Gstaad, Switzerland and the Bollywood connection

A Swiss ski resort, two of India’s biggest film stars, and a 50 year old cinema in downtown Mumbai – join the dots.

If you are a fan of Bollywood, the Indian mass-market film industry, the answer might be quite obvious; Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge!

(Image: Yash Raj Films)

(Image: Yash Raj Films)

The hit Indian film, released in 1995, stars Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol as students who meet while travelling around Europe, presumably on a Eurail pass. When they wind up together in the pretty Swiss mountain village of Gstaad, their inevitable romance blossoms – and the rest is Indian cinema history.

(Image: Chainimage)

(Image: Chainimage)

So successful was the film that the Maratha Mandir cinema in Mumbai screened it for 20 years until 2015 (setting a record in the process) – and then reinstated its screening when cancellation was met with protests by adoring fans.

Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol, nearly 20 years after DDLJ's release (Image: Bollywood Hungama, Wikimedia Commons)

Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol, nearly 20 years after DDLJ’s release (Image: Bollywood Hungama, Wikimedia Commons)

Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (Hindi for “The Big-hearted One Takes The Bride”), or “DDLJ” as it’s affectionately known, is frequently listed as one of the most popular and most successful Indian films of all time. Its threading of non-conventional romance into a family picture won widespread praise from various sections of society – conservative and progressives alike. And its setting and theme; young adults enjoying their youthful freedom on the railways of Europe, in picture perfect settings such as the Swiss Alps, seduced a whole generation of would-be travellers.

Gstaad

One afternoon when I was planning my trip to Europe this year, Amit tuned into DDLJ which was enjoying one of many re-runs on an Indian satellite channel. Inspired by the setting from a young age (and excited by the prospect of visiting it himself), he googled the setting of the Simran and Raj’s romance in the film – Gstaad and Saanen in Switzerland.

Gstaad

Fast-forward ten months, and here we are – in Gstaad – along with a handful of other travellers on the DDLJ trail (I assume this, because surely there aren’t many other reasons which would draw a high concentration of Indians to this humble mountain village, and especially in summer when all the ski resorts are closed).

Downtown Gstaad

And it didn’t disappoint. We stood on the bridge near the railway station, we visited the church where Simran wanted to visit before she left Saanen, and we walked along the platform where the lovers said goodbye. And it was awesome.

Saanen church

Saanen bridge

Saanen station

Have you seen DDLJ? Or have you ever been inspired to visit anywhere because of a film? Comment below!

Comments (8)

  • Andrew Boland Reply

    which film had dancers outside canberra’s parliament house? I remember seeing it in Malaysia at an Indian Guesthouse in Penang.

    September 6, 2016 at 12:05 pm
    • Tim Blight Reply

      Soooooo…. after some Googling, I found out it was Aap Mujhe Achche Lagne Lage! I haven’t seen it – was it any good? I can’t believe they filmed it in Canberra, of all places!!

      September 8, 2016 at 6:23 pm
  • veena Reply

    21 years later this is still one of my all-time favourites! When a friend of mine was under the weather in July I introduced him to this movie, and he loved it. I’m still disappointed with myself that I didn’t go see it when I lived in Bombay a few years ago, but it’s such a comfort to know it’s still screening there.

    Lovely photos, thanks for sharing your visit! I’d love to see it for myself one day!

    September 8, 2016 at 4:59 am
    • Tim Blight Reply

      Thank you!! I hope you can go there one day – and I would love to see DDLJ at the Maratha Mandir too – we should book a whole cinema for a group of us travel bloggers one time!!

      September 8, 2016 at 6:20 pm
  • Renuka Reply

    Thank you for refreshing my DDLJ memory! I still want to book a ticket at Maratha mandir and watch it.

    September 8, 2016 at 4:38 pm
    • Tim Blight Reply

      I still love that film!! And if you do go to the Maratha Mandir and see it, I’d love to hear about the experience – how many people were in the audience, what the cinema is like, etc… it sounds like a real Mumbai institution!!

      September 8, 2016 at 6:22 pm
      • Sonia Reply

        Hi Tim (and other DDLJ experienced individuals), we’re celebrating our famiky members’ 20th marriage anniversary in GStaad and got this last minute idea of capturing their special day with the help of a photographer. Do u have any suggestions if ppl who could help (amateur or a pro photographer foesnt matter) . Thankful for any suggestions!!!

        May 10, 2017 at 6:14 am
        • Tim Blight Reply

          Thanks for reading – I don’t know of anyone, but I wish you all the best for the special day!

          May 10, 2017 at 5:57 pm

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