The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Discover India as train chugs on
- Mark Tully in Darjeeling for 1-hour BBC documentary on Queen of the Hills

Siliguri, March 21: About 125 years ago, when the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (DHR) came into being, it took the British saabs and mems from Calcutta a treacherous five-six day sojourn to reach their holiday destination in Darjeeling.

Now, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) plans to cover the entire stretch (around 700 km) in an hour. The London-based news channel will use the journey from Calcutta to Darjeeling as a thread to weave stories from this part of the country for its hour-long documentary film. The four-episode series will be telecast next year, when India celebrates its 60th year of Independence.

Sceptics may have written off the Queen of the Hills as politically-unsound, ecologically fragile and a burgeoning concrete jungle, but the yet-to-be named docu-film speaks of Darjeeling as one of the many faces of India that the world loves to see. 'No matter what the changes may have been, Darjeeling's glory is still unshaken,' said Mark Tully, the BBC journalist and a scholar on India, who had spent his childhood in the hill town where his father was the director of the DHR. Tully ' himself a DHR-activist who will be interviewed as part of the film ' today reached Siliguri with his wife Gilly and then went off to Darjeeling.

'It is a special four-episode series featuring four journeys across the length and breadth of the country, which will tell the story of contemporary India,' Gautam Subramaniam, the coordinator, told The Telegraph.

The team has already finished shooting the Lucknow-Wagah stretch. 'We are continuously researching and are yet to decide on the other journeys, which will most likely be in south India,' he added. The two-and-a-half year project began in July last year.

Presence of Darjeeling in BBC's quest for present-day India reinforces the idea of Brand Darjeeling, which seems to remain unshaken. 'The assets of the hill town ' be it the wonderful view or the DHR ' are there to stay and these attribute to the unshaken image of Darjeeling,' Tully said, though he rued the fact that Darjeeling has been neglected.

From street children and software-technology park in Calcutta to the nondescript tea stall in one of the Himalayan bends, the film seeks to capture as many images as possible, including the DHR and Darjeeling tea. 'Using the journey as the narrative technique, our aim is to portray modern India, its economic growth and technological advancements,' Subramaniam said. 'We will shoot all that comes in our way. It will be a journey of discovery.'

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