Kilimanjaro (Robot 2.0) at Machu Picchu in Peru

Kilimanjaro Song from Endhiran (Enthiran) Movie and Our Exciting Story!

Sometimes we wonder what Mr. Pa Vijay may have been thinking of, when penning the song Kilimanjaro. And, where does A. R. Rahman’s inspirations come from, while he created this foot tapping music to match the lyrics? We also wonder why in the world did S Shankar, the director of Robot, chose Machu Picchu as the backdrop for filming this song? Did we ever think of these questions, when we first saw the Hindi version of the super hit Rajinikanth & Aishwarya Rai starrer Robot movie in Hindi? Well — not really!

Endhiran ‘Kilimanjaro’ Song and Our Dream!

Flash back to 2010, when we first saw Robot in a movie theater in India, we vividly do remember that we were transposed (if at all, momentarily) to this magical location of Machu Picchu (with its cute Llamas galore) during this dream sequence song featuring the Superstar Rajinikanth and the most beautiful Aishwarya Rai. That’s the power of cinematic experience! But actually traveling to a really far off place in South America & Peru seemed like an impossible dream. We never quite believed that we may ever get to see Machu Picchu in real life.

When did the overarching desire of actually visiting Machu Picchu consumed us, is a mystery. Though now, retracing our journey backwards, we feel that it was kind of slowly coming, without us even realizing it. One of the most obvious things that provided a hint, was when we broke into a song and dance routine at few travel locations earlier — like Hampi, surrounded by the temple ruins or at Kuari Pass trek, high up on the Himalayan mountains at 3700 meters above sea level. And of course, we couldn’t avoid but dancing to this foot-tapping Kilimanjaro song during house parties with friends.

Having this song on most of our playlists, and dancing to it at so many locations we didn’t realize, but the famous quote by Paulo Coelo came true for us! Literally!

“When you really want something, the whole universe conspires in helping you to achieve it”.

Our Journey To Machu Picchu Begins!

Decisions were made! Though at the planning stage, dancing to Kilimanjaro was completely off our mind. After the research work, and understanding that Machu Picchu was a protected world heritage site with only a limited number of people allowed to enter in different slots during the day, we agreed that we can consider ourselves really lucky to just sing a few lines as an ode one of our favorite A. R. Rahman songs. And obviously, with so many tourists and supervisory guards around, it would be just impossible to dance even though we would have loved to.

So we forgot about a complete or even a partial video shoot of our song and dance sequence. We had pre-booked our Machu Picchu entry tickets and also train tickets by Peru Rail.

The train ride was pretty interesting as it had a vista dome ceiling — a unique experience in itself. We reached the town of Aguas Calientes, that serves as the base to reach Machu Picchu for most travelers.

We had pretty much decided against the highly touristic Inca Trail trek, after skimming through the pictures, since it did not look appealing to us from a trekking experience perspective. We left the trekking experience to another day in a different place in Peru.

An Early Morning Shock — Huge Queue for Bus, the only way to reach Machu Picchu!

As most travelers, who don’t take the Inca Trail Trek up to the mountain, we also bought bus tickets for next morning. We decided to get up really early and be in the

bus queue around 5 a.m, when most people would be sleeping! How wrong we were, can only be seen from the shock that we got the next day, at 5 a.m!!!

There was a huge queue already, and we walked all the way up along the river to be probably visitor no. 1000 or so. Yeah — it was that long queue. In fact, we started wondering if the people standing right in front, had actually stood there all night. The situation was not really amusing.

Looking at the queue, we realized that our slightest hope to reach Machu Picchu early to capture some sun rays and quiet moments to shoot our video, has now completely faded. Well, more of — eliminated, into thin air literally.

To complicate matters, in a hurry early morning to secure spot in the bus queue, we never bothered to ask our hotel stuff for packed breakfast (complimentary) that was included in our stay. We had a few tidbits in our backpack, and thought we could survive with it and worst circumstances — pick up something to eat at the Machu Picchu itself (there’s a small restaurant at the entrance).

The waiting game had begun — and we were nearly 1.5 hours away from where buses would start hauling tourists up the hill. It’s really funny that even though you love people, but when they are in front of you in the queue, sometimes you just get angry especially when there’s one person waiting (like a tour guide) and then he lets in 25 from his group out of nowhere. And almost suddenly, you are Mr. 1026 and Mrs. 1027 in the queue, worse than where you started off even after waking up at 4 a.m. Frustration creeps in naturally, it’s the most common human emotion in such circumstances. Do you agree?

Losing hope in all mankind instantly, we were taken aback by no one else but by the gesture of another mankind — well, literally — a kind man. The hotel we were staying in, actually sent a guy with a packed breakfast that included veggie sandwiches (they knew we are vegetarians), fruits (Oranges and Apples) and tetra pack of juices, and the most amazing part was that this person found us in the queue that was growing every minute. Mind blowing! We were so humbled by the kindness and gesture of mankind, that we forgot all the growing frustration, and were happily standing for our turn in the queue again.

We also bought some cheap ponchos while waiting, as the weather had been erratic last few days and it could rain. In fact, we had packed some spare T-shirts with full sleeves if it was too sunny, and also wearing jackets because it was cold in the morning, and it could be windy due to the altitude of 2370 meters. Also, if it rains it could be wet, cold and windy at the same time, so we had to be prepared. We didn’t want any adverse weather to ruin our only day at the world’s most beautiful city on Machu Picchu’s mountain top.

Once the buses started rolling in, the queue moved pretty quickly (a very efficient bus service, we must agree) and we were soon in our seats, trying to contain our excitement to see Machu Picchu in person after all these years of waiting & dreaming. Also, the excitement was to witness the filming location of the only song sequence in the history of world cinema to have been completely filmed at Machu Picchu.

Getting off the bus, we saw hundreds of tourists equally excited, for different reasons of course. Machu Picchu probably features really high on the checklist or bucket list of many travelers & explorers worldwide.

Our Strategy to Sing and Dance

One question popped into our head — how do we sing a few lines from our favorite song and at the same time avoid the multitude of tourists. Well it was not at all difficult, we decided not to follow the herd. While most people choose certain pre-cut routes/trails and that’s what leads to the queuing at the most scenic spots for clicking pictures, we decided to randomize ourselves.

Avoiding the trailing tourists, and after taking in the magnificent views of Machu Picchu from near the entrance (pinching ourselves in delight that we are really here!),

we found a sweet little spot where we could groove to “Kilimanjaro”. Just to be sure that our dancing is not objectionable, we grooved right in front of the security staff and he smiled at us. Sometimes an eye contact is all that is required to establish a connect, and we knew he loved what we were up to. Probably he didn’t realize that he was seeing history in the making. And neither did us, until much later though. We danced & danced, and as if the whole world conspired to make this glorious moment even more memorable, we were joined by the grazing llamas — exactly as in the original theatrical version of the song from Endhiran.

The walled city of the Incas, the Citadel, the Llamas and Alpancas, and of course even the weather obliged — as if helping us create history. No words can describe the feeling — watch our historical music video! https://youtu.be/8XfFhB_W2Us

Some Interesting Facts:

  • Even though few movies have been shot at Machu Picchu, it was only after the intervention of Indian government that Peru authorities granted permission to the great director S. Shankar from Tamil film industry, to shoot “Kilimanjaro” at Machu Picchu — a feat that many others failed to pull off (that’s right — even James Bond was denied permission to shoot here)!
  • While the “Kilimanjaro” song shoot that happened back in 2010 was captured in Tamil, we lip synced to the Hindi version that was written by Swanand Kirkire. Hence, this makes our music video the first Hindi song to have been shot @ Macchu Pichu and we didn’t require any special permissions! No hi tech gadgets, no crew, no backup dancers!
  • The extra apparel that we carried to protect us from adverse weather actually served as costume changes, just like some songs sequence deserves various costumes; to make them look more appealing!
WE CREATED HISTORY! AND IN ITS TRUE SENSE, WE NEVER REALIZED THAT WHEN WE WERE FILMING OUR VERSION OF “KILIMANJARO”.

Originally published at thefilmycouple.com.