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

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.”

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Ten awesome TV shows to get over your post-GoT blues

With those withdrawal symptoms kicking in, all you need is a good rebound show.

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What do you get when the makers of the Dark Knight Trilogy and the studio behind Game of Thrones collaborate to remake a Michael Crichton classic? Westworld brings together two worlds: an imagined future and the old American West, with cowboys, gun slingers - the works. This sci-fi series manages to hold on to a dark secret by wrapping it with the excitement and adventure of the wild west. Once the plot is unwrapped, the secret reveals itself as a genius interpretation of human nature and what it means to be human. Regardless of what headspace you’re in, this Emmy-nominated series will absorb you in its expansive and futuristic world. If you don’t find all of the above compelling enough, you may want to watch Westworld simply because George RR Martin himself recommends it! Westworld will return for season 2 in the spring of 2018.

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It’s a distinct possibility that your first impressions of this show, whether you form those from the trailer or opening sequence, will make you think this is just another sun-kissed and glossy Californian drama. Until, the dark theme of BLL descends like an eerie mist, that is. With the serious acting chops of Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman as leads, this murder mystery is one of a kind. Adapted from author Liane Moriarty’s book, this female-led show has received accolades for shattering the one-dimensional portrayal of women on TV. Despite the stellar star cast, this Emmy-nominated show wasn’t easy to make. You should watch Big Little Lies if only for Reese Witherspoon’s long struggle to get it off the ground.

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4. The Night of

The Night Of is one of the few crime dramas featuring South Asians without resorting to tired stereotypes. It’s the kind of show that will keep you in its grip with its mysterious plotline, have you rooting for its characters and leave you devastated and furious. While the narrative revolves around a murder and the mystery that surrounds it, its undertones raises questions on racial, class and courtroom politics. If you’re a fan of True Detective or Law & Order and are looking for something serious and thoughtful, look no further than this series of critical acclaim.

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At its heart, Empire is a simple show about a family business. It just so happens that this family business is a bit different from the sort you are probably accustomed to, because this business entails running a record label, managing artistes and when push comes to shove, dealing with rivals in a permanent sort of manner. Empire treads some unique ground as a fairly violent show that also happens to be a musical. Lead actors Taraji P Henson and Terrence Howard certainly make it worth your while to visit this universe, but it’s the constantly evolving interpersonal relations and bevy of cameo appearances that’ll make you stay. If you’re a fan of hip hop, you’ll enjoy a peek into the world that makes it happen. Hey, even if you aren’t one, you might just grow fond of rap and hip hop.

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7. Modern Family

When everything else fails, it’s comforting to know that the family will always be there to lift your spirits and keep you chuckling. And by the family we mean the Dunphys, Pritchetts and Tuckers, obviously. Modern Family portrays the hues of familial bonds with an honesty that most family shows would gloss over. Eight seasons in, the show’s characters like Gloria and Phil Dunphy have taken on legendary proportions in their fans’ minds as they navigate their relationships with relentless bumbling humour. If you’re tired of irritating one-liners or shows that try too hard, a Modern Family marathon is in order. This multiple-Emmy-winning sitcom is worth revisiting, especially since the brand new season 9 premiers on 28th September 2017.

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Headlined by James Franco and Maggi Gyllenhaal, The Deuce is not just about the dazzle of the 1970s, with the hippest New York crowd dancing to disco in gloriously flamboyant outfits. What it IS about is the city’s nooks and crannies that contain its underbelly thriving on a drug epidemic. The series portrays the harsh reality of New York city in the 70s following the legalisation of the porn industry intertwined with the turbulence caused by mob violence. You’ll be hooked if you are a fan of The Wire and American Hustle, but keep in mind it’s grimmer and grittier. The Deuce offers a turbulent ride which will leave you wanting more.

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9. Dexter

In case you’re feeling vengeful, you can always get the spite out of your system vicariously by watching Dexter, our favourite serial killer. This vigilante killer doesn’t hide behind a mask or a costume, but sneaks around like a criminal, targeting the bad guys that have slipped through the justice system. From its premier in 2006 to its series finale in 2013, the Emmy-nominated Michael C Hall, as Dexter, has kept fans in awe of the scientific precision in which he conducts his kills. For those who haven’t seen the show, the opening credits give an accurate glimpse of how captivating the next 45 minutes will be. If it’s been a while since you watched in awe as the opening credits rolled, maybe you should revisit the world’s most loved psychopath for nostalgia’s sake.

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This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Hotstar and not by the Scroll editorial team.