KAPOORS ON THE ROAD
Life for the Maharajas of Udaipur was pretty lavish. With one palace in the middle of a lake to stay cool during the searing summer heat, another on a mountaintop overlooking the city to enjoy the greening of the surrounding countryside during the monsoon and yet another in the city itself with a large façade along its western edge designed to catch the warmth of the afternoon sun during the chilly winter months. The Monsoon Palace was donated to the government by the House of Mewar, and the slopes of the mountain on which it is perched has been made into a forest reserve.
The government has done little to preserve the structure and often leases it out as a location for the filming of movies and music videos. The mountain ranges in the distance provide a stunning backdrop for the setting sun and each evening people make their way up to the small terrace on the western side of the palace. Mr. Gupta took us to see the sun set one evening and was able to use his relationship with a brother, who works for the forest service, to allow us to drive all the way to the main gate of the palace. Other visitors must either walk or hire an auto rickshaw to negotiate the winding road with its steep curves.
As we climbed, we passed a series of trucks and trailers and learned that filming was in progress for yet another Bollywood sequel. We were the first to arrive on the small balcony overlooking a west-facing terrace and had a bird's eye view of the filming below. The set had been constructed so that the dancers performed with the setting sun as a backdrop. The costumes were modern in design, many of the dancers were obviously foreigners brought from the US to add some authenticity to the rap/hip hop number.
We enjoyed watching the dancers perform the same scene over and over again as the director used his two cameras to film from different angles. There was a sense of urgency about the set as filming must be finished before the sun set. We hadn't anticipated to be entertained in this way as we waited for the sky to turn a deep red and the sun to sink below the horizon. Just before the moment of truth, a number of other tourists arrived to huddle with us in the small balcony perched high above the barren landscape.
As we drove down the mountain, we were surprised to see a large fire streaking us the hill opposite. It was a small wildfire and lit the sky with a golden glow now that evening had arrived.