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This place is Bollywood's favourite town in Rajasthan

Prince of Mandawa tells hitlist what makes this place the go-to option for filmmakers

When we visited Mandawa, a small, yet culturally rich town in Rajasthan for a music festival called Taalbelia recently, little did we know that the place has a strong Bollywood connect. With its rustic essence, quaint surroundings and havelis, this tiny place (with a population of around 55,000 people) has been attracting filmmakers for several years now. The who's who of Bollywood, including Salman Khan, Shah Rukh Khan, Aamir Khan, Sanjay Dutt, Ajay Devgn, Shahid Kapoor, Kareena Kapoor Khan, Ranbir Kapoor and Anushka Sharma, have shot in Mandawa.

Salman Khan dining with Kanwar Shivarjun Singh Mandawa
Salman Khan dining with Kanwar Shivarjun Singh Mandawa

We caught up with the prince of Mandawa, Kanwar Shivarjun Singh Mandawa, to discuss the town's Bollywood connect. "The first Hindi movie that was shot here was Batwara (1989). After that, there was a gap of 10 years. In 1999, Kachche Dhaage was filmed, followed by several others like Paheli (2005), Jab We Met (2007) and Love Aaj Kal (2009). In the last few of years, PK (2014), Bajrangi Bhaijaan (2015), Ae Dil Hai Mushkil (2016) and Mirzya (2016) have been shot here," he says, adding that Arjun Kapoor and Shraddha Kapoor's upcoming film, Half Girlfriend, is the latest movie that has been filmed in town.

Bajrangi Bhaijaan was shot there too
Bajrangi Bhaijaan was shot there too

Why's Mandawa special
The prince adds that two of the royal family's properties, Castle Mandawa (the Mandawa Fort build in 18th century that has been converted into a luxury hotel) and the Dessert Resort (another luxury property), serve as great filming locations besides the maze-like bylanes and other spots in town. "Mandawa is known as the biggest open-art gallery in the world. It boasts around 55 old havelis, which are beautifully painted. Besides that, there are dunes and the castle," says Kanwar Shivarjun.

Sanjay Dutt and Aamir Khan in Tharki Chokro. PK's crew shot in Mandawa in Feb 2014 and stayed there for 15 days
Sanjay Dutt and Aamir Khan in Tharki Chokro. PK's crew shot in Mandawa in Feb 2014 and stayed there for 15 days

Looking back
He fondly remembers the time when Kachche Dhaage and Jab We Met were shot. "I was only 15 at the time of Kachche Dhaage. It was overwhelming to see a big, commercial film like Jab We Met being filmed here," says the 36-year-old prince. So, was he ever starry eyed? "No (laughs), but I'm fond of Kareena Kapoor and Shahid Kapoor."

Anushka Sharma, Ranbir Kapoor and Fawad Khan shot the song Cutie Pie from Ae Dil Hai Mushkil at Castle Mandawa in March last year
Anushka Sharma, Ranbir Kapoor and Fawad Khan shot the song Cutie Pie from Ae Dil Hai Mushkil at Castle Mandawa in March last year

Star power
Shivarjun shares that the team of Bajrangi Bhaijaan stayed in Mandawa for a month. The parts that were represented as Pakistan in the film were shot there. "I used to visit their shoot locations frequently. Every day, we would arrange a royal experience for the crew. We don't have seafood in Rajasthan, but we got some seafood delicacies made in Shekhawati style. We organised dinners for them at the dunes and our stables," he says, adding that he is still in touch with Salman. "He tells me he will come back soon."

Hum Jo Chalne Lage from Jab We Met was shot in Mandawa
Hum Jo Chalne Lage from Jab We Met was shot in Mandawa

Going all out
Do the stars interact with locals during their stay? "Salman met a lot of them on the sets. Even Sanjay Dutt interacted with them while shooting for PK."

Graphic/Ravi Jadhav

But how does the royal family ensure their privacy amidst the shoots? "Special permissions are taken, and the management ensures that our privacy is guarded. They also make sure no public is around during the shooting hours," says Shivarjun, adding that makers of three movies are currently in talks for filming in Mandawa. "On an average, there's a recce every two to three months. In a year, at least three to four movies are shot in Mandawa," he signs off.

Shot in Mandawa

Ae Dil Hai Mushkil: Some parts of Cutie Pie were shot at poolside in Castle Mandawa.
PK: Village where Aamir Khan meets Sanjay Dutt. The song Tharki Chokro was shot in Mandawa.
Bajrangi Bhaijaan: Parts that have been shown as Pakistan.
Jab We Met: Journey sequences and the song Hum Jo Chalne Lage.
Paheli: Portions where Rani Mukerji is being taken to her in-laws after her wedding and a few travel sequences.
Love Aaj Kal: Several travel shots of wide roads.
Mirzya: Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra created a set resembling the locality of ironsmiths in the region.

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