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PrintRaj Kapoor may well have given Bollywood cinegoers their first peek at the Alps in the 1964 Sangam, and after him several filmmakers tried to cash in on ‘foreign locations’ with unimaginatively titled offerings such as An Evening in Paris and Love in Tokyo. However, many of these stories ended up being contrived attempts to locate a few scenes in picturesque cities.

The 1970s saw locations becoming ‘characters’ in films: Nepal in Hare Rama Hare Krishna, London in Des Pardes, and Venice in The Great Gambler. But it took Yash Chopra to implant Switzerland into the collective psyche of several generations. (The Swiss even named a lake after Chopra.)

Unlike others filmmakers, Chopra didn’t link the plot with the location. So while Amitabh Bachchan and Rekha conducted their extramarital activities in Silsila in Bombay, the glorious Dekha Ek Khwab was shot in tulip fields in Keukenhof in The Netherlands. And while the path of true love in Chandni ran from Delhi to Bombay, it took several detours in Switzerland so that star-crossed lovers Sridevi and Rishi Kapoor could sing several ballads.

Although others attempted the formula by transposing the lead pair onto beaches in Mauritius (Dulhan Hum Le Jayenge), glaciers in Alaska (Pukar) and the Great Wall of China (Jeans), few had Chopra’s eye. With the super hit Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, Chopra discovered the winning combo that would appeal to both desi and expatriate audiences: the travails of the wealthy NRI.

For scores of Chopra wannabes, London, New York and Sydney continue to be favourite shooting destinations, followed by Toronto, Miami and San Francisco. And the poorer auteurs? They are still shooting songs on the beaches in Greece (Tashan), at the pyramids in Egypt (Singh Is King) and on the streets of Singapore (Krrish).

After all, it is not really love until you have danced in tulip fields, struck a pose atop a glacier and tearfully parted at a subway station.

– Soha Ahmed

 First published in the Adbuzzzz Section of The DAWN National Weekend Advertiser on April 28, 2013.