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Shooting On Location
Known for his penchant for design and imaginative sets, Wes Anderson makes a visual departure with THE DARJEELING LIMITED, while still bringing an intrinsic sense of whimsical choreography to the Whitman brothers' unfolding journey through India. The idea was to take India as it is and meld that, bit by bit and moment by moment, into the almost claustrophobically private world of the three brothers – letting the two collide in a kind of controlled chaos.

"I'm used to the set design in my films coming from my imagination or different influences combined with my imagination,” explains the director, "but in India, it was a different case. There was so much to surprise you in every direction you might look. There was always something funny or something strange and we wanted to capture it all -- and the challenge was getting as much of that as possible into the movie we had written.”

The task began with Anderson setting forth the modus operandi of "shooting as organically as possible,” explains cinematographer Robert Yeoman, who has worked with Anderson on all of his films and also recently shot Noah Baumbach's THE SQUID AND THE WHALE. For Yeoman, India provided both a thrilling and challenging locale for following that mandate. "India is a country of such great contrasts – extreme poverty and great wealth, squalid streets and lavish temples. Above all there is an energy that permeates everything and is inescapable,” he says.

Then there were the crowds. "Shooting on the streets of India is somewhat uncontrollable and the sight of a camera will always draw people,” notes Yeoman. "Wes likes to carefully place each of his actors in the frame but we often had to deal with spectators in the background. By working quickly, often with no lights for day scenes, we tried to take advantage of all this randomness and hopefully, there is a particular energy to our shots imparted by all the unpredictability.”

This approach also extended to the production design. Says Mark Friedberg: "The idea was always to let India be India and to embrace odd circumstances or ‘mistakes' as they happened. Aside from the train, we wanted the film to feel organic, even though most of the sets were very carefully designed. And because Wes is such an analog person who would never use computer-generated imagery or anything like that, who likes handmade styles and traditional technologies, India was really the perfect place for him to work.”

Adds the film's graphic artist Mark Pollard: "India strips everyone of their preconceptions, and presents you with chaos, anarchy, spirituality, prayer and beauty. Just as it's a great place for the characters in the film to experience life, it was for all of us who were there.”

Friedberg, who previously worked with Mira Nair in India on the lavish KAMA SUTRA, notes that Anderson's view of India is a distinctive one in cinema -- that of an enthusiastic outsider. Anderson peers in with all the exhilaration and wonder of a first-timer into this remarkable culture, yet with a keen eye for that twinge of heartbreak and comedy lurking around each corner. "Wes was actually writing his everyday experiences in the country into the script even as they occurred,” notes Friedberg.

The film was shot primarily in the palace-lined, desert region of Rajasthan in the Northwest corner of the sub-continent, with The Darjeeling Limited itself moving on tracks that ran from the city of Jodhpur all the way to Jaisalmer, in the Thar Desert, near the Pakistani border. Meanwhile Patricia's convent and orphanage were created in lusher, greener Udaipur, in a former royal hunting lodge that once belonged to the Maharana of Mewar, one of the Rajput era rulers.

For the convent, Friedberg looked at the legendary 1947 Michael Powell film BLACK NARCISSUS, which also takes place in a nunnery in the Himalayas.


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