Feature: Bollywood in Las Vegas
Las Vegas. Sin City. Whatever you want to call it, this vibrant city has oodles of character. It's been featured in several Hollywood films - The Hangover being the most popular recent example. Whatever's been depicted on celluloid is just the tip of the iceberg however. You never really get a feel of the place until you've actually been there. Having just returned from the mad mad city recently, there's just one word I can use to describe the place. Overwhelming. The lights, the crowds, the madness, the mayhem. It's all very full on.
Vegas is known primarily for gambling, shopping, and fine dining and is the leading financial and cultural centre of Southern Nevada. The city bills itself as The Entertainment Capital of the World, and is famous for its consolidated casino–hotels and associated entertainment.
A backdrop in several Hollywood blockbusters, our own Bollywood bigwigs and hot shot directors are yet to tap into the place and the wonders it beholds. Quite surprising really given how much our filmmakers love to shoot in exotic foreign locations. Guess the reason behind this is probably the fact that the place has so much character you could never dress it up as a fictitious location or somewhere in India.
However, there are a few filmmakers that have ventured into Nevada to shoot their prized productions, and integrated the city into their plots - albeit with varying degrees of success.
So without much ado, presented below are the five Bollywood films, that were shot in Vegas, and the context in which they incorporated the Entertainment Capital of The World into their screenplays.
Subhash Ghai was the first filmmaker to shoot in the city that dazzles. In the film, Rajiv (Apoorva Agnihotri) a wily, wayward brat whisks away his fiancee Ganga, (a cliched desi chic played to near perfection by a fresh faced Mahima Chaudhary in her debut) to Vegas only to be pursued by her knight in shining armour, Arjun (Shah Rukh Khan). In one of the most popular songs of the time ('Yeh Dil Deewana') sung with gusto by Sonu Nigam, both Khan and Chandhary are seen individually in Vegas amongst other popular tourist hotspots across the west coast. One of Ghai's better films, the few scenes that were shot in Vegas highlighted quite successfully Ganga's isolation and how she's in awe with the sheer magnitude of the place.
Video: 'Yeh Dil Deewana' - Pardes
Originally a South Indian film by Shankar, and translated into several languages, the initial portions of Jeans starring Prashanth and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan were shot in Vegas. The city didn't play as big a part in the overall scheme of things, seeing as Shankar was too busy shooting at other hotspots across the world (including Los Angeles and the Grand Canyon), and the film itself wasn't up to much either. Even though its Tamil version did well, the HIndi version flopped miserably at a time when Rai Bachchan's career was nearly written off.
Interesting trivia: While shooting in Las Vegas, Rai Bachchan was honoured with a Key of Las Vegas, commemorating her celebrity status and her visit to the city.
Vegas had a major part to play In Anurag Basu's Kites, and of the five films, Kites was the one film that, to an extent, managed to integrate the city in its plot rather well, but at the same time, failed to showcase the razzle dazzle outside choosing to instead focus more on the dances and shots inside the casinos themselves.
In the film, a dance teacher (played by Hrithik Roshan) is based in Vegas. In addition to his day job, he marries immigrant women to get them green cards. When the rich daughter of a powerful casino owner (Kangna Ranaut) falls for him, Roshan's character plays along for the money.
Almost the entire first half of the film was shot in Vegas, while in the second half the film shifts focus to Mexico.
Although made on a grand scale, the film fell flat on its face at ticket windows - but kudos to the Roshans for at least attempting to think outside the box.
Video: Kites in Vegas
Anjaana Anjaani (2010)
In the same year as Kites the Ranbir-Priyanka starrer Anjaana Anjaani was partly shot in Vegas.
The plot revolves around a suicidal couple, Akash and Kiara who make a bucket list before they top themselves, and one of the things on their to do list is to hit Vegas. The song 'I Feel Good' does rather well in capturing the essence of the madness that is Vegas, and is perhaps was one of the few highlights of Siddharth Anand's otherwise epic dud. The fact that the song itself was composed so well by Vishal Shekhar only added to the overall impact of the visuals. A good looking film with very little substance, Anjaana Anjaani could have been so much more, but alas it failed on nearly all counts.
Video: 'I Feel Good' - Anjaana Anjaani
Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu (2012)
In what was a blatant lift of the Ashton Kutcher-Cameron Diaz starrer What Happens In Vegas, albeit with an Indian touch, Shakun Batra's Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu was almost entirely set in Vegas.
Featuring Imran Khan as an uptight architect living in Las Vegas, who ends up marrying Kareena Kapoor's character accidentally after a drunken night out, this sweet romcom, used Vegas more a a backdrop with the focus being more on highlighting the moments between the characters and the evolution of their friendship. Nonetheless, it did really well in capturing the atmosphere and buzz of the place especially in the film's catchy title song composed by Amit Trivedi.
Video: Title Song - Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu
Vegas is visually stunning (even if a little tacky) and it would be good to see our filmmakers exploiting the city's locations a bit more. It has the required pizazz, bright lights, and loud locations that Bollywood filmmakers often integrate into their music videos. So what's stopping them? Perhaps its the prohibitive expenses of the place. Either way the Swiss Alps, New York and even London are getting a bit cumbersome to watch... so its time production houses experimented a bit more, and exposed Indian audiences to the the exuberance of the city of Sin.