The industry’s fastest — and latest — entrant to the 100-crore club is ‘Chennai Express’, a film named after a train.
As it happens many Hindi films in recent times have been shot on trains. The notable ones are — Jab We Met (2007), Ghajini (2008), Wanted (2009), Dabangg (2010), Once Upon A Time in Mumbaai (2010), Bodyguard (2011), Kahaani (2012), Son Of Sardaar (2012), Ghanchakkar (2013) and Bhaag Milkha Bhaag (2013). Even Once Upon A Time In Mumbai Dobaara features the maximum city’s lifeline, its locals.
Mostly, romantic and action sequences are shot on trains. Director Imtiaz Ali, who made the train journey an integral part of Jab We Met, says, “We meet absolute strangers on trains, with whom we are at close proximity for a long duration. It translates into some sort of unusual romantic situation. You are fascinated by a girl or a guy with whom you spend time on a train journey and you feel you have found your life partner. There is a lot of drama involved with the visuals and sounds of a train.”
Salim Khan, who, along with Javed Akhtar, has written many films featuring trains and railway stations, says, “Trains are a part of our culture. We might meet someone on a train, leading to a long-lasting relationship. One may find his/her soulmate. It also brings back the sad memories of Partition and riots… old wounds open up.” Salim-Javed have scripted ‘train’ hits like Yaadon Ki Baaraat (1973), Zanjeer (1973), Sholay (1975) and Deewaar (1975), to name a few.
Action sequences, on the other hand, look edgy and larger than life on trains. For director Milan Luthria, the sound and speed of a train signifies high-octane drama. While Imran Khan makes his entry with an action sequence on a train in OUATIMD, the original had Ajay Devgn pulling off a stunt in which he’s shown fixing a track while a train sped by on it. Ajay and Saif Ali Khan had a long train sequence in Luthria’s Kachche Dhaage (1999) as well. Says the filmmaker, “Trains by themselves give lot of space, drama and a kind of pulse (sic). It is big, spectacular, dangerous, powerful and it is not easy to jump on or off a train. I was always deeply fascinated by trains. It is ingrained in our culture, it is what India is all about. It is massively mightier than a man. It is a big obstacle for a hero as opposed to a bike or a car.”
Comedy has also been shot on rails. Way back in the 50s, a huge part of Half Ticket was shot on a train. Later, in 1980, The Burning Train had everything — romance, action, emotions and even songs — shot on a train. In the 70s, Sholay set a benchmark for Bollywood with some magnificent action sequences shot on a locomotive.
Reportedly, Akshay Kumar’s Thuppakki remake also has many important scenes aboard a train. With trains becoming such an integral part of Hindi cinema, it looks like train trysts are here to stay.