It has been said that Bollywood has done more for world wide tourism than any tourist magazine. Needless to say, this was a widely held view by the 2+ Billion Earthlings that can’t escape Bollywood, and also a view held well before the age of the Insta-travel madness.
But as we flipped channels mid-flight over our 8 hour, extremely bumpy flight to Reykjavik, we came across a very familiar sight. Mr. Shahrukh Khan himself, half submerged with his Prada boots into the shallow mirrorlike tide in front of the Vestrahorn. A few seconds later, there is Kajol, a vibrant black and red streak of cloth billowing above the crash-landed DC-17, which, by the way, is a big no-no if you ask the locals, or use common sense.
The song – Gerua – had been shot completely in Iceland, and is a spectacular tourist guide to the sights of the country like no other you may have seen. Polished, and re-polished in Photoshop, the glaciers take on an azure hue minus any glacial dust, as if they have been carefully grown in a laboratory.
Don’t take my word for it. The song and the Behind the Scenes from the song were being shown as part of an official tourist video aboard the Iceland Air flight to Reykjavik, and bears testament to the impact of Indians on the Icelandic tourist economy.
The surprising thing though? Season after season of Game of Thrones was filmed in Iceland. And not a single homage to GoT on any promotional video. As an aside, the other surprising thing for me: Not many people still listen to Bjork or Sigur Ros. It was the same uniform American pop everywhere.
There have been a ton of movies that have been filmed in Iceland in the recent past. A lot of the blockbusters. Scenes that represented other planets – real and fake, to countries as diverse as Japan and Afghanistan. But, the movies that were constantly mentioned to us in Iceland were – The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, and you guessed it, Dilwale (for Gerua).
So it was completely natural to find scores of Indians at some of the spots from the video, and also natural for us to ask – how the hell did they do it? Like SK and Kajol teetering precipitously from the egde of the Skogafoss waterfall. Or where SK almost fell 200 feet down from behind Seljalandsfoss.
Or when, near Vestrahorn, the choreographer, Farah Khan, spontaneously bursts out saying, and I paraphrase – “Which *&^$*^$ told us that summer would be a great time to visit Iceland?!” All this while, SK and Kajol standing still in the freezing pool of icy North Atlantic waters while a drone encircles them.
But just like the White Walkers, the Gerua crowd was primarily concentrated around the South Central regions, dissipating rapidly by the time we reached Jokulsarlon and the Diamond Beach. By the time we reached the &^*%&^-freezing Vestrahorn, very few tourists were to be found.
We had entire hours of driving left to us in peace and solitude. No towns, no cars, no people, no animals. The fact that we chose to drive primarily after 9pm added to the solitude. The sunsets themselves seemed more other-wordly. The weather, more dramatic. The glow of the sun and the depth of the shadows were magnitudes higher than what our cameras could capture.
In this world, the glaciers towered over the landscape. The terrain was more rugged, more rocky, more dusty. The sheep were kings and queens of this world. We were just borrowing their sights for a few days.