Long before Bollywood discovered Switzerland, there was Ooty
Rolling hills, towering forests, lush valleys—you can almost hear the first strains of a synthesizer begin to swell in the sprawling background. For the longest time, Ooty was the stuff that Bollywood dreams were made of. Remember a brooding Sanjay Dutt quietly musing “Mera dil bhi kitna pagal hai” in the shadows of a pine forest? That was Ooty. Remember Rishi Kapoor as Monty in Karz filled with déjà vu as he was greeted by the valleys of a small hillside town? That was Ooty. Remember Bhagyashree paddling in a green lake crooning “Dil deewana bin sajana ke maane naaa…”? Yep, you guessed it—that was Ooty too.
In the mid-to-late nineties, as Europe slowly claimed the favoured position for dream sequences, Ooty took a backseat, although it did get an occasional shout out from films like Kuch Kuch Hota Hai and Dil Se. But Bollywood fans, do not fear, you can still relive the old days of filmi mania by heading out to song locations of yore and enacting your own cinematic dreams.
Visit Pine Forest—a wooded area dwarfed by several pine trees. Channel Pehla nasha from Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar, and embrace the lofty barks as dappled sunlight highlights your cheekbones. Shuffle over to the Ooty Lake and row into the waters Bhagyashree-style. Run away from home and toward Pykara falls; use the cascades as a backdrop that symbolises the growing roar of your submerged passions, as you and your lover defiantly turn your heads towards the mist and declare to the world “Humne ghar choda hain” a la Dil. Dry off with a meal at the nearby boathouse.
Locate your inner-Shahrukh, and chaiyya, chaiyya as you take a winding ride in a quaint toy train through the valleys and hills in and around Ooty. You’ll be grooving in the bogeys though, not dancing on the roofs, and you’ll realise then the reason he’s called King Khan.
Pack a picnic and head over to ninth mile. Allow the blanket of green to cool your eyes, the expansive view of distant mountains and valleys to overwhelm your senses. Recall Aashiqui, Bombay, Roja and countless other movies. Recall the passionate scene between Aamir Khan and Karishma Kapoor in Raja Hindustani that caused many a raised eyebrow and wagging tongue. Bow your head in respect as you acknowledge the sanctity of this spot in Bollywood history.
The options are countless. An easy way to pack in as much as possible during a short stay is to take the Filmi Chakkar tour package that will take you around these places and many more. If tours are not your cup of tea, then set out yourself, open your arms to the chilly hillside air, scream out your favourite dialogues from the edge of a cliff and hear the answering echoes from the valleys below. In Ooty, Bollywood is your oyster, and even mere mortals can dare to be stars.