In Search of Duran Duran

By Lamia Hossain

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Duran Duran have always been known as an energetic, attractive and fun band who pushed the boundaries of the making of music videos, a lot of which are filmed overseas using beautiful models, elegant clothes and exotic locations. I discovered Duran Duran myself when I was 18 and it was love at first sight for me. I adored how they looked, also their sound and more significantly I loved watching those incredible music videos.

I remember the first time I watched the music video for ‘Hungry Like the Wolf’, seeing Simon le Bon rolling around in the forests of Sri Lanka and walking in the busy streets of a place that was probably Negombo or Colombo. It made me want to visit the country, even before I really knew anything else about it (Sri Lanka also features in the Duran music videos of ‘Lonely in Your Nightmare’ and ‘Save a Prayer’ with my favourite video being the latter).

In the ‘Save a Prayer’ video you can can see some iconic Sri Lankan landmarks such as Sigiriya Rock Fortress and the ruins of Buddhist temples at the ancient world heritage site of Polonnaruwa. It also shows the band members interacting with the locals at the beaches, jungles and temples of the island.

When David and I at the Trek and Run team were invited by Sri Lankan Airlines and LSR Lanka Sportriezen to visit Sri Lanka and cycle through the country, from west coast to east, I was thrilled at the opportunity. Not only were we offered a chance to visit remote parts of this paradise island by very unusual, human powered means I also knew that my dreams of seeing, and photographing, those exotic locations in the Duran Duran music videos would have a chance to be fulfilled.

And so it happened. I’ll write more about the actual journey we took with LSR another time but for now, here’s a photo breakdown of the Duran Duran filming locations with references to the videos for those who want to follow in our footsteps.

Starting with ‘Hungry Like the Wolf’, first of all, here’s a link to the actual video:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oOg5VxrRTi0

Although the locations used in the video are often not easily identifiable nowadays, not to a person who doesn’t really know the area very well anyway, it was filmed in the capital city Colombo, in the train station and Fort area and the market known as the Pettah, also at Negombo, a nearby beach resort where we were for 6 days, also the ancient ruins of Polonnaruwa, the old market at Galle and at the Minneriya National Park, which we drove past at sunset one day.

The cafe scenes in Colombo were filmed at the Pagoda Tea Room, located at 105 Chatham Street, although now it’s been refurbished and doesn’t look the same as it once did.

There was another scene where the band members are at a hotel bar, that was in Galle, at the Amangalla Hotel. We didn’t get to Galle as our trip took us West to East, and Galle is in the south, so that’s for another time.

We also had a ride on the wooden catamarans midway through our journey when we were in Kithulgala, like the band do at one point in the video, and visited the elephants at Pinnawala’s elephant orphanage.

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The second video was ‘Lonely in Your Nightmare’ video, you can see the video here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4QMwIxiHq7o

This music video was partly filmed in Weligama, near Taprobane Island, and the ramparts of the Galle, both places that we didn’t go to yet…

And finally, here’s the video from ‘Save a Prayer’ - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Uxc9eFcZyM

‘Save a Prayer’ is my favourite music video by Duran Duran. It’s a great song and a well-made film, showcasing the band and the Sri Lankan scenery in a lovely way. We went to quite a lot of the sights on show in the video, specifically the 5th century BC Sigiriya rock fortress (which you can see in the video filmed from above the rock), Polonnaruwa again, elephants bathing in Pinnawala and the beaches and fishing boats of Negombo. The room scenes were shot in Galle at the Amangalla Hotel again, and nearby, in Unawatuna, the music director used to stay at the The Strand Guest House, where Simon le Bon used to visit him every morning. Along with Galle, that’s another destination for the future.

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It was wonderful to have visited these amazing locations but to have the Duran Duran references in my head whilst being there took the sites to a new level, allowing me to appreciate them even more. When I watch these videos back now I still get goosebumps along my arms as I see the rock fortress being filmed from above or the boys singing by the Buddhist statues at Polonnaruwa.

Inspiring music videos are a great incentive to see a country (as are films; The Bridge over the River Kwai was filmed in Sri Lanka and the locations are easily visited), and they’ve allowed me to have a more meaningful connection to Sri Lanka. I’ve yet to visit Galle or Taprobane but that will happen and then who knows, the 80′s were good years for music videos that showcased exotic countries, so there’s no end in sight to where this particular passion will take me…

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