As Milkha Singh’s biopic Bhaag Milkha Bhaag gets off to a good start, Northern Railway might have another hit to its credit. Railway officials say they were counting on its success beforehand. Almost all the films that have been shot at the Rewari steam locomotive shed – Gadar, Veer Zara and Rang De Basanti to name a few – have become runaway hits. The yard at Rewari is the only steam loco shed that remains in the country. A number of blockbusters have had it in the backdrop and used the Akbar (Shahanshah) loco engine, a WP model steam engine that served the Delhi-Kolkata main line.
A Northern Railway official says – “Gadar’s success was followed by a string of big-budget films staged in Rewari. Each one of them, including Guru and Love Aajkal, has met with success. Veer Zara was also received well.” Bhaag Milkha Bhaag was filmed between October 8 and 14 last year in Rewari. The adjoining railway colony served as an apt setting for Milkha’s childhood scenes.
The railways too have earned revenues from such ventures. Besides the publicity that comes along, a day’s use of a four-coach train and engine, especially a WP/P model engine, fetches Rs 4 lakh. “With coffers drying up, films give the boost needed to maintain the loco shed,” said another officer.
Northern Railway, which hoped to cash in on the hoopla surrounding the new films – Fukrey was also shot in the Delhi division – is disappointed that shooting of two big-ticket productions – Chennai Express starring Shah Rukh Khan and Peekay starring Aamir Khan – was cancelled at the last moment.
“We were hoping that the shooting planned by Peekay will mark a break from the period dramas set in Rewari and begin our dalliance with new-age Indian cinema. That is why we allowed Bullet Raja to be shot in Lucknow despite the inconvenience. But, the production managers of Peekay backed out after the initial enthusiasm,” said an official.
The railway is planning special packages for filmmakers who plan to use the services of the Shahanshah, which is considered a lucky mascot. A third WP-actually a WP/P, one of the original Baldwin prototypes- no. 7200 Shahanshah, which was at the Charbagh workshops in Lucknow, was restored for use in steam specials by the Northern Railway. It has also run several steam specials, including one between Royapuram and Tambaram on January 26, 2009, to commemorate the 153rd anniversary of Royapuram station, the oldest railway station in the country and even ran the Steam Express on January 14, 2012.