Chasing the Barfi! Trail in Darjeeling
Darjeeling and Indian Cinema share an eternal bond that has been celebrated through various movies as well as song sequences shot in this heavenly Himalayan hamlet. From Mere Sapno ki Rani to Main Chali Main Chali to Kasto Maza Hai, Darjeeling has ignited the imagination of many filmmakers since as early as the 1960s. Movies like Aradhana, Humraaz, Mausam, China Town, Barsaat ki Ek Raat, Bobby had already patronised Darjeeling. However, more recently we remember Darjeeling for movies like Parineeta, Barfi and the not so commercially acclaimed Yaariyan.
I personally loved Barfi and it was a delight watching all those locations which I had already visited and fallen in love with. I spent my childhood in the hills of Gangtok and Darjeeling was like the easy getaway for weekends. So, when Barfi first released I was more than simply ecstatic about watching it. I kept squealing throughout the movie explaining my friends, hey that’s Chowrasta, or that’s Keventer’s, oh no wait that shot was taken in Gangtok. (Yes, there is one shot which was filmed in Gangtok and I am pretty sure about it.)
The movie starts with the title song ‘Ala Barfi’ which is shot across many picturesque locations in Darjeeling and as the storyline progresses there are many more amazing places to be seen. Let me show you some of these which I could recognise and which I have visited.
Remember this scene where Ranbir is seen cycling around the town in his rickety bicycle blowing kisses to women and doing his regular stuff. Well, in this particular shot that is St. Andrew’s Church in the backdrop.
This is St. Andrew’s Church in its full glory. This Old Anglican Church is a remnant of the bygone colonial rule and somehow makes me wonder what must have been the life around this quaint little town when the British first started inhabiting it.
Ghoom Railway Station.
The Ghoom Railway Station has been shown many times in the movie. Remember when Ranbir follows Ileana after first seeing her in the toy train and offers her his beating heart on some wooden bridge?
Well, that’s the wooden bridge above the Ghoom Railway Station. Ghoom is the highest railway station in India located at a height of 2,258 metres. You will pass by this small yet iconic town on your way to Darjeeling. The Ghoom Monastery, Batasia Loop and the Ghoom Railway Museum are the main attractions at this place.
The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway.
The train, its steam engines and railway stations have been shown in many places in the movie Barfi and believe me till date the sight of a steam engine, chugging its way in and out of the railway stations and on the streets of Darjeeling is an incredibly amazing sight to witness.
When in Darjeeling do not forget to take a joyride from the Darjeeling railway station to Ghoom. You can opt for diesel engines or the steam engines. However, I would suggest you go for the Steam engines for an authentic experience. The tickets will cost you Rs 800 per person for the Diesel Engine ride and Rs 1300 for the Steam Engine rides.
The scene where Ranbir is seen following Ileana through the streets of Darjeeling and finally into a cafe where she and her friend settle for a cup of coffee, well, that is the famous Keventer’s located at the heart of Darjeeling on Nehru Road.
This cafe is as old as a century and still manages to delight its customers with its delicious menu. Mostly known for its perfect English breakfast and the chicken momos, Keventer’s is a must visit for any person visiting Darjeeling whether a food connoisseur or not. The top floor is where the seating arrangement is and the place where you get amazing views of the mountain range and the regular hustle bustle of the city. And once you step into the open terrace you can see the Clock Tower right ahead which takes us to the next scene in the movie. The terrace has these Victorian lamps and a seating arrangement that is downright romantic.
The Clock Tower.
The scene where Ranbir is seen professing his love for Ileana at Keventer’s is followed by the next scene where after her refusal he sends her a letter and asks her to look at the Clock Tower right ahead. He wants to turn back time by moving the hands of the clock backwards to start all over again as friends. How adorable was that?
Well, that’s the Clock Tower over the Darjeeling Municipality Building located on the Laden La road. This building once served as the Town Hall of Darjeeling.
This scene where Ranbir drops off Priyanka at her home after abducting her for a ransom because he needed the money for his father’s operation was shot at the Windamere Hotel. This is the entrance to the hotel from the rear side on the way up to the Mahakal Temple or the Observatory Hill.
In fact, Priyanka’s home shown in Barfi is entirely the Windamere Hotel. Windamere Hotel is the oldest Heritage Hotel in Darjeeling and is breathtakingly beautiful. Windamere can give you a true sense of time travel into the rich colonial era that has given Darjeeling its characteristic aura over the past years.
The way to Darjeeling.
In the movie Ranbir is shown using a wooden plank fitted with wheels to navigate around the city.
Those shops beside the railway tracks are pretty much real and you will see them everywhere on your way to Darjeeling from Sonada to Kurseong to Darjeeling. However, I didn’t witness anyone using such wooden planks with wheels.
Yes, you read that right. Not all the scenes of the mountains in Barfi were shot in Darjeeling. I could personally identify one such scene where a certain part was shot at the beginning of M.G.Marg in Gangtok. Remember the scene where Ranbir wakes up in the lap of a giant statue waiting to be inaugurated at the city centre?
Well, the city centre is Gangtok and not Darjeeling but the backdrop of the audience facing the statue doesn’t look familiar to me. That footbridge above is the one I used while returning home from school during my childhood days and the signage that says ‘Metro’s’ underneath is where I purchased softy ice-cream from every Saturday.
These are the few places I could identify during my stay in Darjeeling and also while watching Barfi for countless times. There are other iconic places in Darjeeling where the movie was shot and I will surely visit them too and probably update this post sometime later.
Movies have always fascinated me and have been a driving force behind shaping my wanderlust. Has any movie inspired you to go on a location chase? Have you been mesmerised by movies and their locations? Have movies ignited your wanderlust? If yes then let me know about your experiences? I would love to read about your experiences. Until then let me go back to my nth rerun of the movie while sipping on a perfectly brewed cup of Darjeeling tea.