Special appearance: Wai

Khursheed Dinshaw | Updated on September 25, 2020

Blue canvas: The picturesque Dhom dam on River Krishna   -  IMAGES: KHURSHEED DINSHAW

A Maharashtra town with close to 100 temples is Bollywood’s go-to ‘village’ location

* Also a town known for temples, Wai’s claim to fame in recent years comes from its appearance in 250 films — Bollywood, Marathi and Bhojpuri

* What works in Wai’s favour as a shoot location is the backdrop of a picturesque village. Wai also has pleasant weather most of the year

* Many of the town’s 36,000-odd residents have acted in films

Amol Patwardhan’s days revolve around plates of misal pav and batata vada, and cups of tea. And when the owner of Hotel Jolly in Wai, a town in the Satara district of Maharashtra, finds a customer who is hungry for more than just snacks, he plies them with stories of his roles in the Bollywood films Gangaajal and Swades. I learn of his brush with the big screen while waiting for a breakfast takeaway. I couldn’t have started my Bollywood exploration of Wai at a better spot.

Also a town known for temples, Wai’s claim to fame in recent years comes from its appearance in 250 films — Bollywood, Marathi and Bhojpuri. Wai is where Chennai Express, Dabangg, Singham, Ishqiya and Omkara were filmed. And it’s not difficult to find in this town of 36,000-odd residents people who have acted in films.

What works in Wai’s favour as a shoot location is the backdrop of a picturesque village. Wai also has pleasant weather most of the year. And because the locals are quite used to shootings, crowd management is a non-issue. Bollywood loves the place because of its proximity to Mumbai, which is less than five hours away by road. And a scenic location on the banks of River Krishna, ringed by hills and sugar cane fields, makes it even more appealing to anyone in search of tranquillity.

For someone who invests time and energy in collecting film trivia, Wai has plenty to offer. After gathering cine nuggets at Patwardhan’s eatery, I set out for the Wai Bhaji Mandal, where varieties of dried fish — from Bombay duck to prawns — are available. The overpowering smell hits the nose as I take a turn around the marketplace. I run to Willis F Pierce Memorial Hospital for a breather. The staff here are happy to help the breathless with oxygen, but what I go looking for is trivia related to the shooting of Gangaajal. Suyog Pradhune, another Wai resident who is quite used to chatting with camera-toting tourists, comes forward with the kind of information I seek. He claims that Ajay Devgn, the lead actor of the 2003 film, celebrated the birthday of a member of the crew with 60 litres of fresh sugar cane juice, a Wai speciality.

The mention of the beverage, strangely, doesn’t make me thirsty. It awakens sugar cravings, which I choose to satiate with puran poli, a sweet flatbread, from Bandu Gore Khanawal, an eatery in the Ganpati Aali locality. I am told that Madhuri Dixit binged on this dish during her three-month stay in Wai for the filming of Mrityudand (1997).

My next destination is Menavali Ghat, which is about 3km from Wai. I arrive there to find it quiet and peaceful. On many other days, the ghat sports a lacquer finish while the steps to the water are lined with colourful props. Artistes often run down these very steps while dancing to film songs. The presence of two living temples at the ghat adds to the overall traditional appeal of the setting.

House uncommon: Nana Phadnavis wada is a late 18th-century structure


In Swades (2004), Menavali Ghat was the nucleus of the fictional town of Charanpur. This is where village elders in the film hold a session of the panchayat, under a gigantic tree. Another recognisable structure here is the Nana Phadnavis wada (manor), which was seen in films such as Yudh, Goonj Uthi Shehnai (probably the first one to be shot in Wai, in the late ’50s) and Jis Desh mein Ganga Rehta hain. The construction of this house for Phadnavis, a statesman at the court of the Peshwas, was completed in 1780. The owner died 20 years later but the wada is still going strong. Parts of the structure, still owned by the family, are open to public. I walk to the upper floor in order to admire the corridors lined with lattice work in teak wood.

Wai’s claim to fame doesn’t end with its Bollywood ties. It is also known as Dakshin Kashi because it has close to 100 temples. Dholya Ganpati or Maha Ganpati Temple at the Ganpati Aali ghat is more than 250 years old, and its deity is said to be as popular as Siddhivinayak in Mumbai.

Temple tour: Dhomeshwar Temple near Wai


A stone pole with five heads greets me at the Dhomeshwar Temple at Dhom dam, my last stop on the Wai tour. The heads stand for the five weaknesses (lust, greed, ego, jealousy and anger) one should discard before entering the place of worship. I can’t tell if I meet the brief, but sitting by the Krishna, at the end of a long day, is certainly refreshing.

Khursheed Dinshaw is a Pune-based freelance writer-photographer

  • Getting there

From Pune Airport, Wai is 85km by road.

  • Stay

As there are no luxurious properties in Wai, you can stay at Il Palazzo Hotel, a resort in Panchgani. It is 15km from Wai.

  • BLink Tip

If you are craving a vegetarian Maharashtrian thali, then head to Bandu Gore Khanawal. For a mutton thali, go to Hotel Siddhagiri located on the Wai-Satara Road.

Published on September 25, 2020

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