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Bollywood actors in Osoyoos to film action romance
Osoyoos hasn’t yet become a satellite of Bollywood, but it is increasingly coming to the attention of the Indian film industry as a location with much to offer.
Over the past week, renowned Punjabi director Baljit Singh Deo has been filming at locations around Osoyoos for his upcoming movie, Crash.
The crew arrived late to the set at Osoyoos Airport Thursday.
The weather hadn’t been co-operative and they had been busy shooting another scene at Elkink Ranch on the other side of Richter Pass.
With gusting winds, a crew, mostly hired from Vancouver, carefully moves sandbags that keep a large reflector screen from blowing over. More crew members adjusted the position of the camera.
Deo directs two Bollywood actors, Jimmy Shergill (Jasjit Singh Gill) and Mukul Dev, both of whom have several dozen film credits in Indian cinema, including both films in their native Punjabi and in Hindi, the language of the Bollywood film industry in Mumbai.
They are filming a sequence where the two men are talking outside a car.
Nearby is the airport runway, a popular site for local drag races. This runway was an ideal find, explains Mark Gamache, a Vancouver-based locations manager who has worked on numerous Hollywood films, as well as on Indian films made in Canada.
Gamache credits the Town of Osoyoos for its co-operation in making the airport available for the film.
“You film the car sequences on the runway, and if you shoot at the right angle you get all the scenery in the background and it’s so much safer than being on an actual highway, diverting traffic,” said Gamache. “So this is a great find in a great facility and we’re really grateful to be able to use this.”
Deo, who grew up in the United Kingdom and is now based in Vancouver, is also very pleased to be using Osoyoos as a location.
“You have one of the most amazing sightings here,” said Deo. “And not only that, it’s easier to work with local people, easy in the sense that we don’t have to go through this permit, that permit to be able to shoot. More than that, I can point my camera anywhere in Osoyoos and have an absolutely beautiful background.”
This isn’t Deo’s first film in Osoyoos. Three years ago, he shot a movie here called Mirza – The Untold Story and also used the same airport runway.
That Punjabi action romance was released in April 2012 and became a box office super hit in India with the highest opening day receipts for a Punjabi film to date.
And unlike many American films shot in Canada, the location isn’t a stand-in for somewhere else. The setting is actually supposed to represent Osoyoos.
Nor does this area merely play a bit part, even though earlier parts of the film are shot in the Lower Mainland.
“Everything we shoot in Osoyoos is the prominent climax of the film,” said Deo.
He describes the role that Osoyoos plays in the movie.
“There was an innocent man who accidentally kills somebody and thought he could make a run to the U.S. border through Osoyoos,” said Deo. “So we’re doing a scene where he’s trying to make a run and he’s on the way to the border.”
There may be a few pickup shots in the town, Gamache says.
After Deo shot Mirza here in 2011, another Indian director, Gurbir Grewal also used Osoyoos as a location for the film Saadi Wakhri Hai Shaan in May 2012.
Deo thinks other filmmakers will also choose to come to Osoyoos for the exceptional location and the lack of red tape.
Actor Shergill said he comes to Canada often to promote his Bollywood films, but this is the first time he has made a movie in Canada.
He has known Deo a long time, but until now their plans to make a move together haven’t worked out.
“This is beautiful,” he said. “I’ve never been to Osoyoos before and I’d heard a lot about it.”
The busy shooting schedule hasn’t given him any time for sightseeing, but he hopes to get around to a few B.C. highlights with his family, who are currently staying in Vancouver, before returning to Mumbai.
In this film he plays the role of a young man who comes from Punjab to Canada to make something of himself, but he soon falls in love with a girl.
“It’s a romantic thriller,” he said, adding that the treatment of the film breaks from the Bollywood formula for dance and music. “I would say it’s very noir. You know how they make those European films and world cinema. It might be a normal story of a guy coming from India to Canada to make something of himself and falling in love with a girl, but the treatment is what’s going to matter.”
Raj Tiwana, assistant director, also agrees that Deo’s movies don’t follow the Bollywood formula.
“This guy has nailed it in every manner in terms of music, direction, actors, storyline because he’s not a guy who makes typical Bollywood movies,” said Tiwana, who is based in Vancouver. “He wants to break the rules and think outside the box.”
Near the runway sit a couple of rented ambulances and police cars while a few actors dressed as paramedics stand around waiting for their scene, which involves a chase.
The clouds thicken and the winds pick up. The chase scene must wait.
Despite this town’s abundance of sunshine, there are some things even a skilled director like Deo can’t control.