shooting locations

Location scouting: Mumbai’s prettiest college is also one of the most film-friendly

Sophia College for Women on Peddar Road has been starring in films since the 1970s.

The number of movies shot at Sophia College for Women on Peddar Road in Mumbai is so lengthy that the administration doesn’t have a master list.

Ananda Amritmahal, the principal of one of Mumbai’s prettiest educational institutions, does remember some titles: “Sushil Majumdar’s Lal Patthar from 1971 was shot here. Raaj Kumar was seen galloping on a horse into the college. While the tradition began a long time ago, there was a gap in between where they stopped. And then they started again in the ’90s.”

Some recent productions include Ishq Vishq (2003), Murder (2004), Socha Na Tha (2005), Lage Raho Munna Bhai (2006) and the Marathi film Classmates (2015). “But there are plenty more to the list of which we don’t have a record,” Amritmahal told Scroll.in.

Sophia College for Women. Photo by Rhea Nath.
Sophia College for Women. Photo by Rhea Nath.

The college that was set up for the education of women by the Society of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in 1940 hasn’t always been used as a place of learning. It can be a love nest, a gangster’s lair, and even a palatial residence, depending on the demands of the script.

For instance, in the opening sequence of Shekhar Kapur’s Mr India (1987), a group of government officers alight down from heavily armoured vehicles into what is described in the superhero adventure as a top-secret bureau.

The opening scene in Mr India (1987).
The opening scene in Mr India (1987).

Sometimes, the college is used in the movies for the role it plays in real life. In Ken Ghosh’s Ishq Vishq, the institution gets a new name: Spencer College. The movie provides a fabulous visual tour of some of the campus’s most camera-friendly spots. “The triangular terrace, multi-purpose halls and lawns are some of the most filmed areas,” Amritmahal said.

Ishq Vishq (2003). Photo by Rhea Nath.
Ishq Vishq (2003). Photo by Rhea Nath.

In Lage Raho Munna Bhai, the triangular terrace is converted into a college canteen where Munna (Sanjay Dutt) hilariously stalls Janhavi (Vidya Balan) from meeting the principal to keep up his act of being a reformed man.

Sanjay Dutt and Vidya Balan in Lage Raho Munna Bhai, shot at the triangular terrace.
Sanjay Dutt and Vidya Balan in Lage Raho Munna Bhai, shot at the triangular terrace.

The corridors, with their gorgeous tile work, arches and latticework doors, are another favourite hunting ground for filmmakers.

Murder (2004). Photo by Rhea Nath.
Murder (2004). Photo by Rhea Nath.
In Defense of Freedom (2017).
In Defense of Freedom (2017).

The structure was constructed in the last quarter of the 19th century. “Originally called Somerset House and owned by the East India Company with rich Parsi families, it was first purchased by the Holkar royal family of Indore in 1923 and was owned later by the Maharaja of Bhavnagar until it became a college in 1940,” Vimla Patil writes. “Today, the college, with its winding staircases, regal arches, decorative porticos and windows, is an outstanding example of Victorian architecture in Mumbai.”

The Bhavnagar king didn’t initially want to sell the land. “The sisters were looking for a space suitable for college and this was perfect, but it wasn’t for sale,” Amritmahal said. “But the very evening they were going to sign another building down the street, somebody rang them and informed that this place was available. The Maharaja’s son was getting married, and they wanted some resources. The deal was clinched the next day.”

The frequent shoots are a source of income for the University of Mumbai-affiliated institution. “Somewhere we have to manage to generate funds and this is one such source,” Amritmahal said. “It is not just for fun that we are tying up almost every Sunday for these shoots. It comes in waves. Suddenly there would be regular shoots, but then there would also be dry spells. Like last year we had nothing because it was a good monsoon. So it’s a tossup.”

Sophia College for Women. Photo by Rhea Nath.
Sophia College for Women. Photo by Rhea Nath.

In order to get shooting permission, location scouts need to hand in the storyline or the script to the college authorities. Permission is given after mandatory police verification.

Not every film sails through. “Sophia being an educational women’s campus, we do not want certain things advertised here,” Amritmahal said. “Advertisements for alcohol, cigarettes, and concepts that are terribly derogatory toward women are not encouraged. The location might not appear as Sophia in their films as but it is very recognisably Sophia college.”

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

“My body instantly craves chai and samosa”

German expats talk about adapting to India, and the surprising similarities between the two cultures.

The cultural similarities between Germany and India are well known, especially with regards to the language. Linguists believe that Sanskrit and German share the same Indo-Germanic heritage of languages. A quick comparison indeed holds up theory - ratha in Sanskrit (chariot) is rad in German, aksha (axle) in Sanskrit is achse in German and so on. Germans have long held a fascination for Indology and Sanskrit. While Max Müller is still admired for his translation of ancient Indian scriptures, other German intellectuals such as Goethe, Herder and Schlegel were deeply influenced by Kalidasa. His poetry is said to have informed Goethe’s plays, and inspired Schlegel to eventually introduce formal Indology in Germany. Beyond the arts and academia, Indian influences even found their way into German fast food! Indians would recognise the famous German curry powder as a modification of the Indian masala mix. It’s most popular application is the currywurst - fried sausage covered in curried ketchup.

It is no wonder then that German travellers in India find a quite a lot in common between the two cultures, even today. Some, especially those who’ve settled here, even confess to Indian culture growing on them with time. Isabelle, like most travellers, first came to India to explore the country’s rich heritage. She returned the following year as an exchange student, and a couple of years later found herself working for an Indian consultancy firm. When asked what prompted her to stay on, Isabelle said, “I love the market dynamics here, working here is so much fun. Anywhere else would seem boring compared to India.” Having cofounded a company, she eventually realised her entrepreneurial dream here and now resides in Goa with her husband.

Isabelle says there are several aspects of life in India that remind her of home. “How we interact with our everyday life is similar in both Germany and India. Separate house slippers to wear at home, the celebration of food and festivals, the importance of friendship…” She feels Germany and India share the same spirit especially in terms of festivities. “We love food and we love celebrating food. There is an entire countdown to Christmas. Every day there is some dinner or get-together,” much like how Indians excitedly countdown to Navratri or Diwali. Franziska, who was born in India to German parents, adds that both the countries exhibit the same kind of passion for their favourite sport. “In India, they support cricket like anything while in Germany it would be football.”

Having lived in India for almost a decade, Isabelle has also noticed some broad similarities in the way children are brought up in the two countries. “We have a saying in South Germany ‘Schaffe Schaffe Hausle baue’ that loosely translates to ‘work, work, work and build a house’. I found that parents here have a similar outlook…to teach their children to work hard. They feel that they’ve fulfilled their duty only once the children have moved out or gotten married. Also, my mother never let me leave the house without a big breakfast. It’s the same here.” The importance given to the care of the family is one similarity that came up again and again in conversations with all German expats.

While most people wouldn’t draw parallels between German and Indian discipline (or lack thereof), Germans married to Indians have found a way to bridge the gap. Take for example, Ilka, who thinks that the famed differences of discipline between the two cultures actually works to her marital advantage. She sees the difference as Germans being highly planning-oriented; while Indians are more flexible in their approach. Ilka and her husband balance each other out in several ways. She says, like most Germans, she too tends to get stressed when her plans don’t work out, but her husband calms her down.

Consequently, Ilka feels India is “so full of life. The social life here is more happening; people smile at you, bond over food and are much more relaxed.” Isabelle, too, can attest to Indians’ friendliness. When asked about an Indian characteristic that makes her feel most at home, she quickly answers “humour.” “Whether it’s a taxi driver or someone I’m meeting professionally, I’ve learnt that it’s easy to lighten the mood here by just cracking a few jokes. Indians love to laugh,” she adds.

Indeed, these Germans-who-never-left as just diehard Indophiles are more Indian than you’d guess at first, having even developed some classic Indian skills with time. Ilka assures us that her husband can’t bargain as well as she does, and that she can even drape a saree on her own.

Isabelle, meanwhile, feels some amount of Indianness has seeped into her because “whenever its raining, my body instantly craves chai and samosa”.

Like the long-settled German expats in India, the German airline, Lufthansa, too has incorporated some quintessential aspects of Indian culture in its service. Recognising the centuries-old cultural affinity between the two countries, Lufthansa now provides a rich experience of Indian hospitality to all flyers on board its flights to and from India. You can expect a greeting of Namaste by an all-Indian crew, Indian food, and popular Indian in-flight entertainment options. And as the video shows, India’s culture and hospitality have been internalized by Lufthansa to the extent that they are More Indian Than You Think. To experience Lufthansa’s hospitality on your next trip abroad, click here.

Play

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Lufthansa as part of their More Indian Than You Think initiative and not by the Scroll editorial team.