x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Bollywood’s Filmcity studio opens to tourists

Bollywood fanatics, mark January 20 on your calendar: Mumbai's FilmCity is opening to star-stuck tourists.

A temple at Filmcity, Mumbai’s integrated studio complex where hundreds of Bollywood movies are shot every year. Courtesy Bollywood Tourism Company
A temple at Filmcity, Mumbai’s integrated studio complex where hundreds of Bollywood movies are shot every year. Courtesy Bollywood Tourism Company

India is a nation of film lovers and now, to add to their delight – and that of visitors from around the world – Filmcity, an integrated studio complex in Mumbai where hundreds of Bollywood movies are shot every year, is opening up for tourists on Monday.

Two newly introduced tours will take visitors through the studio’s popular locations, allow them to watch filming, narrate the history of the industry and provide glimpses of the elaborately constructed sets.

Omveer Singh Saini, Filmcity’s press officer, is optimistic about the project. “We hope people will take advantage of the tours to experience the film industry from close quarters,” he says. “The two packages available right now are through different vendors, Bollywood Tourism Company and MultilinkWorld, both in collaboration with the state-run Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation [MTDC].”

The Blockbuster Package, at Dh194 per head, offers a four- to five-hour tour – a veritable “show on wheels”, says Manoj Gursahani, the chairman of Bollywood Tourism. “Entertainment begins as soon as you get on the bus. The tour guide, who is also a stand-up comic, will provide information alongside jokes, celebrity trivia and Bollywood gossip.”

Besides a tour of Filmcity (officially called Dadasaheb Phalke Chitranagari), the package includes a drive through the Mumbai suburb of Bandra, best known for being home to many Bollywood stars. Visitors get to lounge around the Bandstand Promenade at Bandra and ogle at the city’s skyline and the palatial houses of top actors, such as Salman Khan and Shah Rukh Khan. It also includes visits to Filmcity’s new Bollywood Museum and the costume gallery, where tourists can check out sample costumes and props used in popular movies.

MultilinkWorld offers the Economy Package, which costs an affordable Dh30 per person and features a three-hour bus tour, but only within the Filmcity complex. The guide will offer a brief history of Filmcity and Bollywood (in both English and Hindi) and, according to an official at the organisation, visitors will get to visit the sets and locations seen in several blockbusters over the decades.

Saini says the sets and locations at Filmcity have proven extremely versatile over the years. From the overseas locations depicted in movies such as Kal Ho Naa Ho (2003) to recreating the charm of old-world architecture in films such as Devdas (2002), the studio has seen it all.

Nearly every big Hindi production house has filmed in Mumbai over the past several decades: Yash Raj Films, Karan Johar’s Dharma Productions, Subhash Ghai’s Mukta Arts, Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s SLB, Sippy Films and the Rajshri banner.

Filmcity is also where several television soap operas are made. Through the years, big-budget series have capitalised on the easy accessibility and adaptability of the studio – from reality shows such as Indian Idol, Nach Baliye and Sa Re Ga Ma to the game show Kaun Banega Crorepati (KBC), and mythological and historical dramas such as Mahabharat and Chanakya.

“I remember the first time I entered Filmcity, to shoot for my debut TV series, Chunauti, in 1988-89.” says the television actor Arif Zakaria. “The place ensures an insulated film environment without any outside interference. The production goes smoothly, and there are no disturbances at all. Huge sets can be built with safety and without any problems, such as vandalism.”

What’s included in Filmcity tours

The Blockbuster Package

From Dh194 per person, including a four- to five-hour guided tour (the guide is also a stand-up comic); a visit to Bandra’s Bandstand Promenade and a glimpse of celebrity homes in the suburb; a Filmcity walk-through and a visit to the Bollywood Museum, cafe and costume gallery; a behind-the-scenes look at how special effects are created; and live filming (www.bollywoodtourism.com; 00 91 22 4343 8120)

The Economy Package

From Dh30 per person, including a three-hour guided bus tour (in English and Hindi); welcome drink; a history of Bollywood; visits to sets and locations around the complex; and live filming, subject to availability (mumbaifilmcitytours.com; 00 91 22 6161 1053)

artslife@thenational.ae