Lakshman Jhula in Rishikesh, where shooting rules were flouted openly

The iconic suspension bridge Lakshman Jhula in Rishikesh has been shut down by the Uttarakhand government as safety reports by Public Works Department (PWD) suggested that the bridge was in bad condition and could not “sustain more traffic in its present state”. The development is likely to have an impact on television shows, ad films and even Bollywood films as the bridge is a popular shooting locations.

Built in 1923 over the Ganga river, Lakshman Jhula is an iconic landmark in Rishikesh (renowned for studying yoga and meditation). The bridge connects Tapovan village in Tehri district with Jonk in Pauri district. The bridge is named after Lakshman (younger brother of Lord Rama in Hindu mythology) as it stands at the location he is said to have crossed the river with the help of jute ropes.

Popular films shot at this location:

  • Shahid kapoor’s Batti Gul Meter Chalu
  • Sonu ke Titu ki Sweety
  • Ayushmann Khurrana’s Dum Laga Ke Haisha
  • Amitabh Bachchan’s film Ganga Ki Saugand (1978)

Sanjay Leela Bhansali is planning to shoot his film Inshallah, starring Salman Khan and Alia Bhatt, in Rishikesh, Haridwar and Uttarkashi, but this is one location where they cannot shoot now.

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Such was the popularity of Lakshman Jhula among line producers that directors instruct them to to pick spots from where the bridge is visible, even if the scene doesn’t demand shooting on the bridgge itself. So if they are shooting in the ghats, or in a restaurant nearby, the director would shoot in such an angle so that the Lakshman Jhula would be visible. “Once the audience sees the bridge, they know it is Rishikesh,” a Rishikesh-based line producer.

Rules were flouted openly, say producers

The authorities, despite being aware about the condition of the bridge, never checked the film shoots to see if rules were flouted. They would give the permission (needed from multiple authorities) to shoot on the bridge, but never really checked if rules were being followed, as per this report.

“Whenever we took permission to shoot at Lakshman Jhula, we were told to not allow more than 50 people together on it. But there was no way we could shoot with only 50 people. To shoot any sequence, we obviously need not just actors but the crew, the supporting cast and the support vehicles,” says a Delhi-based line producer who was a part of the Dum Laga Ke Haisha shoot at Lakshman Jhula.

“During the shooting of Dum Laga Ke Haisha, we had to put 20-30 dancers on the suspension bridge, which was against the rules. But, we took liberty during the shooting, and in most cases, this is unavoidable. It’s the similar case with all song sequences shot on the bridge,” says another Delhi-based line producer.

“Riding a bike is not allowed on Lakshman Jhula, but the rule was flouted blatantly for multiple ad campaign shoots,” says another line producer.

Shooting-related queries from Indian as well as international production houses in Rishikesh are usually for Lakshman Jhula and Ganga ghat. Filmmakers cam still shoot on a bridge in Rishikesh, but it will be at Lakshman Jhula’s twin bridge Ram Jhula, which is just a few kilometres away. It is not as popular as Lakshman Jhula, but filmmakers don’t have an option now.

We really hope that in future the authorities take the required precautions to keep important monuments safe.