Victoria meets Bollywood: Punjabi stars shoot film on Inner Harbour

It was East meets West in Victoria on Wednesday as Hollywood and Bollywood created movie magic.

Two Punjabi film stars turned heads on the Inner Harbour during a songanddance number for Singh vs. Kaur, a romantic drama produced by Surrey's Manmord Sidhu with a crew from Mumbai, India.

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"It's like Kevin Costner and Whitney Houston in The Bodyguard with a lot of mango pickle," joked locations manager Mark Gamache, describing the Punjabi-language film about a fellow who saves a beautiful heiress and falls in love with her.

Meanwhile, Fernwood was transformed Wednesday for Cedar Cove, a movie being shot for the Hallmark Channel. The movie, which stars Andie MacDowell and is inspired by Debbie Macomber's bestselling romance novels, continues shooting around town until Saturday. The region is masquerading as a fictional Pacific Northwest town based on Macomber's hometown, Port Orchard, Washington.

Locations used here during the two-day Bollywood shoot included Butchart Gardens, Fisgard Lighthouse and the Inner Harbour, complete with a horse-drawn carriage ride.

One location Gamache couldn't deliver was Victoria's "big waterfall" Mumbai producers had sourced online.

"It turned out it was Victoria Falls" in Africa.

Passersby did doubletakes at rush hour as choreographer Bhupinder Bhupi coached stars Gippy Grewal and Surveen Chawla.

The production even had a "big daddy" - veteran Mumbai cinematographer Harmeet Singh, here to support his sons Navniat Singh, the director, and director of photography Jitan Singh.

Rishi Sharma and cousins visiting from Punjab were among fans taken by surprise. "We brought them down to see the legislature and my dad noticed the cameras," said Sharma, a Ministry of Advanced Education employee.

New York-based producer Caroline Moore said she was glad executive producer Harvey Kahn of Vancouver's Front Street Pictures had pushed to get Cedar Cove made here.

"It's been wonderful, although it is 'June-uary,' so we were a bit shocked by the cold," she laughed.

"It's absolutely exquisite - the oceanscape, the mountains, lovely old houses and downtown with tons of character. It has a wonderful flavour none of us were anticipating."

Victoria film commissioner Kathleen Gilbert welcomed the shooting surge in a year she said has been challenging because the Capital Regional District doesn't qualify under the distant tax credit, which promotes movie-making outside of Metro Vancouver.

"The year started off slow but we're seeing an increase and, hopefully, that trend will continue," she said, noting other productions have included the reality shows Canadian Pickers and Massive Moves, and some commercials.

mreid@timescolonist.com

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