Exploring Landscapes through Bollywood’s Lens

By Pankaj Debbarma

Bollywood, India’s colossal film industry, is renowned for its ability to transport audiences to a realm of boundless imagination and raw emotion. However, beyond the enchanting tales of love, heroism, and drama lies a hidden treasure – a fascination with landscapes, both physical and cultural. Just as geographers explore the Earth’s diverse terrains and the human societies inhabiting them, Bollywood uses its audio-visual artistry to traverse the wide spectrum of landscapes that define our world. In the world of Bollywood, narratives unfold within the confines of a cinematic screen but find their inspiration in the sprawling and diverse landscapes of our planet. The landscapes provide the backdrop, the canvas upon which the stories of human life, love, passion, and adventure are painted. Let’s embark on a cinematic journey through some iconic Bollywood scenes and explore the geographic wonders they showcase.

1. “Sholay”: The Rugged Deccan Plateau

Consider the iconic scene from “Sholay,” where the menacing Gabbar Singh takes a foreboding stroll against a backdrop of desolation and rugged boulders. These very rocks, a product of the Earth’s inner fire, emerge from the molten depths as lava, cooling and solidifying into igneous basalt. Over eons, the forces of erosion sculpt them into the weathered visage of the Deccan Plateau, a majestic canvas for this cinematic confrontation. Here, the geological history of the Deccan Plateau is woven into the fabric of a dramatic narrative, reminding us of the ancient and enduring forces that shape our planet.

2. “Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani”: The Himalayan Romance

In “Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani,” particularly the enchanting song “Subhanallah,” elevated landscapes take centre stage. These landscapes mirror the youthful, folded crustal bends of the Himalayan Mountain System. These grand formations, the result of ancient orogenetic movements, came into existence some 40 million years ago, offering a breathtaking backdrop to tales of love and adventure. Here, the majestic beauty of the Himalayas becomes a character in itself, evoking a sense of wonder and reverence for the Earth’s geological history.

3. “Bahubali”: Fantastical Landscapes

“Bahubali” thrills audiences with its stretched imaginings and fantastical landscapes, including scenes like the one in “Khoya Hain,” where the protagonist dares to scale towering peaks, where cascading water plunges vertically—a waterfall. This natural wonder emerges from the steep descent of a river over rocky ledges, a testament to the relentless fluvial erosion that shapes our world. “Bahubali” transports us to a realm where nature’s grandeur knows no bounds, and the landscape itself becomes a character in the epic tale.

4. “Ghazni’s Guzarish”: The Namib Desert’s Allure

In “Ghazni’s” “Guzarish” song, the leads exchange amorous glances amidst the vast sand sea of the Namib Desert in southern Africa. This extraordinary convergence of sand and water is framed by towering sand dunes, sculpted by aeolian processes over 55-80 million years. Here, the meeting of disparate seas is etched in the arid sands, as nature’s artistry unfolds. The Namib Desert’s desolate beauty becomes a canvas for love, reminding us of the stark contrasts and untamed allure of our world’s landscapes.

5. “Gully Boy”: The Reality of Dharavi

The gritty reality of urban landscapes in developing countries comes to life in “Gully Boy.” The protagonist resides in a congested, ramshackle slum—Dharavi, Asia’s largest. This colonial-era settlement, founded in 1884, swelled with factory workers and rural migrants seeking refuge from the expensive city centre. It stands as a testament to the diverse and dynamic human landscapes that shape our world. Here, geography intersects with social and economic factors, highlighting the complex interplay between human settlement and the urban environment.

6. “Dil Chahta Hai”: Goa’s Coastal Beauty

“Dil Chahta Hai” takes us on a coastal journey through Goa, revealing its highlands and inland waterways. This region, part of the Konkan coast, stands as an escarpment against the Western Ghats, separating it from the Deccan Plateau. The tributaries of the Zuari and Mandovi rivers crisscross its landscape, pulsating with life, while architectural marvels tell the tale of Goa’s 450-year Portuguese legacy, blending Eastern and Western influences in a unique cultural landscape. Here, geography and history converge, showcasing the intricate relationship between landforms and human culture.

7. “Ajab Prem Ki Ghajab Kahani”: Turkey’s Terraces

The enchanting travertine terraces of Pamukkale, featured in the song sequence “Tu Jaane Na,” transport us to Turkey. These terrestrial sedimentary rocks, shaped by the chemical dance of water and minerals, offer a glimpse of karst topography. Nature’s artistic expression on Earth’s canvas, the travertine terraces are a testament to the intricate interplay between geological processes and the shaping of stunning landscapes.

In the captivating world of Bollywood, landscapes emerge as more than just a backdrop for storytelling; they become integral characters in the narrative. This fusion of art and geography reminds us that beauty lies not only in the eyes of the beholder but also in the observations of the learner. Both geography and Bollywood share an enduring interest in landscapes, offering unique perspectives on the world we inhabit. As we journey through these cinematic landscapes, we are reminded of the endless wonders that surround us and the importance of keeping our senses awake to the stories they tell. Bollywood, with its magical storytelling, invites us to explore the geography of our world with a fresh perspective, making the ordinary extraordinary and the extraordinary a part of our everyday lives.

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4 thoughts on “Exploring Landscapes through Bollywood’s Lens”

  1. Thank you for your sharing. I am worried that I lack creative ideas. It is your article that makes me full of hope. Thank you. But, I have a question, can you help me?

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