‘Bombay Velvet’ in Yala, Sri Lanka

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Bollywood movie ‘Bombay Velvet’ is one of the most awaited films of the year. It’s been spoken about for the last 8 years, because Anurag (Anurag Kashyap, the director) has been developing the script over that period of time, and it’s gone through multiple cast options and always the biggest names were spoken about. Currently, it’s been made with the strongest cast possible – with Ranbir Kapoor, Anushka Sharma and Karan Johar, who plays one of the most pivotal roles in the film for the first time, K.K. Menon and others.

Currently the ‘Bombay Velvet’ film crew is in Ranminithenna, Tissamaharama, Sri Lanka shooting a story about Bombay set in the 50’s and 60’s.  This is a short interview with the producer Vivek Agrawal. On the topic of Sri Lanka, why choose the country over much larger India or any other country?

There were several factors. Anurag when he finished the script and was looking for locations to shoot the film, India was definitely the last option for him simply because the way Bombay looked in the 40s and 50s is nowhere the same now. The multi-high rises were not there, it was more a city of mills, where they played a huge factor in providing employment and it wasn’t the big cosmopolitan city it is today. All that changed in the late 60s and 70s, so you wouldn’t get the architecture; because especially in Bombay you have some of the old art deco buildings in South Bombay, but next door you’ll find a glass structure… virtually impossible to shoot on location.

Was it a priority to get that particular period into the picture?Absolutely, otherwise how are you going to recreate Bombay in the 50s and 60s with glass structures around you? We explored several cities in India; such as Calcutta, Delhi, Gujarat, Goa, but logistics were driving us crazy. Then, Anurag thought of exploring abroad, and he travelled to a lot of countries such as Italy, Brazil – Sao Paolo was suggested to him, he travelled to the East but nothing was falling into place. Someone suggested to me about Sri Lanka, especially Colombo for some interior scenes because I heard that the architecture in Colombo is similar to Bombay’s at the time because it was built by the British and a lot of of it is restored. While we were starting our race, at the end of 2012 we made a small trip to Colombo thinking we can do a 10-12 day shoot here. See some houses, and some streets, and some stuff – when we came here, we were in shock!

Fort, Colombo what you have here is exactly the same as a place called Fort in Mumbai. The buildings are the same, the architecture is the same, and nothing is changed at all. The good thing in Sri Lanka, for us and for the film was that there is a law that you cannot change the architecture of a building or break it down – you have to restore it. This was perfect for us, as we got the art deco we needed.

So, suddenly from a 10-12 day shoot we explored doing a 20-25 day shoot because most houses we included in the film we were able to see it in different locations in Colombo. Film Team, who I worked here, suggested the studio set in Tissamaharama called Ranmitihenna. We went there and thought it was the ideal place to work on our film. We needed to build some part of the city on a set, which would compromise almost 50% of the film. I was thinking of building it in Mumbai or Hyderabad, when the authorities suggested building it in the studio land itself – 12 to 15 acres. It was a great idea, but logistics drove me up the wall initially! It would require 500-600 workers for 10 months, and Indian technical expertise to come from there, and they would have to live here, getting extras, etc. We then realized that there were more than ten times vintage vehicles here than in India, and maintained very, very well.

That was a huge bonus, simply because we were struggling to obtain such vehicles back in India. You create with the architecture, and with the vehicles, and with theclothes. Clothes we’d create, and would have had to no matter where we shot but cars we can’t manufacture. Immediately, everything shifted to Sri Lanka’s favour – as it’s a huge bonus to have that era’s cars running in the streets. We then decided to take up the challenge, in May 2013. We finished constructing the set in January 2014, and started shooting in February. We shot one schedule in Colombo, Galle, and a 40 day schedule here in Yala. From an initial estimation of doing 10-15% here in Sri Lanka, we finally ended up doing 90% here.

I know that Sri Lanka has one of its biggest tourism markets from India, and trust me – Bombay Velvet is going to change it completely. It’s also going to help most of the hotels we stayed in – for example Jetwing Yala, all the stars stayed here such as Anurag Kashyap, Ranbir Kapoor, Anuskha Sharma, Karan Johar, etc. They love the hospitality of the hotel, and if we weren’t shooting here it would be difficult to arrange accommodation. People will want to see where Bombay Velvet was shot – I’m leaving behind the set, which can be used for future films once ours is released.

Any thoughts about your stay here in Sri Lanka? I’ve had a fabulous stay at Jetwing Yala, Jetwing Blue and Jetwing Lagoon. The hospitality in the entire Jetwing group is unbelievable. My stars over the past 40 days have been constantly telling me that they’ve had the best shoot of their lives! After working at the studio which is around 45 minutes away and coming back to just relax is necessary and vital.

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Source: http://www.sundaytimes.lk/140413/magazine/bombay-velvet-in-yala-sri-lanka-91919.html


Tranquil Lakeside for Adventure or Weddings

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Only a few miles away from Colombo, sitting on the banks of a tranquil Bolgoda Lake, the Thotupola Lake Resort is for those dreaming of some summer-loving over a stiflingly hot and dusty Colombo weekend. When we visited Thotupola a few weeks ago all was calm and quiet.

There is very little of the man-made at Thotupola. The small reception immediately gives way to an open vista of green pastures and tranquil waters, set off by a robust breeze making its way inbound from the lake. Since its inception in the late 90s Thotupala has become one of the city’s most scenic spots for nuptials and one only has to take in the view to understand why.

Weddings aren’t the only thing the resort has earned a reputation for, says Jayantha Silva who works with Wild Holidays, Thotupola’s managing company. Mr. Silva only got involved with the enterprise some four years ago but is already a transformed man, thanks to the healthy doses of fresh air and sunshine his daily job affords. It’s a job few are privileged to have, he shares. “Beautiful sights, breathtaking scenery and a healthy dose of adventure-what more could you ask for?”

Adventure is certainly what Thotupola thrives on. There’s an aerial rope that will have you jump off from the top of a building, abseil through the crisp morning air and straight into the lake. Just looking at it gives you the heebie-jeebies but we’re told that very few have declined the opportunity to go down the rope and make a resounding splash in the lake. “You will emerge from the exercise feeling like a different person,” says Jayantha. “We’ve always said that these exercises are designed to help you come to terms with who you are. Just imagine-would you doubt your capabilities in life once you’ve done something as exhilarating and dangerous as this?”

This is what Wild Holidays specialises in; helping people realise their potential has been their trade since inception over two decades ago. The corporate training programmes that Thotupola has become quite famous for are carefully thought out activities that aim to challenge the body as well as the mind. It has already been figured out by some intelligent executive that when it comes to training your workforce nothing beats some fresh air and teamwork-Thotupola works in that premise to afford their clients an experience that few are likely to forget.

Training usually begins with a raw egg that you are given at the beginning of the day. Don’t be surprised if you’re told that this is your ‘life’, and you must protect it at all costs till the end of the day. “People go to great lengths to keep an eye on their life,” grins Jayantha. It’s no easy task, dealing with the strenuous activity while protecting a fragile shell but it’s all about multi-tasking-something all of us do in our daily lives. Besides, “your mind is the fastest thing in the world,” they say. “If you can’t do it, no one can.”

A typical session will involve plenty of individual and team exercises, notable among them kayaking, climbing up a rather impossible looking wall, the aerial rope, a ‘giant’s ladder’, and a game delightfully titled ‘Mud Kabadi’ that happens exactly the way the name implies. There doesn’t seem to be much to be concerned about by way of safety. Most of the Thotupola trainers are lean, mean machines straight off the military, quite accustomed to handling any situation. “You’ll feel quite safe in their hands,” Jayantha assures us. In addition the resort uses internationally accredited safety gear.

Thotupola is also quite a popular venue for nuptials, for many reasons. Primary amongst these is an utterly stunning view of the lake coupled with a poruwa mounted on a pier. Many vows have been made here (you could also do this in a hot air balloon if you prefer). Following an open air reception (or an indoors one), the couple is whisked away on a jet ski to one of the lake’s honeymoon chalets. They also offer barbecues on the banks of the lake, or by the swimming pool. The two air conditioned halls and state of the art conference facilities, overnight accommodation and restaurant facilities are all set to make for the perfect corporate or holiday getaway. The entire resort interestingly, is manned by a formidable team of ladies who know exactly what it is that makes the guests tick.

Source: http://www.sundaytimes.lk/140420/plus/tranquil-lakeside-for-adventure-or-weddings-92934.html

MIM Magazine places Sri Lanka high

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Under the title ‘Sri Lanka is Blossoming,’ MIM Magazine, which is the most popular and prestigious  Meetings and Incentive Magazine in Europe, in its latest issue  has given a detailed account of the development in the country which has immensely contributed to the increased tourism and MICE tourism activities in Sri Lanka. The story starts with the caption ‘Visitors to Colombo immediately notice that the capital is getting ready for major projects. The city is clean. If you travel further south, you will see major, new developments, a new airport, a new high way, new hotels, and a new congress centre.’ Sri Lanka Convention Bureau GM Vipula Wanigasekera says that the Editor of MIM Magazine Marcel Vissers was in Sri Lanka recently and he had the opportunity of seeing the country for himself.

The article describes the facelift given to Colombo, new tourism properties coming up, refurbished BMICH and the elegance of Nelum Pokuna, as well as the development in the south including the airport and Convention Centre in Hambantota, etc. Being a reputed magazine among corporates in Europe, this would give a tremendous boost to the image of Sri Lanka for MICE tourism, said Wanigasekera.

Source: http://www.ft.lk/2014/04/22/mim-magazine-places-sri-lanka-high/

St. Lachlan Hotel and Suites

Simplified luxury in Negombo

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Enjoying a new renaissance as a fashionable destination for those seeking a weekend break, Negombo is certainly living up to its expectations. Gone are the days when Negombo was reputed to be a sleepy tourist destination , instead there is now a vibrant and interesting culture which can only be described in local parlance as a “very happening place” With lots of places to see and things to do Negombo has become a hive of activity. St. Lachlan Hotel and Suites situated just off Lewis Place, the main strip in Negombo is an ideal location to base yourself while you explore what Negombo has to offer. With the opening of the Katunayake expressway, Negombo is now closer than ever before.

A quiet hotel, St. Lachlan has six elegant suites and ten deluxe rooms. The suites come equipped with its own kitchenette/dining area, sitting/TV area and balcony. The bedrooms are tastefully furnished to reflect a minimalist look. There is also a separate dressing room which gives the suites an added touch of luxury.  The deluxe rooms are generous in size, functional and well furnished.

St. Lachlan has its own inviting swimming pool which offers the perfect antidote to the scorching sun, while the beach is only a two minute walk away. The hotel is also well positioned for long haul travellers  to base themselves for a few days before they head off to explore the rest of the Island or it is a perfect final stop before they head back home with the hotel offering airport transfers. The hotel is also very child friendly with staff always ensuing that children are well looked after.

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Negombo being a coastal town famed for its varied selection of ocean produce, St. Lachlan has a great seafood menu serving perennial favorites such as delicious seafood curries and jumbo prawns’ grilled to mouthwatering perfection. The hotel has an A la Carte menu and Rangana the Executive Chef does an excellent job in preparing an array of delectable cuisine, both Eastern and Western. The hotel’s signature dish which is the sea food platter contains the freshest seafood of calamari, seer fish, prawns, lobster and baked crab served with vegetable crudités, guacamole, a mango salsa and a rice dish of your choice. The portions are generous and represent excellent value for money. A true gourmet creation which is well worth a try.

St. Lachlan can also organise excursions such as lagoon fishing, boat trips into the Muthurajawela marshes to experience the wilderness and Negombo city tours which takes in all the historical sights. They can also on special request organise sea fishing trips  and  boat rides along the Dutch canals which wind through the old town taking in the sights and sounds of this quaint town with still bears testimony to its Dutch conquerors. Also great to experience is a visit to the harbour to see the catamarans come ashore filled with the ocean’s bounty of lobster, crab, prawns and all types of fish.

With just the right combination of a convenient location, great, attentive service, delectable cuisine and comfortable rooms, St. Lachlan Hotel and Suites is just right to offer its guests a sense of intimate privacy and comfort within its environs whilst providing simplified luxury to those wishing to explore and experience Negombo!

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Source: http://life.dailymirror.lk/article/8164/st-lachlan-hotel-and-suites

Citrus Hikkaduwa to extend spa, bar

Citrus Hikkaduwa is looking at extending their Spa and adding a new bar. General Manager of the hotel, Ravi Fernando said that they are hoping to name the bar ‘Hikka Bar’ and it would be created facing the beach. “This would have 50 comers”.

The current Spa offers three treatment rooms and the management is looking at expanding this by adding three more rooms.

These investments would be done between May to November this year,” he added. The Citrus management who acquired this property three years ago increased its room strength and that initiatives was the key to their success.

“Today our main market is German, UK, French and we also have a strong Russian following as well.” He also said that due to the highway and brand image Citrus has created, they have over 15% average local occupancy.

He also said that Hikkaduwa has created a name for diving and surfing enthusiasts and might experience a rise for adventure seekers and this is attracting more tourists (both local and foreign) to the area.

Citrus, with a three star plus ranking and offering 90 rooms with modern amenities also offers MICE facilities. A veteran in the industry with over 37 years experience, he said that a word of praise should also go to the local authorities who engage in beach cleaning and maintaining security in the area. “By 7 am all beaches are clear.”

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Source: http://www.dailynews.lk/?q=entertainment/citrus-hikkaduwa-extend-spa-bar

Sri Lanka’s first water bungalows to open in Negombo in June

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Sri Lanka’s first and much awaited water bungalows hotel complex will open in Negombo next month.

The project is owned and operated by Sooriya Resorts and Spa brand name which already comprises of Goldi Sands Negombo under their portfolio stage. An investment of over Rs one billion has been incurred for this project and this would consist of six water bungalows, 42 deluxe rooms and 14 suites.

The group had acquired an eight acre land, which included an abandoned prawn farm for the building of this hotel. “The theme of this resort would be ‘Adventure and Art’, since I own Suriya Batiks as well.”

Chairman of the group Eric Suriyasena said that they are thankful for Sampath Bank for lending 40% credit for this venture. The total investment for this is Rs 1.5 billion and a Swedish investor too is involved in this undertaking.

While providing over 120 employment opportunities, it will also provide another 200 indirect employment opportunities.

He said that they have started marketing the property last year and the response was overwhelming with this year’s winter season rooms being already sold out. “We would be also starting on the second stage to add 20 water bungalows and 20 additional rooms and hope to complete the project for the 2015 winter season.”

Source: http://www.dailynews.lk/?q=entertainment/sri-lankas-first-water-bungalows-open-negombo-june

Eco-cottages with innovational facet being built at Pilimatalawa

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An eco-friendly cabana type property, the Kandyan Forest Garden hotel is being built at Pilimatalawa. This self-funded project on a three acre land overlooking a stream and a bund is being built by former planter, Jagath Bandara Alahakone.

“Initially, I am building three eco-cottages and then will add two more next year for the second stage. A tree top residential hut too is to be built under the first stage. Each cottage could house four to five guests and would be equipped with a kitchen, fire place, dining area, toilet and a large verandah.”

He said that new cooling technology such as having water filled glass bottles for windows, special cooling cement mixed with clay and special roofing has being used. “Since this is an eco-friendly project we would be using solar power for the entire property.” Currently he is involved in the Spice export business and profits from this are being used for the hotel project.

As for the architecture his own ideas as well as from eco-friendly structures all over the world were taken in to consideration when molding the Kandyan Forest Garden hotel. He said one of the other aspects was his respect for nature as not even a small tree was felled for this build.

In a bid to have a self catering living Kandyan Forest Garden would also have a village kiosk and they would provide ‘meal packs’ for which a guest could take home and cook. “However this does not mean we would not provide meals as we would be having an on call butler service as well.” The marketing would be mainly from their web site, which would be up and running from next month and new marketing tools too would be used to popularize this hotel.

“We have already completed one unit and I hope the entire project will be ready by late this year. I am also going to apply for ISO certification under the Eco hotel category for this hotel, which I think would be a first for Sri Lanka.”

Being actively involved in scouting he has also made arrangements for a large camping site in his seven acre land which would be provided on request.

Source: http://www.dailynews.lk/?q=entertainment/eco-cottages-innovational-facet-being-built-pilimatalawa


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