Victoria’s romantic air attracts Bollywood film crew

There was love in the air, Bollywood-style, in Bastion Square Tuesday — and not just the romance radiating from two exotic movie stars who turned heads.

Fans of Jimmy Shergill and Surveen Chawla seemed as smitten as their characters as the cameras rolled on Rab Rakha, England-born director Bal Deo’s romantic thriller about a dashing dude from Mumbai who comes to Canada “to make something of his life, not realizing what he’s getting into” when he falls for a rags-to-riches immigrant’s beautiful daughter.

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When her gangster boyfriend lands in jail, she falls for the film’s romantic hero, but trouble brews when the gangster finds out.

“You could call it Bollywood crossed with ‘indie’ Hollywood,” said Deo. “It’s more like European films like Bend It Like Beckham … with a twist that might surprise Bollywood movie fans.”

He said he’s shooting scenes in Victoria for God Forbid, his fourth film’s English title, “because we needed a really romantic backdrop” and “there’s a lot less red tape.”

Deo and his crew were on a tight schedule Tuesday, with two more musical sequences to shoot before getting his stars to Vancouver in time to catch their late-night flight to Mumbai.

Shergill, who posted a selfie on Facebook before his arrival, gamely posed for photos with onlookers, including enthusiastic fans of his action hit Saheb, Biwi aur Gangster.

“It’s beautiful here,” the soft-spoken star, wearing a thin sea-green sweater and white slacks, said after shooting a scene in an alley.

“I’ve been coming to Canada for some time, once or twice a year, and I have friends who say ‘You must go to Victoria,’ but I never had the time, so fortunately we were filming over here.”

A “heavenly place” is how Purushottam Kashid, Shergill’s hairstylist who accompanies him to locations worldwide, described Victoria.

Having stars like Shergill and Chawla here is akin to having George Clooney and Angelina Jolie suddenly appear unannounced, fans of Bollywood movies said.

“Any other place there would be tens of thousands of people gathering,” said Sri Ganti, a nonplussed provincial government worker who dropped by on her lunch break after a friend tipped her off.

“No one seemed to know the filming was happening. Bollywood movies are larger-than-life and when you can get so close to them, you get excited and want to take pictures.”

Crews also shot scenes Monday at the legislature and causeway after shooting in Osoyoos, Riverview Hospital in Coquitlam, Vancouver Art Gallery, Stanley Park and a Sikh temple in Richmond, said Mark Gamache, the film’s production manager who also worked on the Punjabi megahits Jatt and Juliet and its sequel.

He said one fan was so excited over getting a photo taken with Shergill, she texted it to her family in India, who texted her back pointing out she was wearing jeans.

“She went home and got dressed traditionally and had the picture taken again to please her family,” Gamache said.

Deo said he plans to shoot a feature “that will take place just in Victoria.”

Rab Rakha will be released theatrically late this year.

mreid@timescolonist.com

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