Soft beige lands dotted with pops of colours of prayer flags; deep set blues of the skies reflecting in the shallow ponds and lakes; elegant monasteries standing stark amidst the crisp white snow; there is no sight in Ladakh that fails to stun. Unlike the chaotic beauty of cities, Ladakh offers landscapes laced with tranquility. The aura is calming but the view, breath-taking. Is it any surprise that it has been the chosen destination for numerous television shows and movies? Ironically, the serene backgrounds are often used to contrast and emphasize the more tumultuous content on the screen.
Bard of Blood
A new venture by Netflix and Red Chillies Entertainment starring Emraan Hashmi and Sobhita Shulipala, Bard of Blood displays the journey of a former spy who embarks on a mission to rescue four Indian intelligence officers who were compromised and captured in Balochistan. While the story is set in Balochistan, shooting there was not possible. Thus, the creators of the show have transformed Ladakh into Balochistan, utilising the grey and brown landscape of the union territory to imitate the similar topography of Pakistan’s largest province. Skillfully done, the soothing views of Ladakh are masked by the packed action and drama of the show.
The songs of the film are still on the tip of our tongues, as are the patriotic scenes ever floating in our vision. A romantic drama sewn into a war setting, Lakshya is a journey of an unambitious Karan Shergill (Hrithik Roshan) from a carefree student to a dedicated soldier. While the first half of the film primarily take place in Delhi, the second half is dominated by the views of Ladakh. Another case of a stand-in setting, the landscape in Ladakh is used to depict Kargil, where the climax portrays a fictional war. Patriotism and passion are heavy themes in the film, often emphasised by the plain brown background.
Road to Ladakh
A 50 minute short film, Road to Ladakh is a story of a mysterious drug smuggler (played by Irrfan Khan) and a reckless woman Sharon who gets enamoured by the dangerous life led by him. When they both are spotted by an officer of the Indian Army, Sharon effortlessly adapts to a fictitious story claiming to be a married couple. The short featurette tends to focus on the intimate growing relationship between the two characters. However, it is noticeable even in the trailer that the brown sands of Ladakh are emphasised as compared to the rest of the picturesque views in order to complement the thrilling story.
While the movie is not considered to be a masterpiece of any sorts, Tubelight still maintains well-done frames, often highlighting the background along with the story. The plot revolves around a dim-witted individual and his brother’s relationship in the time of the 1962 Indo-China war. It also has a parallel romantic storyline woven into it. The entire shoot was split between Manali, Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Ladakh. Scenes showing the army participation have been shot in Ladakh. In fact, a scene from the movie has been located at the same bridge where the 3 idiots climax is shot.
An ensemble cast with well-renowned actors in Bollywood, LOC Kargil is a depiction of individual lives of soldiers based on the 1999 Operation Vijay at the Line of Control. While the movie highlights personal relationships and the distance of armed officers from their loved ones at fragile times of war, it also shows the camaraderie and patriotic spirit of the army. It is only understandable considering the geological features of Ladakh, that it is often used as the backdrop to depict war movies (frequently as Kargil). The final war scenes are shot in Leh, Ladakh and evoke very strong emotions with the plotline.
Way Back Home Series (Episode 11-12)
Way Back Home Series is an interesting Indian travelogue that follows various individuals travelling through different destinations, exploring cultures through music, dance, sports and adventure. Episode 11 and 12 of the series is dedicated to Ladakh and reveals the vibrant culture that thrives in Ladakh’s gentle settings. It is a unique showcase of Ladakh and its people through the eyes of a traveller. The episodes are short and to the point, yet enjoyable nevertheless.
Off Road with Gul Panag: Ladakh
The documentary format helps the Way Back Home Series to discover and expose more of the Ladakh landscape than any fictional movie. Hosted by Indian actress Gul Panag, the docu-series on the Discovery Channel sees Panag and her friend Swati take an adventurous road trip through the Ladakh terrain. Comprising of three episodes, the docu-series unfolds many scenes of the union territory and its culture along the way.