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Falls fusing with Bollywood Movie from India puts Buffalo Niagara in focus for love story

An Indian girl meets an American boy.

They fall in love, but their romance is forbidden for a year.

The setting: Niagara Falls.

A movie scheduled to premiere early next year in India will feature Niagara Falls and Buffalo as backdrops in a story of young love.

"It could have been set in Paris or it could have been set in New York, but we thought we'd bring the audience closer to nature," said AJ Varma, producer. "The falls offers us that."

The cast and crew began filming at Three Sisters Islands and Luna Island in Niagara Falls State Park on Monday and will be in the Buffalo Niagara region for about 10 days.

Planned scenes are also expected to feature the Cave of the Winds, the Maid of the Mist and downtown Buffalo, Varma said.

The movie -- titled "After Life," or "Maro Charitra" -- stars New Jersey-raised actor Varun Sandesh as a second-generation Indian American living in Niagara Falls. Actress Anita Michelle Galler, of Kansas, plays a girl from southern India who has recently moved to the Falls but speaks little English.

Their characters fall for each other, Varma said, but are forbidden by their families to communicate for one year to "prove their love."

The movie unfolds as a musical drama with backdrops featuring Niagara Falls, Las Vegas and the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah.

Varma said producers wanted dramatic landscapes that matched the "grandeur" of Niagara Falls.

"They fell in love with the cinematic look of the falls," said Tim Clark, Buffalo Niagara film commissioner. "It's a major film for the area."

Clark said the cast and crew will be staying in local hotels, renting equipment in the area and using local transportation and catering.

The movie, which will be shown with subtitles in the United States, coincides with an increase in visitors from India to Niagara Falls in recent years as the country's spending power has expanded.

"Most of the people in India love Niagara Falls," Varma said. "A lot of people have a fantasy about being here at some point in time. So this setting will definitely interest them. That's one of the reasons why we chose this and we set the story in Niagara Falls."

Sandesh, of Bridgewater, N.J., debuted in the Indian film "Happy Days" in 2007 and has captured a devoted following there as a teenage star, Varma said. The production will be Galler's first movie.

Surrounded by director Ravi Yadav, a small crew and two35 mm film cameras, Sandesh and Galler played out a scene in front of the American Falls. A rainbow appeared in the mist behind them.

The romance, Varma said, was off to the perfect start.

"This," Varma said, "is a dramatic landscape where two people can fall in love."

e-mail: djgee@buffnews.com

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