteen-style food place with a lot of really old Bollywood posters tacked up. Still the food wasn’t half bad. And yes, the Matador Writing Course is beyond useful. I can’t recommend it enough! If you want more info, drop me a line.

  3. Really well-written post and loved the title ‘Bollywood Peaks’!! Maybe, it took a while for this obsession to become so visible but would be interesting to know who did what to facilitate it. At what point did Swiss Tourism begin to notice the indian film actors and the indian lovers of Bollywood who wanted to go to Switzerland?! If there is a method to what is now happening, how can we replicate it in other countries to boost their tourism and our own?!

    • I was watching an old Dev Anand film not too long back, and there is a song sequence shot in a village in Lucerne, so I guess it started (really)early!

      I think people are trying to replicate the Swiss Model – ZNMD and Spain, being the most obvious (recent) example, but Switzerland came to Indian tourists at a time when the Indian tourist couldn’t really just pick a destination and head off to explore it. It came with a touch of romance and the drama of once-in-a-life-opportunity. Switzerland became part of a mythology, a pilgrimage of sorts.
      I don’t know if that can be replicated anymore, at least not to the same extent.

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