16. September 2011

With its endless offshoots of alleyways and myriad hidden courtyards basked in shadow, Prague has always been something of a mysterious character. If it were a person, it'd be an enigmatic villain swathed in cloak and hat, forever disappearing around the next corner. Now, the city that has often been a setting for ghost stories and literary surrealism is the location for a new film being shot by a group of young filmmakers from India. The "romantic psychological thriller," entitled simply Prague, tells the story of three Mumbai architecture students who come to the Czech capital in order to explore firsthand its buildings and get a taste of its history. Before long, Prague reveals a number of secrets and a rift in the threesome's relationship begins to appear. After three weeks on location, filming for Prague is wrapping up and producer Rohit Khaitan is sitting at the bar in cavernous expat haunt Propaganda where his crew are setting up for one of the film's final scenes before they fly back to India. Khaitan says he was immediately impressed by Prague when he first visited in March. It is the city's character, which Khaitan calls "very surreal," that he hopes Prague will embody. "In the evening after sunset when there aren't many people around, it's very lonely and there's definitely some energy. There's a voice that this city has. I wanted to get that across," he says. As well as shooting on location at many of Prague's famous landmarks and some more clandestine ones, cast and crew have traveled further afield to make the most of the country's extraordinary sites, with Kutná Hora's morbidly fascinating "bone church" serving as another characterful location. Khaitan says that the city has also helped him ruminate and develop ideas for the film while he has been here. The Charles Bridge is his favorite architectural muse. "Whenever you are bored or stressed out, you just walk round the Charles Bridge and that gives you a lot of positive energy," he says. One of Prague's main protagonists is played by Arfi Lamba, an actor who found his break with a small role in the Oscar-winning Slumdog Millionaire. "Growing up I always wanted to be an actor, but instead you take the safest route, end up working for a company," Lamba tells The Prague Post. "I got to a point where I just gave up my job [at a petro-chemical company], and went to Mumbai to become an actor." Although the Indian coastal city is a world away from Prague in terms of culture and size, the actor claims there is something undeniably mystical and alluring about Prague. That, and the beer and nightlife are good. Prague is scheduled for worldwide release in 2012. The film is one of the few, if not only, to fuse Bollywood with traditional Czech culture, and for that reason, its filmmakers claim there has been something of a buzz surrounding the project - with CzechTourism having been particularly supportive, and British film critic and president of the International Film Critics' Circle, Derek Malcolm also showing an interest. Although the filmmakers are now heading back to Mumbai for editing, they can't be kept away from Prague for long: They hope to return next month, for the annual Prague Bollywood Film Festival.