Wai, Satara - Maharashtra

A fabulous highway, good people for company, a few halts - made this lovely 5 hour drive to Wai a beautiful memorable one. Villages and towns whizzed past giving way to rolling Sahyadris; gigantic and gentle at the same time. I effortlessly soaked in all the eye could behold

Upon reaching Wai I gathered from the village folks that Vishal Bhardwaj, Prakash Jha, Ashutosh G and many Marathi movie makers have shot lots of films in Wai - Kaminaay, Ishqiya, Omkara, Swades, Gangaajal, Mrityudand, Maqbool to name some.

In fact the day we were in Wai there were 4 shoots happening all within a short distance from each other. There was Salman Khan shooting for his film, Star One was shooting a soap there, our ad was being shot and some promo films for One were being shot. Clearly given the picturesque locale, simple hospitality, reachable distance from Bombay, all, make it a great location for Bollywood and the Ad fraternity to shoot here. Everyone comes to Wai, falls in love with the great outdoors as a location, stay for a day or many long weeks or months and come back again for more - addictive Wai indeed:)

The villagers clearly have seen many celebrities come and go – they have many tales to tell if you lend them a patient ear, they proudly preen about meeting Shah Rukh Khan (Swades), Vivek Oberoi (Omkara), Sushmita Sen ( they say she smokes much), Vidya Balan, Naseeruddin Shah, Arshad Warsi to name some. They treated us like stars and I was worried if this was some means of extraction- only to realize soon they are genuinely helpful and caring.

For me Wai spelt simplicity. Not lazy or laid back, allowed one to love it and in turn Wai loved one back. It’s a gentleman’s village. Humble, helpful, and all they sought in return was appreciation. The most memorable thing of Wai for me was the good strawberry's I ate there – sweet and juicy – never got such kind in Bombay ever

The downside was that Wai doesn’t boast of any decent overnight stay places. While film units usually stay at Mahabaleshwar or Panchgani and drive down to Wai for shooting, we were camped in Wai for the first day, before we moved base to Satara. Not much to write home about the rooms or service in Wai.

Satara on the other hand wears its prosperity with pride. The 4 lane highway drive is a dream- a very international standard highway, (was tempting to fly on such roads) sugarcane crop provides the greens amidst giant lolling light brown mountains, thousands of windmills atop flat table land mountains that spin gently effortlessly creating energy in rhythm. In fact Satara has the distinction of having the largest windmill farm in Asia! The twisting mountain roads were fabulous too. Infact in one place when I looked back from the car- the scene was straight out of a picturesque story book- rolling roadways climbing and undulating with the mountains- with not a soul in sight! How I wish I had my camera in hand to freeze frame that shot! Sigh - regret:(

Some Satara villagers recommended that we ride to Sajjangad, close to Thosghar. Sajjangad is a small fort where Guru Ramdas Swami, the spiritual leader of the Mahratta Warrior Shivaji, lived. And we did. The weather was cool. We spent crazed hours working to ensure we used maximum daylight, then close to sunset went trigger happy on my own camera gasping and marveling once again at the Windmills and the awesome scenery surrounding us.

It was pack up time, armed with a camera full of pictures, we drove to the centre of the village to grab a bite, and soon hit the highway to head back to Pune first. The mountain countryside view on both sides of the road was once again raw, hard and breath-taking. It was now time to pay attention to the driver and keep him engaged in a conversation for the next 5 hours to get home safe and sound in the dark hours of the night.