Ranbir Kapoor's Barfi! emerges as Darjeeling's brand ambassador

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By Hindustan Times

Barfi! with a global audience is all set to emerge as the brand ambassador for the Queen of the Hills. A contended director Anurag Basu talking to HT over the phone from Mumbai stated: "I am utterly pleased with the news of Barfi being selected to be screened in the Oscars next year in the foreign film category. But I am equally pleased that the world will see Darjeeling on the silver screen."

Film Barfi! depicting the love between a deaf and a mute boy (Ranbir Kapoor) and an autistic girl (Priyanka Chopra) shot extensively in Darjeeling, has been chosen as India's official entry for the Academy Awards in the foreign language film category.

After having become an instant box office hit and stealing millions of hearts in India with its simplistic and moving narratives the movie is now all set to conquer foreign shores.

"It has been selected for many film festivals including the 17th Busan , Marrakesh and Taipei Film festivals. With Barfi, Darjeeling as a tourist as well as a film destination will travel worldwide. I am very happy both for Barfi and Darjeeling. I want to watch the film in Darjeeling," stated Basu.

Anurag Basu's most personal film and Ranbir Kapoor's biggest opener so far, Barfi! is predicted to win global hearts. The film's potential to break through the language barrier has given it the edge feel critics.

Darjeeling in the yesteryears was a much sought after film destination. However steeped in political strife and having been a witness to two major statehood agitations, Darjeeling lost out to newer film destinations in India and abroad.

With the formation of the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA- an autonomous administrative arrangement for the Darjeeling Hills) and the return of peace, Darjeeling is all set to make a comeback.

"Barfi! is one of the few good things that has happened to Darjeeling lately. With peace having returned and everyone trying to reestablish Darjeeling's brand image, Barfi! is definitely an auspicious and lucky breakthrough. It will definitely boost Darjeeling as a tourism and film destination brand" said Raj Basu, convener, Association for Conservation and Tourism (ACT).

Basu feel's that this periodic film set in the 70s has been able to successfully capture the true spirit of Darjeeling. "We always want old Darjeeling and its institutions to return. That part of Darjeeling which is embedded in our hearts and minds. Those institutions that have produced even Hollywood stars like Erick Avari and Vivien Leigh fame. The film has managed to project this," added Basu.

Avery, born in Darjeeling and educated in St. Joseph's School, North Point, Darjeeling has films like Stargate, Independence Day, The Mummy, Daredevil, Home Alone, Planet of the Apes to his credit. Viven Leigh born in Darjeeling and having studied at the Loreto Convent is know for her role in the classic Gone with the Wind.

Barfi! was shot in June 2011 and February 2012 extensively in Darjeeling. The locations included Sukna, Tindharia, Chowrasta, Darjeeling Himalayan Railway Station at Ghoom, Windamere Hotel, Keventer's and Planters Club.

"We have already congratulated Basu and the entire Barfi! team for being selected for the Oscar's. We will always remain indebted to them for their immense contribution in taking Darjeeling to the global arena. In future we look forward to all such ventures and will extend our cooperation. Barfi! is a true brand ambassador for Darjeeling," stated Binay Tamang, GTA member in charge of Information and Cultural Affairs.

The happiness of Mass Communication students of St. Joseph's College who had helped in the making of Barfi!, know no bounds. "In a place like Darjeeling which does not boast of a film industry, such opportunities hardly come by. We are indebted to the Barfi! team for giving us this golden chance and we are so happy that the film has made it to the Oscars. In a way even we have reached the Oscars" stated Yanchen Thapa, a student from Darjeeling who has acted in the film as Ileana's friend.

In Darjeeling to attend the Darjeeling Tea and Tourism Festival in 2011, director Mahesh Bhatt had said: "Why do we go to foreign shores for shoots when we have such a magical location (Darjeeling) in our very own backyard."

Films shot in Darjeeling include Aaradhana, Barsaat, Mera Naam Joker, China Town, Aye Din Bahar Ke, Baharon Ki mAnzil, Hariyali Aaur Raasta, Mausam, Professor, Do Annjaney, Barsaat Ki Ek Raat, Lahu Ke Do Raang, Raju Ban Gaya Gentleman, Baara Din, Via Darjeeling, Parineeta, Main Hoon Na. In 1962 Legendary filmmaker Satyajit Ray immortalized Darjeeling in his first colour film Kanchenjunga.

What the Government has failed to do, the film Barfi! has managed. It has earnestly promoted Darjeeling. Foreign tourists do not come to India to see Malls and building they come here to capture the unique flavour of India.

Barfi! has managed to do just this – capture the true flavour of the Darjeeling Hills. We hope to reap the benefits soon with a boost in tourism." added Pradeep Lama, General Secretary, Darjeeling Association of Travel Agents (DATA.) Every year around 4 lakh domestic tourists and around 25000 foreign tourists visit Darjeeling.

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