Switzerland's enchanting landscapes have captured the imaginations of Indian filmmakers for over six decades.
High, snowy mountains, untouched lakes, and small, charming towns are often portrayed as ultimate beauty and love signs in movies. On the 60th-year celebration of this fruitful relationship, join us as we track the progression of Indian cinema's deep-rooted relationship with Switzerland.
The Beginnings of a Beautiful Friendship
The allure of Switzerland first graced Indian cinema in 1964 with Raj Kapoor's _Sangam_. This was the first Hindi film shot extensively across Europe, with sequences filmed across London, Paris, Venice, and Switzerland. The Obertor in Grindelwald served as a focal point, showcasing the magnificence of the Swiss Alps to Indian audiences for the first time.
Sangam paved the way for filmmakers to venture beyond India's borders to pursue fresh inspiration. Shammi Kapoor brought the glamour of Paris and the Swiss vistas to life in “An Evening in Paris” (1967). Subsequently, Dev Anand's directorial debut, “Prem Pujari” (1970), captured the lush meadows of Interlaken and Lake Lauenen, cementing Switzerland's appeal.
Watch a clip of Sangam, India's first movie shot in Switzerland:
Despite the logistical challenges of overseas filming, these pioneers recognized Switzerland's potential to transport viewers into foreign lands brimming with beauty. Their creative lens unveiled the charisma of Switzerland, setting the stage for Bollywood's leading men and ladies to sing and dance with endless vistas as their backdrop.
The Yash Chopra Legacy in Switzerland
If one filmmaker left an indelible impact on India's fascination with Switzerland, it is the master of romance himself - Yash Chopra. After touring the country in 1970 on the honeymoon with his wife Pamela, Chopra returned spellbound by Switzerland's landscapes.
His directorial debut, Aa Gale Lag Ja (1973), featured melodious tunes against the snow-capped peaks. But it was Chandni (1989) that immortalized Switzerland's charm through scenes set in picturesque locales like the Château de Chillon and the Bernese Alps.
Chopra's game-changing contribution came in 1995 with the release of Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (DDLJ). The iconic meadow of Oberhofen Castle, the sights of Montbovon, and Mount Titlis were the perfect canvas for Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol's on-screen romance.
DDLJ etched Switzerland forever in the minds of Indians as a dream destination brimming with beauty and love.
Such was Chopra's impact that a lake in Interlaken was renamed Yash Chopra Lake to honor his work. He was also awarded the honorary title of Ambassador of Interlaken.
Through the delicate poetry of his visual storytelling, Chopra forged an inseparable connection between Indian cinema and the enchanting locales of Switzerland. Soon, Switzerland became a destination for romantics, honeymooners, and nature lovers.
For many Indians, a European trip was incomplete without a visit to Switzerland.
Bollywood Movies Shot in Switzerland
Early Bollywood Movies
Beyond the directorial lens, Switzerland itself has been a pivotal character in numerous Bollywood blockbusters. Its inimitable locales have set the stage for some of Indian cinema's most etched songs, scenes, and stories.
Political unrest in Kashmir prompted the first Bollywood directors to explore the cinematic potential of mountainous landscapes beyond India's borders. This led Mumbai-based Hindi directors to seek out the Alpine scenery of Switzerland.
Shammi Kapoor's thriller, An Evening in Paris (1967), was shot entirely abroad. While Paris served as the cinematic heart of the film, several pivotal scenes were also captured in Switzerland, Lebanon, and Canada.
In his directorial debut Prem Pujari (1970), Dev Anand followed the trend. He shot several scenes and a famous song in Switzerland.
Since the 1980s, many film directors have chosen Switzerland. We would argue that none managed it more (and better) than Yash Chopra. Along with Hindi movies, many regional language filmmakers have chosen Switzerland as their go-to place for outdoor locations.
Swiss-Indian collaborations peaked in the 1990s and early 2000s, with Bollywood director Yash Chopra filming song-and-dance sequences in Switzerland multiple times a month.
Picturesque Backdrops for Song and Dance
Switzerland's stunning mountains, reachable by cable car and hiking trails, served as a perfect stage for Bollywood's signature song-and-dance scenes. The blending of traditional Swiss yodeling and alphorns with Hindi melodies created a harmonious soundtrack as Bollywood stars gracefully danced on meadows, gardens, and mountain slopes. This established the iconic trope of dancing amidst Swiss landscapes.
Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham (2001) prominently featured the lakeside promenades of Zurich. Ranbir Kapoor grooved across Interlaken and Grindelwald in Bachna Ae Haseeno (2008).
Train Rides and Mountain Vistas
The Bernese Oberland Railway, Glacier Express, and Mount Rigi Railways served as key storytelling elements, amplifying drama and romance with their scenic views. The melodious Tujhe Dekha Toh Ye Jaana Sanam aboard the GoldenPass Panoramic train in DDLJ remains in our hearts.
Adventure and Action
Beyond just beauty, Switzerland's rugged peaks and terrains offered a thrilling change of pace for action sequences. Memorable bike chases across the Furka Pass in Dhoom 2 (2006) and skiing stunts amidst St. Moritz's snowy slopes in Dilwale (2015) stand out.
Quintessential Love Stories
Snow-clad Swiss towns and mountain resorts become the epitome of romance, witnessing some of Indian cinema's most iconic love stories. The serenity of Montreux and Interlaken set the mood for eternal love in Lamhe (1991), while the Swiss Alps served as the perfect honeymoon escape in Chandni.
Recent Indian Films Shot in Switzerland
In recent years, filmmakers have continued finding new facets of Swiss splendor. The Indo-Swiss co-production Immanence (2022) offered a contemporary storytelling lens, extensively covering Bern, Grindelwald, and Zurich through unique camera work. As Bollywood expands globally, Switzerland remains an inspiration, blending nostalgic charm with modern narratives.
The Most Famous Bollywood Movie Shot in Switzerland
The 1995 hit Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, produced by Yash Chopra, is the most famous Bollywood movie shot in Switzerland. It is one of hundreds of Indian movies that have been shot in this alpine country.
The famous bridge scene was shot in Saanen.
Bollywood Locations in Switzerland
Where are Bollywood movies shot in Switzerland? The following table highlights the top Bollywood movie filming locations in Switzerland:
|Year||Movie||Locations in Switzerland|
|1964||Sangam||Alpinhotel Bort and First Cable Car Station in Grindelwald|
|1967||An Evening in Paris||Lauterbrunnen Station|
|1970||Prem Pujari||Grimsel Hotel, Grimselpass|
|1995||Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge DDLJ||Obersimmental, Saanen, Grand Café Restaurant Schuh and Lindner Hotel Interlaken Beau Rivage in Interlaken|
|2001||Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham||Lake Zurich|
Download: Bollywood Filming Locations in Switzerland
Download an exclusive list of all Bollywood filming locations in Switzerland! Included with each location is a link to a YouTube clip of that scene.
The Indian Tourism Boom in Switzerland
This cinematic spotlight on Switzerland led to an enormous boom in Indian tourists. Enamored by the beauty witnessed on-screen, they flocked to visit the iconic locations in the hopes of experiencing Bollywood-style romance themselves. By 2013, Indian tourists accounted for nearly half a million overnight stays annually in Switzerland.
In response, Switzerland warmly embraced Indian cinema's role as a cultural ambassador. Special Bollywood movie tours were curated, taking visitors on a cinematic journey to key filming spots. The enduring shared love for nature, beauty, and the arts transcended barriers, bringing the two countries closer through cinema.
Several Indian film festivals began blooming across Switzerland, creating forums for cultural exchange. The Swiss government also started promoting the country as an attractive filming location. For every song picturized atop the Alps, countless Indian hearts were won over to go on a trip there.
The trend of Indian tourists frequenting Switzerland did not go unnoticed by the Swiss tourism industry:
- Yash Chopra was nominated as the Ambassador for Interlaken.
- Near Gstaad, Lake Lauenen, where Chopra shot many of his scenes, is famously known as Yash Chopra Lake.
- There's a Jungfrau Railways train named after Chopra - an honor that not too many Swiss can claim!
Copra's last movie as a director, Jab Tak Hai Jaan, also had Switzerland in its original screenplay. The project had to be canceled due to the director's sudden demise in 2012.
The Future of Indian Cinema in Switzerland
Interlaken, Geneva, Zürich, Bern, Gruyere, the Rhine Falls, Jungfrau, Schiltorn, Gstaad, Grindelwald, Engelberg, Titlis, Montreux, Lucerne and many of the Alpine passes happen to be the popular choices for many Indian movie directors. Due to the constant use of these locations, they sometimes become quite repetitive.
But six decades since its inception in 1964, the affair of Indian cinema with Switzerland continues to flourish through reinvention. While competitors have emerged across Europe, Switzerland retains an aura of magic and grandeur that Indian filmmakers continue revisiting.
Recent years have blended modern stories with a nostalgic return to classic locations like Lake Brienz and Beatenberg. As Bollywood expands its global horizons, we believe that Switzerland remains etched as a crown jewel, inspiring new stories.
The popularity of Swiss-Indian collaborations waned following years of intense exposure to so-called massalah films with predictable plots. It is quite evident that Yash Chopra's passing in 2012 marked the end of an era. Meanwhile, generous incentive schemes from other countries attracted Bollywood producers seeking new locations.
To encourage and facilitate future collaborations, the Swiss government has instituted initiatives like the Bollywood Film Incentive to promote Switzerland as a filming location for Indian producers through financial rewards. This has further strengthened the country's position as a preferred destination, especially for other Indian industries, such as Telugu, Tamil, and Kannada.
For instance, in 2019, the popular Indian TV series Kasautii Zindagii Kay was filmed during ten days in Zurich and Bern. It aired on Star Plus and captivated even viewers outside of India. The entertainment channel is popular in the UK, the US, Canada, the Gulf States, Australia, New Zealand, and Southeast Asia.
Switzerland's stunning landscapes have become an indelible part of Indian cinema. Through its snow-capped peaks, crystal-clear lakes, and lush valleys, Switzerland has infused Bollywood with nature's purest essence.
The landscapes of Switzerland and the Swiss Alps will inspire storytellers for a long time. As long as the valleys echo with melodious Bollywood sounds, the destinations immortalized on the Indian silver screen will forever hold a special place in the hearts of Indian movie buffs.