Gyrating actresses in monochrome chiffon sarees, love struck actors rolling down perfectly manicured meadows, snowball fights in subzero temperatures without visible ugly thermal wear…does it all ring a bell? Not just any bell, but a cowbell? If the answer is ‘Yes’, you are definitely a fan of Yash Chopra’s concocted fantasies in Switzerland.
Funnily enough, you will never realise how filmy you are until you’re in Switzerland. Deviating from charted itineraries, you’ll always want to see where Sunny Deol trampled wildflowers while dancing to Yara ‘O’ Yara, recreate Chandni moments with ugly sweaters, ride the toboggan that pumped up Ranbir and Minissha’s adrenaline, and experience decades of such Alpine screenplays on location.
As a dorky teenager in the 90s, my fascination with Switzerland started with Raj and Simran of Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, popularly referred to as DDLJ. For the uninitiated, this movie featuring a hero with a funny mop of hair and an unibrowed heroine gave youngsters hope that everyone gets to live a fairytale love story.
Switzerland decked up the romance with misty mountains, emerald lakes, charming city backdrops, panoramic SBB trains, flushing fields and gushing Alpine streams. Who wouldn’t fall in love when flanked by such gorgeousness? I strongly believe the opening credits should have read – ‘Starring Shahrukh Khan, Kajol and Switzerland’.
As tourists to this land of scenic superlatives, we never actively sought out the movie’s locations. It’s difficult when you’re bound by tight train times and an ambitious itinerary. Now, as residents of Switzerland, we have both the privilege and leisure to walk the same grounds as Raj and Simran. So one beautiful autumn morning, we took the earliest train connections to Zweisimmen and Saanen, two of the four major locations of DDLJ in Switzerland.
We walked along the platform of Zweisimmen station where Simran misses her train, stood on the bridge in Saanen where Raj says ‘Palat’ (turn back), went to the tiny souvenir shop where Simran buys a cowbell… reliving the romance, dialogue by dialogue, scene by scene. The mandolin music rang in our ears as we drifted and twirled in slow motion, looked at each other starry eyed. After all, our story too, as love-struck teenagers began the same year as Raj and Simran’s, landing up as husband and wife where it all started!
‘Switzerland, naam toh suna hi hoga!’
(Note: the cover photo with our faces Photoshopped on the original DDLJ poster flawlessly by Prachee Kapoor was a gift by our friends as an ode to classic romance)
Getting there: Saanen is around 3hrs from Zurich HB and one stretch is on board the GoldenPass Panoramic train for beautiful views of the valley.
Tours: If you are itching to relive some filmy fantasies, you can combine it with fabulous gastronomy and chocolate tours in the beautiful Gstaad region. Check it out here and make the most of Chopra’s relic of romance.
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