India, with its stunning locations and a deep reverence for cinema among its people, naturally hosts some incredible filming spots. While you might have various reasons to travel within India, exploring “movie filming locations” can be a fantastic motive in itself.
From majestic palaces to bustling streets, get ready to discover the magic behind the scenes of some iconic films right here in India.
- Curious case of Benjamin Button in Varanasi
- Masaan in Varanasi
- Guru in Madurai
- Meenakshi Sundareshwar in Madurai
- Premam in Kochi
- Action Hero Biju in Kochi
- Hridayam in Kochi
- Lagaan in Kutch
- Barfi in Darjeeling
- Three Idiots in Ladakh
You might want to explore other posts on real filming locations worldwide in Part 1 and Part 2.
Curious case of Benjamin Button in Varanasi
The idea of ageing in reverse is quite unbelievable. In the movie “Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” featuring Brad Pitt, the storyline revolves around this very concept. He is born as an old man and is cared for in a nursing home. The movie concludes with him turning into an infant, while his love interest, Daisy, ages normally, becoming an old lady.
In his pursuit for spirituality and tranquility, Brad Pitt’s character visits Varanasi- a place where people discover how to embrace life, love, and laughter.
In the movie, the scene where he visits Varanasi is filmed at Assi Ghat. However, one spot that truly inspired me and also served as one of the filming locations for “Curious Case of Benjamin Button” in Banaras, India is Manikarnika Ghat, commonly known as the burning ghat. Here, Brad Pitt’s character plays chess with a local guy seated on the upper section of the ghats beside a tilted temple, offering a stunning view overlooking the Ganges river.
Masaan in Varanasi
Often, the finest movies don’t quite hit blockbuster status. One gem in Indian cinema is “Masaan.” Set entirely in Varanasi, the story delves into the life of a common girl caught in a scandal and a boy from a family that earns a living through cremating bodies.
Beyond the two characters, Sanjay Mishra’s role shines through as Richa Chadda’s father, desperately trying to gather a large sum of money to bribe the police and save his daughter. The conversations that unfold on the Ghats of Varanasi are profoundly touching, unveiling stark realities that once heard, cannot be unheard. The Gana, steps of the ghats and it’s people are truly the soul of this movie.
Guru in Madurai
Some movies can be quite puzzling.
While the storyline may portray a village in Northern India, the filming actually takes place in southern India, showcasing a completely different culture and landscape. A prime example is the well-known film “Guru.” Abhishek Bachchan’s character, Gurukant Desai, supposedly comes from a small village named Idhar in Gujarat, India. Yet, the majority of the filming locations for the movie are actually located in southern India.
Guru movie filming locations in India
The film spans across various locations, from Mumbai to small towns in my home state of Karnataka, parts of Kerala and Tamil Nadu along with scenes shot in Istanbul, Turkey.
They beautifully shot the song “Tere Bina” at Madurai’s Thirumalai Nayak Palace. Interestingly, the song depicts a central water pond that doesn’t actually exist in the palace. Nevertheless, it remains one of the stunning spots in Madurai. They also filmed segments of the song in Karaikudi, renowned as the mansion village of India.
Meenakshi Sundareshwar in Madurai
“Meenakshi Sundareshwar” unfolds the tale of a deeply in love couple preparing for their traditional South Indian wedding in Madurai. Through the film, their relationship, cultural disparities, and the hurdles they face come to light against the vibrant backdrop of the city’s cultural tapestry, with the iconic Meenakshi Amman Temple adding to the allure.
While the movie might have some shortcomings, the local settings truly make it a worthwhile watch.
The Meenakshi Amman Temple often appears in the background. However, the real showstopper is the iconic Maariamman Kovil Teppakulam! Bustling traffic roads surround this pond from all directions! Before stepping into this area, it’s quite challenging to even notice such a serene place exists amidst the chaos. Strangely enough, despite the surrounding traffic, this place remains remarkably stunning.
Premam in Kochi
“Premam” is a Malayalam film. It tracks George, portrayed by Nivin Pauly, through three distinct life stages. He navigates love, heartbreak, and several relationships. Sounds like your usual love story, right? But trust me, it’s the awesome screenplay and those cool local spots that make it one of India’s best movies!
Premam Cafe in Kochi
Malayalam directors really know how to use their state as the perfect backdrop for movies. The charm of Malayalam films lies in their authenticity. In “Premam,” George meets his true love, Celine, at his own cafe, Agape. Might sound exaggerated, but that particular scene where Celine tries the red-velvet cake (and trust me, we’ve had our fair share of red velvet cakes after this scene) was just captivating.
This stunning cafe is in Fort Kochi and goes by the name Pepper House. Built in the 1850s as a spice warehouse in the traditional Kerala style with laterite stone and clay tiles for the roof, it has a rich history. Since 2013, it’s been the heart of the Kochi Biennale festival.
Action Hero Biju in Kochi
“Action Hero Biju” is a Malayalam film starring Nivin Pauly. It explores the life of a cop in a small Kerala town. Rather than a specific storyline, it showcases the real essence of life in Kerala. It depicts the daily challenges faced by cops.
For foreigners seeking a glimpse into everyday Indian life beyond the portrayal of slums, this movie is worth a watch. Trust me, you’ll thank me later!
Most of the movie scenes were filmed in and around Fort Kochi. The song “Pookkal Panineer” was shot in Jew Town, right within the heart of Fort Kochi.
Hridayam in Kochi
The 2022 Malayalam movie “Hridayam” weaves a triangular love story involving Pranav Mohanlal, Darshana Rajendran, and Kalyani Priyadarshan. It’s like a mixed bag of campus life flavors, offering a glimpse into those vibrant days.
Most of the filming locations for “Hridayam” are in Kochi, often referred to as the “Queen of the Arabian Sea” in India.
In one scene where Arun’s friend takes his online pal on a real date, they visit David Hall in Fort Kochi. This tranquil spot, constructed in 1695 by the Dutch East India Company, has been transformed into a cafe with ongoing art exhibitions.
Lagaan in Kutch
Indian movies indeed encompass a wide spectrum of themes. We’ve mastered the art of intertwining our favorite sport, cricket, with love stories, the harsh realities of British colonialism, and themes of patriotism. A prime example of this fusion is “Lagaan,” released in 2001.
Lagaan filming locations across Bhuj in Western India
Even though the village depicted in the movie was a constructed set on the empty fields of Kutch, it strikingly resembled the actual villages of Gujarat’s Kutch. You can visit these Bhunga house villages in Kutch easily. The palaces portraying the residences of the Maharaja and the British were filmed in real palatial settings.
Barfi in Darjeeling
Darjeeling has been a renowned tourist spot since the British Raj era. Surprisingly, I wasn’t initially eager to explore the “Queen of Indian Hills” until I watched “Barfi.” Filmmaker Anurag Basu’s unique style of capturing and portraying Darjeeling’s true essence made me reconsider my perception of it as an overly touristy destination filled with honeymooners.
My favorite scene, where Ranbir Kapoor uses a wooden plank with wheels to glide along the railway track, was captivating. The portrayal of the ancient steam engine, the rooftop cafe Keventers, and the colonial architecture in the movie inspired me to experience it firsthand at West Bengal’s Darjeeling during my two weeks Sikkim trip.
3 Idiots in Ladakh
There were movies that picked amazing Ladakh as their main filming locations in India. But when Rajkumar Hirani revealed Ladakh’s stunning beauty with its lakes and chilly deserts to Indians though the movie “3 Idiots”, it sent Indian tourists into a frenzy!
The climax scene of 3 Idiots was filmed at Pangong-Tso lake
The movie “3 Idiots” indeed had scenes filmed in various cities across India like Bangalore, Delhi, Manali, and Shimla. However, the second part, where Amir Khan portrays Phunsukh Wangdu reuniting with his buddies in Ladakh, is simply breathtaking.
While Phunsukh Wangdu is considered a fictional character, he is largely inspired by Sonam Wangchuk, who runs a school akin to the one depicted in the movie. However, since the release of “3 Idiots,” the issue of over-tourism has impacted the ecologically sensitive region of Ladakh, attracting hordes of tourists primarily interested in clicking photos, often without considering their environmental impact or responsibilities.
Which of these filming locations in India you would want to visit? Let us know in the comment section below.