INDIA – Udaipur, Monsoon Palace // Octopussy (1983)
The Monsoon Palace had been a perfect villain home, but is now derelict and empty. But still, the place is filled with magic – at a certain time of day.
Why Bond was here
Afghan prince Kamal Khan (Louis Jourdan) lives in his Indian exile in Udaipur and has hatched a plot with a Soviet general to threaten the West with a nuclear warhead. His base of operation is the Monsoon Palace, an old Maharaja stronghold on a hilltop west of Udaipur. James Bond (Roger Moore) comes to infiltrate the castle, is greeted with a nice dinner (“stuffed sheeps head”) and then put to jail.
The Monsoon Palace was built in the late 19th century for the Udaipur royal familiy. It is situated on top of a mountain in a national reserve park, about five kilometer west of the city center. To go there, one needs to head to the park entry first and then go up the mountain road.
The entry to the park is 300 Rupees for one person. Since not every taxi or rickshaw is allowed to drive in the park, be prepared to change drivers.
Luckily there is one driver, who can do the whole trip. His name is Tillu and he offers minibus rides every evening for sunset. He starts at around 7 pm on the square at Gadiya Devra Marg north of Gangaur Ghat. The bus has room for seven people – first come, first serve. Tillus mobile number is +919784400120.
A roundtrip is 250 Rupees each, excluding the park entry. Tillu drives you from Gangaur Ghat all the way up to a parking lot directly below the Monsoon Palace, the ride takes roughly 15 minutes. From there you can walk up to the castle and enjoy a magnificent sunset over the lush jungle mountains of Rajasthan. Good to know
Locals at Udaipur know the name Monsoon Palace, but usually refer to the castle as “Sajjan Garh”. Remember that when looking for a driver.
Though the name sounds like from a tale of 1001 nights, the palace nowadays is derelict and more beautiful from the distance. The building itself is gutted.
Still, the atmosphere at the place is filled with magic. A monkey tribe lives in the trees below the castle and always makes noise. Then, up at the castle, young love couples nestle in the balconies and empty window frames of the forgotten palace. Others gather at the huge terrace west of the Monsoon Palace to watch the sun slowly going down. When the deep golden sun touches the horizon, the whispers of the evening wind are the only sounds left.
The Octopussy crew made shots of the castle from far away, but used the now almost crumbled entry gate for filming of the movie climax. When the circus girls and Bond attack, they start at that gate. But most interior scenes – and the tiger chase in the presumably nearby jungle – had been staged at the Shiv Niwas Palace and the adjoining garden down in Udaipur city.
When you go to the castle, make sure to bring enough time. Sure, it’s empty – but when traveling the never-empty India, spending time at such a tranquil place is great. We found ourself a little balcony on the upper floor of the Monsoon Palace. It was outright beautiful.
© 2015 Huntingbond (1,3,4), © 1983 Danjaq, LLC and United Artists Corporation (2)