The Locale in Films

Locale is the physical environment and setting in which characters and their actions are embedded, or, to rephrase it, locale is the inanimate part that fuses with the animate one on screen to produce some sort of products by the alchemy of the art and craft of those wielding the camera.

Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s 1942 A Love Story and Kareeb, and Anurag Basu’s Barfi, to name the films that have done it well, have used the locale to its optimum cinematic effect. There may be others too, but the films just mentioned are the ones that instantly came to my mind on the mention of the word locale. That too, when the first one was released and seen over two decades ago. No, the post will not delve deep into any kind of analysis of those films. they are the examples that the brain sprung forth – the examples of skilful utilization of the locale either in some parts of the film or throughout its length.


Showcasing the picturesque is the shortcut  that an average cameraman or director takes in order to make their screen shots appear more attractive, but they miss the point here. The audience wants action and that must come to life synergistically with the locale on the screen. If that synergy can’t be achieved then just highlighting the picturesque doesn’t guarantee that the film will attract the audience. If the audience wanted to watch the pasteurized picturesque of the locale, they would watch a documentary and not the film. This mistake of forcible imposition of the locale’s picturesque on to the screen can be witnessed in films like Laga Chunri Mein Daag and Banaras: A Mystic Love Story.

The locale is central to the conception of films like Aparajito and Raanjhanaa – films in which the characters who belong to Banaras and the action forms and amalgam with the locale: the ghats, galis, streets, rooftops, temples & c. Thus, the city emerges as an integral part of the script and of the film simultaneously [Both are not the same, as is clear from films like Sangharsh (1968) in which the script and the background of the title sequence indicate that the film is set in Varanasi, but one does not see the city anywhere in the whole film]. Imagine Raanjhanaa in Texas and The Lone Ranger with Varanasi as the backdrop! Interesting though they’d be, the experience will change considerably. The locale, like the action or characters, is central to the conception of films.

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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