So the title is a little misleading; it is in fact a Gujarati film and not an actual Bollywood production. But for an excited traveller, who arrives at his bungalow in Rann Riders resort to find a team of filmmakers shooting a movie literally on his front doorstep, it may as well be the making of Slumdog Millionaire.
And it isn’t just the few foreign tourists staying in Dasada, in the Indian state of Gujarat that are watching the unexpected drama unfurl. Among the onlookers watching from my porch are Jaisukh and his two older brothers. They tell me in their limited English that they are here to simply see “what is going on”. They point out their sister, their father, their grandmother. It seems the whole town is here. Or at least, one large extended family.
But despite the lights, cameras and action, the boys soon become more interested in engaging with the gawking tourist than watching the stars strut their stuff. After requesting a few photos of – and with – the other “star”, they offer a few suggestions on what I should see while in their neck of the woods, around 100kms northwest of Ahmedabad:
-Already on my itinerary, Little Rann of Kutch. A large, desert-like saltmarsh, Little Rann is famous for being the last refuge of the Indian wild ass (or khur), as well as home to nilgai (the largest Asian antelope) and flocks of migratory water birds like the crane and flamingo.
-Less than an hour away, the Modhera Sun Temple. One of the most well known monuments in all of Gujarat, the temple, and its amazing step well, were built nearly 1,000 years ago to honour the Hindu sun god, Surya. To say nothing of its beauty, what’s remarkable about Modhera is at dawn and dusk during the equinoxes, the sun’s rays illuminate the temple’s inner sanctuary.
-Ninety minutes north, the ancient capital of Gujarat – Patan. As well as being celebrated for its silk art, Patan is distinguished by over 100 Jain temples, and by the Rani Ki Vav, or Queen’s Step Well. Commissioned in 1063, this architectural marvel comprises more than 800 elaborate sculptures among seven galleries and is considered one of the finest step wells in all of India.
By the end of our exchange, I’m reminded of what makes this place so special. Yes, Gujarat does have its fair share of incredible attractions, wonderful food and endless sunshine; but it is the people here that make it worth visiting, and more than once. And just like smiling Jaisukh and his happy family, it really wants to share it with you.