Count Bollywood amongst the mourners of the Notre Dame cathedral fire

A beautiful backdrop, lost.
A beautiful backdrop, lost.
Image: Reuters/Charles Platiau
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The iconic French cathedral where a massive blaze erupted on Monday (April 15) has been a cherished location for India’s Hindi film industry for years.

The 850-year-old Notre Dame, one of the first Gothic cathedrals, which took around 300 years to build, has featured in a slew of popular Bollywood songs and scenes on the silver screen.

Take, for instance, the song “Ilahi “from the Ranbir Kapoor-Deepika Padukone starrer Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani (2013) which features the historic monument in its opening sequence. It also appears in the background of a brief scene where Kapoor is chased by a smoker.

Another movie with Kapoor in the lead, Ae Dil Hai Mushkil (2016), was also shot there.

While in many videos it makes a blink-and-miss appearance, the 2009 release London Dreams shot big chunks of the song Man Ko Ati Bhavey in front of Notre Dame.

The 2012 film London, Paris, New York also has actors Ali Zafar and Aditi Rao Hydari romancing on the shores of the river Seine with a full view of Notre Dame as the backdrop.

More recently, a scene from Yash Raj Films production Befikre (2016) was also shot right outside the 13th-century church. A lot of its title track is filmed on Notre Dame’s roof. Unfortunately, the devastating fire caused its central spire and parts of the roof to collapse.

Like Bollywood, visitors have been equally smitten. Drawing over 13 million visitors a year, Notre Dame is France’s most visited tourist attraction.

Although much of the building that survived two world wars and the French revolution was destroyed in yesterday’s fire, the ball is already rolling on restoration efforts. French billionaire François Pinault has pledged €100 million ($113 million) to the reconstruction of the fire-ravaged cathedral. New York-based French Heritage Society and crowdfunding site GoFundMe have also offered to help.

But Indian filmmakers will have to wait for a while before they get to shoot again at their beloved location. The resurrection will cost tens of millions of dollars, take many years, and require an army of workmen such as stone masons, glaziers, and carpenters, among others.