India is home to maybe hundreds of hill stations, and after a point, they sort of start to blend together. An exception to this rule is Darjeeling, the Queen of the Hills. There’s just something about it, mais je ne sais quois. Maybe it’s the juxtaposition of the old-world charm and colonial feel of the place against the backdrop of the Himalayas, particularly the mighty Mount Kanchenjunga. Maybe it’s the way the residents, even if they have smartphones and modern clothes, refuse to live their lives as you would expect one to in 2020; they make their tea and coffee in the old style, talk in the old style, and basically make up a somewhat time-displaced community that cannot be found anywhere else in the world. Since you probably can’t visit the place right now, here are some movies you should watch that will take you on a virtual tour of Darjeeling.
This movie is remembered less for its plot, and more for its iconic song. ‘Mere Sapno Ki Rani’ features Rajesh Khanna and Sharmila Tagore frolicking and singing in Darjeeling, with Sharmila in the famous Toy Train of Darjeeling while Rajesh follows her in an open-air jeep with hills and valleys in the background. This visual has definitely inspired countless Indian couples to honeymoon there and continues to do so even 5 decades on.
Streaming on Prime Video, but the song is available on YouTube
Almost entirely set in Darjeeling, Barfi touches upon an aspect of the place that most other movies fail to, which is the Bengali culture. Starring Ranbir Kapoor in the titular role, along with Ileana D’Cruz and Priyanka Chopra, Barfi is about the life and times of a deaf and dumb man, following him from birth till death. It is legitimately one of the best movies of the 2010s regardless of language, with a stellar soundtrack, better direction and the best possible performances from all the actors involved. A must-watch.
Streaming on Netflix
This coming of age feature surrounds five friends who meet in school, and their interpersonal dynamics, relationships and conflicts. St Joseph’s School in Darjeeling provides an ideal setting for the friends to have fun and act immature, with the imposing Kanchenjunga acting as a metaphor for the impending responsibilities and burdens of adulthood.
Streaming on Disney+Hotstar