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Darjeeling and Sikkim is eye spot location for filmmakers


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We have always been drawn to these two places - Darjeeling and Sikkim, for their snow, mist, fog, mountains, multicultural, tea, and toy trains. From time immemorial, various locations of these two northeast India have depicted numerous stories of love, loss, adventure, and freedom on the celluloid and It is always like a romantic saga. 

Darjeeling and Sikkim share an iconic bond with the film industry of India. The makers and producers of Indian cinema have come here for their craft to be outspread in its true sense. Now let’s look into the details of the significance of these two places in terms of location and overall filmmaking business. 

Sikkim is a state in northeastern India. It borders Tibet in the north and northeast, Bhutan in the east, Nepal in the west, and West Bengal in the south. Sikkim is also close to India's Siliguri Corridor near Bangladesh. Sikkim is the least populous and second smallest among the Indian states. A part of the Eastern Himalaya, Sikkim is notable for its biodiversity, including alpine and subtropical climates, as well as being a host to Kanchenjunga, the highest peak in India and the third-highest in the world. 

Darjeeling is a city and a municipality in the Indian state of West Bengal. It is located in the lesser Himalayas at an elevation of 2,000 meters (6,700 ft). It is noted for its tea industry, its views of Kanchenjunga, the world's third-highest mountain, and the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Darjeeling is the headquarters of the Darjeeling District which has a partially autonomous status called Gorkhaland TerritorialAdministration within the state of West Bengal. It is also a popular tourist destination in India.

Both these heavenly places are located very close to each other making it a hotspot for tourists as well as explorers.

The age-old bond: If we walk through the corridors of film making, especially in terms of the Indian film industry, the contribution of the hill stations of Darjeeling and Sikkim is undeniable. Right from Raj Kapoor and Nargis starrer Barsat in 1949 to Barfi and Yaarian in recent times, many blockbusters have been shot here and many more are due to. The panorama of the majestic locations of Sikkim was caught in the frames of the famous film Jewel Thief where Dev Anand acted in his prime time. And how can we ever forget the mesmerizing tunes of Aradhana, which was shot in the hills of Darjeeling in 1969? The meandering roads of the hills and the glance of the toy train caught the attention of the entire population irrespective of their age. The list is endless if we talk about other hits like Bobby, Mera Naam Joker, and Road to Sikkim among others. The deep connection between Darjeeling and Sikkim and the film industry is still thriving.

Why Darjeeling is famous among directors

Filmmakers have been giving a lot of love and importance to this beautiful and serene hill station of North Bengal. Let’s find out the primary reasons for this.

The tea industry and Darjeeling are synonymous. The hill station is located at an elevation of 6710 ft. The youthful vibe and rich cultural heritage of the place attract both tourists and filmmakers. The pristine forests and holiness of this beautiful town create the perfect atmosphere for filmmaking. This UNESCO world heritage site is also famous for its beautiful weather and trekking opportunities. From Aaye Din Bahar Ke in 1966 to Barfi in 2012, Darjeeling has been the destination for numerous filmmakers. Now let’s talk about the famous shooting spots in Darjeeling, the most beautiful town in north Bengal.

  • Darjeeling clock tower: The hourly dings, the musical note, and the huge colonial-style tower make the entire clock tower area very filmy. This is one of the most significant locations of the town and an important landmark too. Several scenes and songs of Bollywood films have been shot with the tower in the backdrop.
  • St. Paul School: Situated at the height of 7800 ft, this 190-year-old school is another beautiful shooting location which is famous for directors since the 1970s. The school is located in the picturesque backdrop of the blue mountain range, and it is one of the biggest tourist destinations of Darjeeling. Various superhit films, right from Mera Naam Joker to Main Hoon Na have been shot on the campus of this school, which is a treat to the eyes.
  • Toy trains: If you are mesmerized by the serenity of Darjeeling, then toy trains are another reason to fall for this place. Many filmmakers have told their heart-wrenching stories on these trains that offer a blissful joyride to tourists traveling from Darjeeling to Jalpaiguri. The charming view of the blue hills and tea estate and lush green forests is the sole attraction of this trip. The quaint train boogies have featured in several films.
  • Sukhna forest range: Under the reserved forest area, this forest range, also known as the Mahananda Wildlife Sanctuary is located on a plot of around 158 square kilometers. Because of its safari opportunities both in the morning and also in the evening, filmmakers flock to this place to shoot the adventurous episodes of their films. Besides, this forest range is a paradise for hundreds of birds, both domestic and migratory. Around 330 different types of animals inhabit this place, and therefore, Mahananda Wildlife Sanctuary serves as an important shooting location for our films.
  • Tea estate: A visit to Darjeeling has not been completed without exploring its world-famous tea estates. Both filmmakers and tourists could not resist praising the untouched and pristine beauty of the lush tea gardens that have been the signature site of this hill station. To enjoy nature closely and be assimilated with the local culture and heritage, it is a must to spend a day in the tea estate. Though as a filmmaker, you need to seek permission from the Bengal government about any kind of shooting, be it film or commercial, at this place. But it is worth the attempt.
  • Tiger hills and Mirik: Tiger Hills is the highest point in Darjeeling located at 8482 ft. The exotic view of the Himalayan ranges has been captured in many films by using advanced cameras and other latest technological methods. The sunrise and sunset create a sedative atmosphere in the valley. Mirik is also a well-known tourist spot located in the midst of calm and beautiful hills with lake Sumendu complimenting the atmosphere. This tiny place is also gaining popularity among nature photographers and filmmakers from across the globe. Passing through the verdant tea estates, this place is merely a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Darjeeling.

Sikkim, the upcoming filmy hotspot

Sikkim is emerging as one of the most promising film shooting destinations over the past few years. Various regional and biggest Bollywood films are being shot in this place. Last year, a Hindi film, Ladki, was shot in various scenic locations, including Yumthang valley, Lachung, Nathang valley, and several places of north Sikkim. Shooting films provide a great opportunity for local talents as well. Right from line producer to technicians to dancers, a lot of regional touches are associated when films are shot in such a natural and raw atmosphere. Since music legend A.R. Rahman has been appointed as the brand ambassador of Sikkim, a lot of enthusiasm has been going around about this place.

Places that make Sikkim a much sought-after destination for directors

Wonders come in small packages. This saying comes true when you visit Sikkim. Tucked away in the lap of the enormous Himalayas, Sikkim is the second smallest state in the country. It is the gateway of northeast India. Let’s find out the charismatic locations of this state where every frame of a film shot creates magic.

  • Gangtok: You may believe it or not but the alluring charm of Gangtok is almost irresistible to tourists. This is the capital city of Sikkim, nestled in the eastern Himalayas. Once here, everyone will want to capture some essence of this place in their heart. Be it lush green forests, flowing rivers, serene beauty of the mountains, or just enjoy having mental peace sitting in a corner tea shop, you can find everything here. This place is also famous as an economy film shooting spot with lots of packages being extended to film crew units.
  • Yuksom: It is located in the western Himalayas. From Yuksom, you can experience several enthralling treks to Kanchenjunga and other peaks. This hamlet is famous for its rustic and pristine appeal. Yuksom is also known as the meeting place of three Lamas. The place is slowly gaining momentum in the field of commercial tourism. The pictorial oldest monastery of Sikkim is located in this place.
  • Tsomgo Lake: Tsomgo or Changu lake is a must-visit place of Sikkim. When it comes to shooting a film, this place gives stiff competition even to foreign locales. It is located just around 38 kilometers from the capital city and lies at an altitude of 12400 ft. One of the highest lakes in India, Changu remains entirely frozen during winter, making it even more picturesque. During summer, the turquoise water of the lake creates an amazing atmosphere in the area with blue sky on top.
  • Nathula Pass: The historic silk road is here. A visit to Nathula is included in almost all tour packages. Again, this connecting point of Sikkim and Tibet is very famous provided you have the required pass to visit this place.
  • Lachung: There are many reasons to fall in love with Lachung. Located at the altitude of 8610 ft, it is one of the most loved snow destinations of Sikkim. The quaint mountain range coupled with the azure Changu lake enhances the beauty of this place. As a filmmaker, this could be the ideal place to shoot the most romantic scenes of their film.
  • Ravangla: Nestled amid the Tendong and Maenam hills, Ravangla has already served as a perfect film shooting spot for many directors of the east and the northeast. It is a scenic town between Pelling and Gangtok. The most popular treks of Sikkim also start from here. This place is also considered the paradise of bird watchers.
  • Rumtek Monastery: The enthralling Rumtek monastery is one of the oldest prayer zones of Sikkim. This place is an ode to the Buddhist culture. We have seen in various films how monasteries provide an aesthetic and pictorial contribution to any film shot on its campus. Rumtek is even beyond that experience. It is a place of peace and serenity.
  • Jawaharlal Nehru Botanical Garden: It is located in close proximity to Rumtek Monastery. According to experts, the Nehru botanical garden is another important shooting location. It is the home to many rare and exotic species of plants and herbs. You can find various rare orchids here as well. Acres of lush green lawn and beautifully procured trees make this place a must-visit location for both filmmakers as well as tourists.
  • Zuluk: Now comes the unusual one. Zuluk is one of the most underrated and undiscovered tourist places in Sikkim. Located at an altitude of 10000 ft, this place is considered the ancient silk route of eastern India. From the top of Zuluk, you can get a panoramic view of the Kanchenjunga. Zuluk can be an interesting shooting location for those trying to experiment with their locations. Also, this is a nice and tiny hamlet with an indigenous population.
  • Yumthang Valley: In terms of beauty and serenity, Yumthang valley is no less than a costly shooting location in Switzerland. The difference is, here, the shooting charge is less. During monsoon, the valley looks its best and displays the most enchanting colors of nature. Located at an elevation of around 3500 meters, this scenic valley is the hub of many exotic wildflowers.

Package perk to film units: The Bengal tourism development corporation is ready to woo filmmaking crews that are scouting for shooting locations. Several packages designed to cater to their individual needs and overall support. Logistic assistance, accommodation, bulk booking of various outdoor facilities, and technical support, along with booking private properties at discounted rates, such cooperation is being extended to the filmmakers and their teams by the government of both these states.

The USP behind locations: Many regions of Darjeeling and Sikkim are free for shooting. Even the popular places mentioned above are available at a very economical rate. That is why the increased number of both regional and national level directors are moving in these places with the teams. And the number will rise further. Films based on world tourism, wildlife, and conservation of nature and its resources are also shot in these two places on a regular basis.

Darjeeling and Sikkim are thriving locations for film shooting. With all required amenities and support systems build here, these two places are changing the cliché concept with the outdoor shooting. New, pristine locations, young local talents, and supportive governmental gestures are all the budding and experienced directors looking forward to turning their ventures into reality in the hills.

 

Mode of Reach to Sikkim:

Sikkim Helicopter Service: Bagdogra is also connected with Gangtok by daily helicopter service operated by Sikkim Tourism Development Corporation, and it takes only 20 minutes to reach Gangtok from Bagdogra. The 5-seater helicopter makes traveling to Sikkim easier, along with being an incredible way of witnessing the majestic state, like never before. The passengers on this helicopter are awarded a Certificate of Participation by the Sikkim Tourism Development Corporation.

Road: Siliguri is more or less the main gateway to Sikkim. National Highway 31A connects Gangtok to Siliguri. The scenic lush green forests on the banks of river Teesta on one side and the Eastern Himalayan range on the other side make the drive worthwhile. As stated earlier, public vehicles including buses, shared jeeps and auto-rickshaws are available from Siliguri to Gangtok, Kalimpong, Kurseong, etc. at frequent intervals. You can also opt for a private cab from Siliguri to travel further.

 

Railway: Sikkim does not have a proper train network. The nearest major railway station is New Jalpaiguri (NJP) which is about 6-7kms from Siliguri and 130 km from Gangtok. Very few selective trains pass through Siliguri, which is approximately 114 km from Gangtok. Onward journey from Siliguri or New Jalpaiguri railway station is possible by road.

 

Air: The nearest accessible airport to Sikkim is in Bagdogra which is approximately 124 km from Gangtok, the capital city of Sikkim. Bagdogra airport has both public and private transport options for the onward journey. 50 meters away from the terminal building, the local taxi stand has both shared and private jeeps for Darjeeling, Siliguri, Gangtok, etc. Further down, around 700-800 m from the taxi stand there is good availability of public buses and shared autos for the same.

 

Mode of Reach to Darjeeling

Road: There is a regular bus service from Siliguri to Darjeeling which is approximately 70 km away. Bus services are also available from nearby towns like Kurseong and Kalimpong. Alternatively, you can also drive down to Darjeeling from nearby cities like Siliguri, Kalimpong, and Kurseong. The road network is quite good with stunning mountain landscapes.

Railway: The nearest railway station is New Jalpaiguri Railway Station (NJP) in Siliguri, 62 km from the main town. It connects all the major Indian cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Bangalore, Cochin, Chennai, etc. The Darjeeling Himalayan Railways' famous toy train service starts at New Jalpaiguri and will get you to Darjeeling in about 7 hours.

Air: Bagdogra Airport is the nearest air connection in Siliguri. The local carriers like Air India, Jet Airways, Indigo, SpiceJet, and others have direct flights from Delhi, Guwahati, and Kolkata. On reaching the airport, you can hire a taxi to get to Darjeeling, which will take you around 3 hours. BAGDOGRA AIRPORT - 38 km from Darjeeling

 

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