Banaras (Varanasi) City: Capturing Bollywood’s Fancy for Years

Banaras’ charm, rustic appeal, history, and its strong religious connection, attracts several filmmakers to this place.

Back in the limelight with the movie Raanjhanaa, besides Dhanush and Sonam Kapoor, the city of Banaras (Varanasi) also plays an important character in this recently released movie. Even otherwise, over the years, this holy city has often caught the fancy of several Indian filmmakers and has played a key role in several Bollywood films.

Songwriters have also referred to this city in several songs, the most popular one being “Khaike paan benaras wala” from the blockbuster movie Don.

Its charm, rustic appeal, history, and its strong religious connection, attracts filmmakers to this place.

When Harry Met Sejal team – SRK, Anushka, Imtiaz with Manoj Tiwari in Varanasi…

A post shared by Shah Rukh Khan (@iamsrk) on

“Aaj Banaras ka paan khaya hai. Lajawab hai iska swad. Maza aa gaya,” Shahrukh Khan

Movies based in Banaras

Here are some popular Indian films that have been shot in this part of India.

  • Going back to the 1950s, Satyajit Ray shot Aparajito in Benaras, capturing its ghats and the majestic Ganga in an unforgettable panorama.
  • Sunny Deol’s Ghatak showed the ghats and the city’s famous akhada wrestlers.
  • Goldie Behl’s Bas Itna Sa Khwaab Hai was also shot here (the hero, Abhishek Bachchan, is a Benarasi).
  • Aishwarya Rai-starrer, “Chokher Bali”, was shot at a fort in Benaras
  • Urmila Matondkar’s “Benaras – A Mystic Love Story” is a love story set in the city.
  • Several Bollywood films also have shown the darker side of the city, particularly prostitution in Benaras. In Ram Teri Ganga Maili, Mandakini’s character was forced into flesh trade at a Benarasi brothel.

    banaras varanasi city in Bollywood

  • Deepa Mehta’s “Water”, which shows the story of widows in Benaras, could not be shot here (not even a single scene) because of protests from the locals.
  • There are many more movies, including the recently released Raanjhanaa which was shot here.

This list definitely doesn’t cover all the movies that may have been filmed in this city, but you can definitely see Bollywood’s fascination for this temple city. And its definitely not fading away soon.

Khaike Pan Banaraswala – Don – Amitabh Bachchan & Zeenat Aman

Khaike Pan Banaraswala – Don – Shah Rukh Khan & Priyanka Chopra

Classical Music in Benaras

This city has a strong connection with classical music, with many linking music in Varanasi to the Pauranic legends.

  • Lord Shiva who is reported to have established this city was credited with evolving music and dance forms.
  • Saint musicians who furthered the art of classical music were Surdas, Kabir, Raidas, Meera and Tulsidas, which continues to this day.
  • Several centuries ago, the Dhrupad style of singing received royal patronage and led to other related forms of music.

And it’s not that Varanasi is only known for their vocal music singers, this place also has given birth to great instrumentalists such as Ustad Bismillah Khan (Sehnai maestro) & Pandit Ravi Shankar (renowned sitar player).

Banaras is also home to an International Music center where classical music by budding artists is held regularly.

More About the City

Banaras, Benares, Varanasi, Kashi — they all basically refer to the same city. It’s situated on the banks of the holy river Ganges (Ganga) in the state of Uttar Pradesh in North India. It’s about 320 kilometres (200 miles) southeast of the state capital, Lucknow.

banaras varanasi city in Bollywood

Considered to be the holiest of the seven sacred cities (Sapta Puri) in Hinduism and Jainism, hindus believe that death at Varanasi brings salvation. It’s one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world and the oldest in India.

Varanasi (Benaras) is well connected by air, rail and road. It is served by the Lal Bahadur Shastri International Airport with several flights to/from other major cities in India. Varanasi Junction (commonly known as Varanasi Cantt Railway Station) serves lakhs of passengers every day.

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