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Darjeeling ready for date with Barfi!

Ranbir Kapoor falls from his cycle near a toy train in Tindharia
Ranbir and Priyanka Chopra on a rickshaw in a forest village,
Khairani-Cunding, near Sukna

Siliguri, Sept. 13: Renuka Sharma’s yearlong wait will be over tomorrow when Barfi! releases.

The 58-year-old is enthusiastic about the film not only because a portion of the movie has been shot in her hometown Tindharia but also because she posed as a passenger in a toy train while Ranbir Kapoor sped alongside on a bicycle.

“I have been prodding my son to take me to watch the movie in one of the cinemas in Siliguri. It is not often that one gets featured in a movie starring Ranbir. I had worn our traditional attire of chaubandi choli and fariya that day and hope to catch a glimpse of myself as a toy train passenger in the film,” Renuka told The Telegraph today.

In Siliguri, the film will release in two INOX and one CINEMAX centres, along with one or two cinema halls.

Tindharia residents are happy that Bollywood has not forgotten their place where films such as Rajesh Khanna-starrer Aradhana were shot.

“The last movie shot here was Parineeta for which Saif Ali Khan rode in a toy train in a song sequence in 2004.We are grateful that the makers of Barfi! shot here again after seven-long years. The toy train and DHR (Darjeeling Himalayan Railway)’s Tindharia station have been extensively featured in the movie,” said Binay Chetti, a DHR enthusiast and a resident of Tindharia.

He hopes the worldwide audience the film will get will reverse the dwindling importance of the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, which is a Unesco world heritage site.

“The promos show the toy train billowing smoke moving towards Pushkar daju’s shop where the film’s crew had eaten during the one-day shoot. A group of us are planning to come down to Siliguri to watch the movie next week,” said Chetti.

The movie was shot in Tindharia, 30km from Siliguri, in June last year.

Scenes which show Ranbir speeding alongside the toy train and on a bicycle and then falling were shot in Tindharia.

The Anurag Basu-directed film was extensively shot in Darjeeling, Tindharia and some locations near Sukna in June last year and February this year. The film is set against the backdrop of Darjeeling and Calcutta of the 1960s and the 1970s.

It revolves around a deaf-mute boy played by Ranbir and the two women in his life, played by Priyanka Chopra and Ileana D’Cruz.

In the remote Khairani-Cunding locality near Sukna, 15km from Siliguri, Sandip Subba is waiting to see how his village and house look on the big screen. The Barfi! crew had shot some scenes involving Ranbir and Priyanka in the village for two days.

“The promos look quite appealing and I could catch a glimpse of my village too. I want to see if my house, too, is in the frame because some of the shots were taken near my residence,” said Subba.

“Scenes of Priyanka and Ranbir arriving at the village in a rickshaw, moving around playing with goats and participating in a festival, were shot at Khairani-Cunding.”

Diksha Rai and her friends from Siliguri will watch the first-day-first-show at Inox in City Centre, Siliguri. She was lucky as she got to pose for a photograph with Ranbir at Bagdogra airport when he came for the shoot in February. She posted it on Facebook.

Diksha has already checked reviews of film critics on the movie on Twitter.

“I am so excited to watch the movie as both Priyanka and Ranbir are my favourite actors. Famous Bollywood critics like Taran Adarsh have applauded the movie on twitter. We are going to watch first-day-first-show tomorrow,” Diksha said.

Old-timers are eager to watch the “old world charm” of Darjeeling.

“My wife and I usually watch first-day-first show of all good movies and Barfi! is a must-watch. The film is appealing because it has been shot in Darjeeling and it will be a treat to watch how the scenic beauty and old world charm of the Queen of Hills have been captured using modern-day technology. I want to see how Ranbir who plays a deaf-and-dumb character relies entirely on his acting prowess to communicate his emotions,” said K.B. Gurung, 62, of Shivmandir near Siliguri.

Anurag Basu, the filmmaker, sounded equally enthusiastic. “It is a film where the positive aspects of life have been portrayed. We have shot extensively in the Darjeeling hills and feel that people of the region would love it watching,” Basu told The Telegraph over the phone from Mumbai.

Barfi! has also prompted stakeholders of tourism sector to gear up.

“In the promos, we have found an enchanting Darjeeling hills and hope it will bring more filmmakers to the region,” said Raj Basu, a tour operator who had also arranged logistics for the Barfi! crew.

“A couple of filmmakers from Calcutta have already conducted surveys for their upcoming films, which they plan to shoot in the region. Darjeeling has proved to be a favourite for filmmakers of Bollywood and we expect them to project the region further.”

In Darjeeling, people are equally enthusiastic, and are waiting for tomorrow.

Anup Subba, the unit head of INOX Leisure Limited, Darjeeling, said no other film had generated as much response and excitement as Barfi! in the recent past.

“We are getting bulk bookings from schools, colleges and various other groups. We had not witnessed such excitement in the past,” said Subba.

All students of the department of mass communication and journalism of St Joseph's College, Darjeeling, have booked tickets for tomorrow’s show. The students had extensively helped Anuraj Basu during the shoot in Darjeeling.

INOX, which has three screens in Darjeeling, plans to run seven shows a day.

“We have a seating capacity of 811 and we are expecting a tremendous response. The movie will be screened from 11.15am and the last show of the day will start at 6.15pm,” said Subba.

Ticket prices at INOX vary from Rs 110 to Rs 210.

“However, I have personally decided to slash the rates by half for the students of Salvation Army School, Darjeeling (a school for those who cannot speak and hear). They are planning to watch Barfi next week,” said Subba.