When one sits down to thoroughly deconstruct the Indian traveller, what seems to have gradually emerged over the last few years is a rush to pay a sometimes ambitious, at times tantalising homage to the world’s bounty. Just a few months back, Indians were travelling furiously, until COVID-19 shook the world.
There still isn’t a downside to taking a holiday in these testing times and, honestly, one doesn’t need to burn a hole in one’s pocket to do that, or be jet lagged.
Winston Churchill felt that an hour spent in the seat of an airplane is never ever an hour wasted, but have you realised that there's a whole wide world that awaits you as an armchair traveller? And you don’t even need to pack your bags! Just plonk yourself into that sofa, or bed, or a comfy chair, to get a view of that unspoilt, uncrowded white sand beach with turquoise waters. We run through a list of slightly unconventional classic Bollywood and Hollywood movies that will remind you of that childhood family outing to a hill station or that first trip abroad
If It's Tuesday This Must Be Belgium (1969)
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As unusual and out of the world as this may seem, but for most Indians on a shoestring budget, the easiest way to visit Europe has been by doing a group tour. Arduous and challenging? Not really. And certainly not given the grab bag of all those wondrous countries on offer, all visited in a span of a little more than two weeks. The supremely handsome Ian Mcshane plays the legendary Brit tour guide to absolute perfection along with the ultra-glamourous Suzanne Pleshette in If It's Tuesday This Must Be Belgium (1969). This mother of all travel classics is a reminder that even in this global age of a slightly homogenising world, one can hope to imbue a simple sense of wonder. Except that the travellers here are a motley group of (mostly) Americans with vain egos, and care-a-damn attitudes. This results in simmering tensions, a few verbal outbursts and some funny situations that keep you hooked to your seat for the entire duration of the film.
And finally not to forget the stereotypes that this film brings to the fore–tourists asking for free souvenirs, not arriving on time, catching the wrong bus–we all know the drill, don’t we? Catch it on Netflix on a lazy Sunday afternoon
Love in Tokyo (1966)
This may sound a tad weird but as one relives Love in Tokyo (those from the Doordarshan era will know what I am referring to), one’s mind sort of darts back to all the sights showcased in the film. And there are quite a few in this one to inspire you. I have visited Japan, and I was yearning to go back. While this is a typical 60s frothy entertainer, if you are looking to head to the 'Far East' for a vacation post lockdown and have high expectations, look no further. For you will not be disappointed. Catch this flick to get a tour of Japan - a sort of a quick peek into its food, the people, the architecture, the culture
Thanks to the film, the first Japanese word that countless Indians learned was 'sayonara' (or farewell), thanks to the beautifully sung number 'Sayonara Sayonara' filmed on Asha Parekh around a park in central Tokyo. You can catch it on Zee 5 and Tata Sky Classic Cinema.
Pretty Polly (1967)
The best part about Shashi Kapoor’s legendary collaboration with Merchant Ivory’s brand of cinema is that size or style was never made to substitute for substance in all their films. Whether it was The Householder (1963) or Shakespeare-Wallah (1965), James Ivory always had an incisive non-formula story to tell. Both had these little tales of human whimsy that warmed our hearts and Pretty Polly though not a Merchant-Ivory production is no different. I have tried looking for this film and only recently was I able to lay my hands on this classic which surprisingly turned out to be a travel film shot mostly in Singapore.
With Shashi Kapoor playing the debonair Amaz Hudeen, and the lovely Hayley Mills, this one has complex family situations arising out of marital incompatibility, moral values, personal sensibilities and love and faith fighting for your attention, something that most of us can effectively relate to. Despite all this, it makes for a very entertaining travelogue. Fortunately a good version is now available on YouTube.
Yash Chopra put Switzerland on the travel itinerary of several Indians as a summer destination for its invigorating and bracing alpine air in the 90s, but did you know that he is one of the few filmmakers who was credited with capturing the beauty of Shimla like no other several eons ago.
Do watch the 1973 smash hit Daag. Shot entirely in Shimla, this love triangle starring the indefatigable Rajesh Khanna, and the two Bengal tigresses, Sharmila Tagore and Rakhee, can actually serve to provide an imperial starting point for those who wish to explore Himachal Pradesh.
While there have been a few movies prior to this which were also shot in Shimla, watch this one closely. Apart from breathtaking views of the Himalayas, snowy peaks and the steam-powered toy train from Kalka, the film captures a world of cliched Victorian charm that all honeymooning couples would like to explore including the mall, Gaiety Theatre and lawn tennis at the posh Viceregal Lodge.
For die-hard fans of Kaka like me, this one doesn’t disappoint one bit for both the travel sights on display (I am a huge fan of hill stations) and the gripping story line. If you are lucky enough to get an original poster from Chor Bazaar, you will notice all three stars posing against a Himalayan backdrop in Shimla. Watch it on Amazon Prime Video.