Bollywood in Spain. From Teruel to Barcelona, Indian cinema tours our country

If we ask you what you know about Bollywood movies, it is very likely that only fantastic dance numbers with a catchy rhythm and dozens of people moving in spectacular choreographies come to mind. 

However, Indian films – not only those of Bollywood, with its peculiar style – cover the same genres and plots as American or Spanish films. Comedies, dramas, thrillers, crime and action movies are big hits in the Asian subcontinent. What differentiates its audiovisual production is that India has the largest film industry in the world in terms of tickets sold and number of films made. A fact that has the same origin and cause: its large number of inhabitants who make up a formidable market that demands new content.

Therefore, the Indian audiovisual market is in full growth. It is one of the most emerging and dynamic industries thanks to the digital transition it is experiencing after the pandemic: increase in the young population and Internet use, popularity of digital payments, low price of mobile connection, and growth of digital distribution through OTT platforms (over-the-top). 

According to the ICEX study The audiovisual market in India, there are several clusters where film production is concentrated in that country. Each one of them is focused on a language. Traditionally, Bollywood, based in Bombay, has been the fastest to take advantage of the new global commercial opportunities, as it is one of the film groups that produces in Hindi, the most widely spoken language in India

Bollywood has a huge potential audience not only among the local Indian population, but also among Indians living in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Pakistan, Nepal and Sri Lanka. In addition, its films and serials are also popular in Eastern Europe and South America.

Although Spanish content in India has a low penetration, its success is growing and there are sponsors of Spanish culture in the country, such as the Cervantes Institute in New Delhi, which promotes Spanish through various contents, including films.

Conversely, the Indian audiovisual market has much to offer Spain economically through international co-productions. 


“You only live once”: the road movie that unleashed the phenomenon 

It all started in 2011 with a first film shot in several representative territories of our country. “Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara” (“You only live once”) narrates the adventures in Spain of three friends celebrating the bachelor party of one of them. A plot that, surely, you will remember from a previous blockbuster “Hangover in Vegas” (2009) and its sequel “Hangover 2: Now in Thailand” (2011).

The film is basically the typical road movie with which to enjoy beautiful landscapes and eternal sunsets aboard a convertible, a formula with a proven guarantee at the box office. Although it may be too “folkloric” for a Spanish viewer, it fulfilled its objective: to turn Spain into an exotic tourist destination, with a lot of partying to offer.

Its success was fulminant, both at the box office (where it broke box office records) and in promoting travel to “exotic” Spain: one year after its premiere, tourism from the Asian country grew by almost 50%.


Barcelona, Seville, tomatoes and bulls, the “exotic” mix representing Spain

When we talk about a “typical Spanish” film, we are not exaggerating too much. The protagonists’ journey begins in Barcelona, where the friends draw up their plan after a tour of the city in images, which includes characteristic elements such as the Arc de Triomphe, the Sagrada Familia or the pedestrians wearing F.C. Barcelona T-shirts.

The colorful Sagrada Familia attracted the filmmakers of “Sólo se vive una vez”/ Barcelona Film Commission

The route to follow takes them first to the Costa Brava, to practice scuba diving; then to Seville, where they parachute; and finally they end up in Pamplona to run a running of the bulls in the middle of San Fermines. In the middle of this itinerary, they take a spontaneous trip to Buñol, to take part in its mythical “tomatina” (which was recreated expressly for the filming of the movie).

In order to film in so many and varied locations, Catalunya Film Commission, Navarra Film Commission, and Andalucía Film Commission, were in charge of providing the producers of the film with everything they needed to make it a success. 

We tell you more about the shooting in Andalusia in our article “Bollywood in Andalusia”. 


Valencian Community: good weather and Mediterranean flavor


Valencia is one of the places in Spain that Indian producers like the most. Not only does it enjoy enviable weather, with practically guaranteed sunshine, but it also offers something that sets it apart from other major Spanish capitals: the versatility of the venues, which can confirm their availability at short notice, something highly desirable in a type of production where locations are constantly changing. A task that Valencia Film Office facilitates and that constitutes one of the great attractions of the region for filming. 

Among the productions to pass through the capital of Turia, is “Bharat” (2021), a family story that begins at the time of the birth of India as an independent nation and reaches the present day. 

The film stars the popular actress Kajal Aggarwal, who, during the filming in Valencia (in 2019), shared images of the city through her personal Instagram account (9.4 million followers) photographs in which she shows, among other spaces, the Plaza de la Virgen or the graffiti of David de Limón. A priceless tourist promotion

As for the locations chosen for the filming, in addition to classics such as the City Hall Square, the Almoina or the port, it was also filmed in locations less frequented by film crews, such as the Science Park of the Polytechnic University and the Faculty of Fine Arts, the Aqua shopping center or the tunnel of the Petxina promenade.

Filming of “Bharat” in Valencia’s Plaza de la Virgen / Valencia Film Office

The next to pass through the Valencian capital was “Sarkaru Vaari Paata” (2022), another Indian blockbuster that sought “exotic” scenarios as a backdrop for its powerful scenery. On this occasion, the locations chosen were the Plaza de la Virgen, the well-known Serrano Towers, L’umbracle of the City of Arts and Sciences and the Cirsa Casino. 

For fans of the genre and those who want to see Valencia with a layer of “made in Bollywood” glamour, the movie is available on Prime Video.


Benidorm and the coast of Alicante

Undoubtedly, the beautiful villages of the Costa Blanca, Alicante, were a bonbon for Indian set designers, always looking for the sun, blue skies and charming streets. Good proof of this is the video of the song “I don’t know” from the 2016 film “Bharat ane Nenu”, which almost looks like a promotional ad for the area. 

With scenes filmed in Benidorm, the old town of Calpe -where the Campanari and Puchalt streets are recognizable-, the old town of Altea and the Peñón de Ifach Natural Park (also in Calpe), the video (which has reached 7 million views), is a luxury showcase to attract tourists eager to enjoy Spanish “exoticism”.

Shooting of “Bharat ane Nenu “in Calpe/ Benidorm Film Office

Again in 2022, a fortunate year for Indian productions shot in Spain, the film “Ramarao on duty”, chose again the square and the viewpoint of the Castle and the Mal Pas beach in Benidorm to record another of those spectacular videos that thrill Bollywood viewers so much.

On this occasion, locations were also chosen in Villajoyosa. Specifically, some impressive Mediterranean-style villas that crown the cliff between the beaches of Asparalló and Bol Nou, in the Montíboli area. A place that could well be on the French Riviera.

In all cases, those responsible for tourism in the destinations chosen for these shootings agree that these films are a platform for promoting their destinations in a market where they do not develop direct actions, while allowing them to reach viewers of this nationality who reside in different parts of Europe and who, consequently, have an easier time traveling to Spain. Another case of collaboration of the film offices with their respective territories to facilitate filming and attract tourism and work. Benidorm Film Office and Film Valencia, involved in this occasion, know it well.

Benidorm’s spectacular Balcón del Mediterráneo, one of the filming locations/ Benidorm Film Office

“Pathaan”: Mallorca and Cadiz in viral videos

Also in 2022 (taking advantage of the “post-pandemic” effect), Indian film star Shah Rukh Khan, also known as “the king of Bollywood” landed in Mallorca to shoot one of the most famous and celebrated films of Indian cinema in the last decade: “Pathaan”.

Among other scenes from the film, the videoclip of one of the film’s songs, “Besharam Rang Song”, which was filmed in Cala Figuera, Camp de Mar and La Calobra, has reached 600 million views. Something that is not surprising considering that the film sold more than 500,000 tickets on its first day of release and was distributed in more than 8,000 screens.

Cala Figuera, scene of the video “Pathaan”/ Mallorca Film Commission

As the director of the Mallorca Film Commission, Pedro Barbadillo, tells us, “The production company hired an average of 300 people from the island, including camera crews, extras and professional dancers. In addition to the direct benefit during the filming, the repercussion for tourism is also important because there are six million Indians living in Europe who consume Bollywood, so it is another excellent window to showcase Mallorca”.

 “Pathaan” also stopped in Cadiz, where another of the most shocking and viral videos of recent years was filmed. We tell you about it in our article “Bollywood in Andalusia”.

The next shoot to pass through the Balearic island was that of a romantic comedy ideal for celebrating the Indian holiday of Holi, the ode to colors and love (the equivalent of Western Valentine’s Day). “Tu Jhoothi Main Makkaar “(“Lie or Cunning”) took advantage of the photogenic streets of Besalú, Deia, Valldemosa and Sóller to set the love story of the two protagonists. Once again, a fantastic showcase of the island’s goodness for a huge audience.

The protagonists of “Mentira o astucia” in Mallorca /Netflix

Next to shoot in Mallorca will be Sundance and Tribeca award-winning director Prashant Nahir, who will start his new project in 2024. 


Teruel, the most surprising “Bollywood” territory

Speaking of special locations, perhaps one of the most unique ones used for an Indian filming in Spain is the Matarraña region of Teruel. There, in the town of Cretas, stand the avant-garde Solo Houses by architect Christian Borduais. These are the buildings known as Casa Office KGDVS, circular in shape, and Casa Pezo, which follows rectilinear lines. Both constructions offer an unparalleled stamp and are perfectly integrated into the natural environment despite their avant-garde design and gave the producers what they were looking for. A good screen tourism tip for your next trip to this beautiful region.

The impressive Office House KGDVS/ Solo-Office-KGDVS-scaled

Castilla y León: the new scenario of Spanish “exoticism” in India

The number of Indian productions coming to shoot in Spain continues to increase. In 2023, however, the tastes of the filmmakers have changed and they have started to shoot in less “folkloric” locations, such as the Segovia prison. 

The Castilian and Leonese precursors, however, landed in the province of Valladolid in 2018. The production, “Devil in palace” combined horror, love and, of course, music and dance. On that occasion, the production company filmed in emblematic locations in the capital – such as the Plaza Mayor – but also made stops in towns in the province such as Trigueros del Valle and its castle, the Matilla de los Caños aerodrome, Fuensaldaña and Mucientes.

This first contact between Bollywood and Valladolid was the result of an action carried out by the Valladolid Film Commission and the Spain Film Commission in Bombay, with a presentation to the Bollywood Film Producers Association. This meeting resulted in an agreement with the Casa de la India in Valladolid, which culminated in the filming of “Devil in palace”.

Filming of “Devil in palace” in Valladolid’s Plaza Mayor/ Valladolid Film Commission

Segovia: Bollywood also rolls in prisons

In August 2023, Segovia Film Office facilitated the filming of the movie “Jailed” in one of its most unique locations: the old jail. Although it is paradigmatic that the city of the Alcazar and the Aqueduct (among many other tourist beauties) is known for having such a peculiar set, the truth is that there are many productions of all kinds (including commercials and video clips) that seek a prison to shoot their plots.

Filming of “Jailed” in the prison of Segovia / Segovia Film Office

In this case, “Jailed”, an Indian-Portuguese thriller co-production, will not offer beautiful tourist postcards of Segovia, but it did have an important economic impact on the Castilian capital. As Rosa Portillo, head of Segovia Film Office, tells us, “in just one week of shooting, the production left 200,000 euros of investment. A good incentive to continue promoting the arrival of these shootings”.

Salamanca: the last major Indian shoot to date

In October 2023, another Castilian capital was the last (for the moment) to host the shooting of an Indian production.  After a previous location work carried out by the Salamanca Film Commission together with the Spanish production company Palma Pictures, in which more than ten visits were made to the capital of the Tormes, the filmmaker Ayan Murkeji chose such emblematic spaces as the Plaza Mayor, the Ieronimus and Scala Coeli towers, the surroundings of the Palacio de Congresos, the bridges over the Tormes, the streets Compañía, San Pablo, Rúa and Libreros, and the squares of Anaya and Patios de Escuelas, for the filming. 

As Enrique Cantabrana, head of the Salamanca Film Commission, tells us, the filming was very well received in the city. The casting alone attracted 900 people for the hiring of 400 extras of all ages. 

“In addition to the promotion that will involve the release of the film in India in the year 2025, the production company made an investment in the city of more than one million euros (between hiring actors, special extras and small roles, construction material, building adaptation, set assembly, machinery, audiovisual equipment, props, art department, hiring trades, plumbing, masonry or electricity, transportation); to which must be added the 1,800 overnight stays in hotels.” 

Filming in the Plaza Mayor/ Salamanca Film Commission

As for the work involved for a city and a filming office to host a production of this size, Cantabrana adds: “For the filming, more than half a year of pre-production work had to be carried out, in which municipal resources had to be mobilized from departments as diverse as Local Police, Fire Department, Environment, Cleaning, Civil Engineering, Public Lighting, Heritage, Urban Planning, Culture, Administrative Police, Tourism or Maintenance, as well as including other institutions”. 

An effort that, for sure, will translate into an increase of Indian visitors to Salamanca as soon as the film is released (which also promises to be a smash hit).


A promising future for Indian cinema in Spain

After this summary of the Indian productions shot in our country in the last decade, it is clear the interest of the Bollywood market in our culture. This interest was evident at the last edition of Fitur Screen, when producer Rishabh Chopra, head of production at Yash Raj Films, the longest-running Indian Bollywood production and distribution company, was awarded the title of Honorary Ambassador 2024. Yash Raj Films produced the aforementioned “Pathaan”, a great success with audiences in India and a magnificent showcase for different Spanish territories. 

Rishabh Chopra will now assume the role of Ambassador of Spain Film Commission, fostering the strategic synergy that will strengthen the film and tourism relationship between India and Spain. “I am deeply grateful for this recognition and there will certainly be new projects here on the horizon,” he said after collecting the award. 

Therefore, we are sure that our screen route through Bollywood in Spain will expand very soon with new destinations. In the meantime, be sure to do a little dance in one of the beautiful places where it has already been filmed, and live what you see!

By María Parcero

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