Heritage of Wheels on Reels

Elgin Hotels & Resorts, Darjeeling

Chugging past the steamy mountains, leaving its trails on UNESCO’s list, Mountain Railways have been the real and reel heroes. Remembering them on this World Heritage Day, with movies, that had moved them to our living rooms. Taking a trip down the memory lane, seated in a train, songs of life have swished past the silver screens of Bollywood.

Frozen in time, the Darjeeling Himalayan Railways has hardly aged, in the scenes and screens, retelling its story. Iconic Rajesh Khanna trying to woo his “Sapno ki Rani” is an evergreen melody sung around the evergreen toy train. Ride from being strangers to lovers, toy trains have strummed duets in ‘Professor’ with Kalapana teasing Shammi Kapoor while boarding the train to the tune,“ Main challey…yeh na pucho kidhar, yeh na pucho khahan.

With chorus “Kasto majja he railaima, Ramaailo ukali oraali” celebrating the ups and downs of train journey, the movie Parineeta celebrates the roller-coaster ride of life. Groaning away from the bustling station, the wheels, wheeze past like a dream of longing, Shekhar’s longing for Lolita. Brewing tea estates welcoming the train, with kids in chorus, swaying to the melody, it is a travel to the city of Darjeeling. Shared coupe that passengers Marathi, British and Bengali in Parineeta, shows how cultures blend and breathe in the train. Selected as a Heritage for promoting multi-culture, Darjeeling Railways share similar reel and real-life roles. Clouded in steam, the wheels come alive in the movie Barfi where hope and its loss travel together from the “Queen of Hills”, the city of Darjeeling. The toy train which fills Shruthi with hopes of entering Barfi’s life at the same time shows a staggering, Barfi, who intends to walk out of his own life story.

Nilgiri Mountain Railway, joining the Darjeeling trains as Heritage Sites, continues to cradle the steam engines in the modern world. Built on a rack rail system, the train travels through the dense forest of the Blue Mountains. Rhythm of famed ‘Dil Se,’ absorbed in the smoke and siren of the Nilgiri Railway, immortalised the train roof of “Chaiyya Chaiyya.” Music with its energetic soul, matches the train dynamics in the song, with Shahrukh and Mallika tapping toes, to the shadows of love.

Kalka Shimla Railways, a heritage along with the others, born under the colonial sky to connect the summer capital of Shimla, unfolds its magic in ‘Love in Simla.’ Chuk-chuk goes the train, and so does the lead, Dev’s heartbeat. Gazing out of the window, his “bechaan jigar, betaab nazar” hums a tune of desired love. Shakespeare Wallah, a movie that sketches travel stories of threatre group in fog and fun, recreates the city of Shimla with its trains and tunnels. Bridging the reality with future hopes in the movies, the railway in reality, travels along charming bridges and spooky tunnels, especially tunnel 103 infamous for its ghost tales. With Matheran Hills Railway being considered for the title of World Heritage Site, what awaits is its entry in the list of UNESCO as well as silver screen.

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