The international film industry’s New Zealand love affair is well documented with picture perfect landscapes capturing the imagination and hearts of film stars, producers and movie-goers the world over.
And, with New Zealand featuring in a list of top foreign places to shoot Bollywood movies, it seems that Indian film-makers and their audiences are in agreement.
The diversity of New Zealand culture and landscapes first caught the attention of Bollywood film makers with the 2008 movie, Love Has No Language.
The romantic comedy, starring Bollywood actress and former Miss India Universe (2001) Celina Jaitley alongside Kiwi actor Ben Mitchell, featured the urban landscapes of Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city, and the year-round alpine resort of Queenstown.
The striking landscapes, snow-capped mountains and crystal clear lakes of Queenstown took centre-stage once again with the Bollywood smash hit I Hate Luv Storys, filmed in New Zealand and released to instant box office success in 2010.
The movie - staring Indian heart-throb Imran Khan and the beautiful Sonam Kapoor - ranked as India’s 12th best net-grossing movie of all time on its opening day alone.
But it wasn’t just movie-goers who fell in love with the untouched landscapes, director Punit Malhotra, who came to New Zealand looking for "picture perfect postcard locations" was also bitten by the New Zealand love-bug.
"As a film maker in Queenstown you don’t have to hunt for good locations. The place itself is one giant exquisite locale," Malhotra told H T Cafe magazine at the time of release.
With starring roles in other Hollywood movies such as The Lord of the Rings, Wolverine, The Water Horse, 10,000 BC, The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, Vertical Limit, Prince Caspian and The Hobbit Trilogy, Malhotra summed up the South Island alpine resort town perfectly when he said that Queenstown is not just a location, but a character.
"I can’t ever forget the fried fish and chips ... but you should also have the great fresh bread, fruit, coffee, ice cream and the exotic cheeses that the locals make."
New Zealand also proved to be a dream location for the stars of the movie. Both Khan and Kappor enjoyed exhilarating adventures like bungy jumping from Queenstown’s famous Kawarau Bridge to experiencing the thrills and spills of the iconic Shotover Jet and taking a leap of faith with a skydive above Queenstown’s towering mountains and glistening Lake Wakatipu.
The lure of New Zealand’s landscapes saw Bollywood return in 2011 for the filming of The Players - a Bollywood remake of the 1969 classic hit The Italian Job. As well as featuring Sonam Kapoor, Players brought another A-list Indian actor, Abhishek Bachchan, to its shores.
This time it was Wellington - the film capital of New Zealand -that had a chance to shine on the silver screen.
Wellington’s urban terrain, steep streets, dramatic coastline and stunning harbour showcased the capital city to the world, as well as a thrilling high-speed car chase along the runway at Wellington International Airport.
Filming also took place in Auckland - New Zealand’s largest and most culturally diverse city with sweeping aerial shots of the Auckland Harbour Bridge, the boat-filled Waitemata Harbour and the 328-metre-high Sky Tower making the city look like a movie star in its own right.
With a large Indian population, Auckland is the city of choice for high-profile Bollywood stars wanting to experience New Zealand’s breath-taking, adventure-filled landscapes in the heart of a flourishing, world-class urbanised city.
Along with yacht-filled harbours, designer boutiques and celebrity-chef restaurants, Auckland is only a short drive or cruise away from uncrowded beaches, wildlife, and ancient volcanic craters.
The latest internationally recognised Bollywood star to enjoy Auckland was Indian superstar Shahrukh Khan. Hailed as ‘the world’s biggest movie star’, SKR brought his colourful Bollywood-inspired show Temptation Reloaded along with some of Bollywood’s most-loved and famous actresses Madhuri Dixit, Rani Mukerji and Jacqueline to Auckland’s premier events complex Vector Area in 2013.
But it’s not just the stars of Bollywood who’ve fallen for New Zealand’s bountiful beauty, some of India’s high-profile and much-loved cricket stars have also been swayed by its charm and versatile adventures.
In 2012 Indian cricket’s most famous son, Sachin Tendulka and team-mates enjoyed panoramic views of Auckland and its expansive harbour from 192 metres above ground while enjoying the Auckland Sky Tower’s thrilling SkyWalk adventure.
The team including Laxmipathy Balaji, Venkatesh Prasad, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman and Laxmipathy Balaji also enjoyed some time away from the game with a spot of sailing on board an America’s Cup yacht - on the sparkling harbour filled with so many boats it has earned Auckland the title of ‘City of Sails’.
Cricket World Cup 2015
In 2015 New Zealand will once again take cricket’s centre stage when the Cricket World Cup - co-hosted with Australia - begins.
Cricket fans looking to enjoy the same magical experiences as Bollywood stars and cricketing royalty can take in all New Zealand has to offer with 27 Cricket World Cup matches shared between seven host cities.
Auckland, Hamilton, Napier and Wellington in the North Island and Nelson, Christchurch and Dunedin in the spectacular south offer spectators and visitors to New Zealand so much to see, do and explore between the big games, and on the doorstep of the host venues.
Along with sporting action and diverse landscapes to be explored, the Cricket World Cup is promising to be a captivating tournament with an electrifying Kiwi party atmosphere to add to the experience.
Cricket World Cup hosts ready for showcase