Get an insight into the world of filmmaking in India as various film cities in the country offer a studio tour. Providing backdrops for many memorable Indian classics, these studios are dressed up to look like somewhere else. Visit these sets and see for yourself; how many scenes can you tick off?
While the sets of various studios in Hollywood have long drawn tourists from all over the world, Indian studios have begun dabbling in this niche, but highly lucrative revenue stream only very recently.
More often than not, film studios play on the emotions and connect that blockbuster films make with their audience, attracting them to visit the sites where their dreams were spun. This allowed various film studios and film cities across India to claim a share of the ‘film tourism’ pie.
Topping the attractions for tourists are the lavish sets in famous films, be it grand palaces in Jodhaa Akbar (2008) or the huge rustic structures in Baahubali (2015). Though the films may date from different epochs and have totally unrelated stories and settings, often they are filmed in the same location.
“We could see many sets aligned next to each other. A building was a hospital from one end and a mansion from another. They were huge. We got to observe rehearsals and briefly, the shooting process as well,” says Vinita Arora, who visited one such film location, S.J. Studios in Mumbai, last year with her friends.
The S.J. Studios and Entertainment in western suburb of Andheri East, is open for tourists, many of whom are not just Bollywood enthusiasts and fans, but are also intrigued by the process of filming. The tour is a guided experience, through various locations in the studio, journeying Indian cinema and the movies that were shot there.
“We were allowed to witness the shoot of some advertisement but clicking pictures, turning on flash, or creating any other type of disturbance is not allowed as to not disrupt the shooting,” Arora adds.
India is home to the largest film industry, producing thousands of films annually, in multiple languages. And with every passing year, people are increasingly visiting film sets pan India to gain perspective on the historical, technical and creative aspects of filmmaking.
“This fiscal, 1.5 million people visited the Ramoji Film City and amongst the many activities they can do here, witnessing shoots and behind the scenes is their favourite. Ramoji is a unique combination of films, television, film-based theme parks, adventure parks with zip lines, ATV and mountain bike rides, etc., which is one of its kind, at least in this part of the world,” Rajeev Jalnapurkar, CEO, Ramoji Film City, tells India & You.
Located in in the southern city of Hyderabad, the Ramoji Film City is spread over an area of 2,000 acres. The place not only provides technologically advanced production labs, but also hosts concerts and beauty pageants. Approximately 40 films can be produced simultaneously in this complex, which houses miniature Taj Mahal and palaces.
“Ramoji is the world’s largest film complex. Around 200 films were filmed here last year. Blockbusters like Baahubali and Rohit Shetty’s Singham Returns (2014) were also shot here. It is a one-stop shop for both filmmakers and tourists. We have leisure, sports, entertainment, as well as eco-tourism. There are different packages at our hotels and other facilities that we offer – ranging from 3-star and 5-star to other economical options,” Jalnapurkar adds.
However not only these, but film cities are spread in other corners of India too. One of them is the MGR Film City in Chennai, which was built in 1994 in honour of late chief minister of Tamil Nadu M.G. Ramachandran. Spread across 70 acres in the Taramani region of the city, it is now a popular tourist spot with a film school, indoor and outdoor shooting areas with replicas of villages, urban areas, and other sets.
A visit to the south is not complete without dropping by at the Innovative Film City in Bengaluru. From a cartoon city and mirror maze, to numerous wax and fossil museums, the film city offers a complete tourist package with options for sports and adventure enthusiasts including bungee jumping and cricket activities.
The King of All Film Cities
While Juhu or Bandra in Mumbai are famous for a glimpse of the homes of some of the most famous Bollywood stars, the city also boasts of some of the most beautiful locations seen in our favourite films, which in reality are film sets.
After nearly 40 years of allowing only actors and filming crew to pass through its gates, the Film City in Mumbai, known for hosting countless Bollywood films, finally opened to tourists in 2014.
Home to sets of movies like Chandni (1989), Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (1995), and 3 Idiots (2009), amongst many others, Goregaon’s film city is a must visit for Bollywood fanatics. Also known as Dadasaheb Phalke Chitranagri, it houses more than 20 indoor studios including huge villages, skyscrapers, forests, palaces — all housed next to each other.
Weekend tours inside the film city are offered three times a day, by the tourism board of the Maharashtra state government. However, a prior permission is needed for tourists to enter.
Another studio with indoor sets is the Yash Raj Studios in Mumbai’s famous Andheri East, known for its advanced production and audio recording facilities.
The studio was established in 2005 by the veteran filmmaker Yash Chopra, and since then, it has been providing backdrops for many blockbusters including Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi (2008), Ek Tha Tiger (2012) and Band Baaja Baraat (2010). However, the iconic film studio is not open for all tourists and a special permission is required for an organised tour.
For the ones who wish to relive movies of the past, Mehboob Studio in Bandra is the place to be. The studio provided settings for Bollywood classics like Mother India (1957) and Kaagaz Ke Phool (1959), amongst others. Set up in 1954, sprawling over an area of over 20,000 square yards, the studio was a popular shooting spot during the times of superstars like Dev Anand and Guru Dutt.
Today, along with being open for film shootings and tourists, the studio is also a cultural hotspot and often hosts arts and culture festivals.
Another existing legend of the 1950s is the RK Film Studio in Chembur. It is said that when the team of the famous 1951 Bollywood drama Awara was asked to dismantle their sets even while the shooting was still on, to make way for another film shoot, producer-director and actor Raj Kapoor decided to build a studio of his own. Launched in 1950, the studio has since then produced blockbusters like Mera Naam Joker (1970), Shree 420 (1955), and others. The Famous Studios in Mahalaxmi,
Mumbai has also witnessed filming of legendary films like Seeta aur Geeta (1972) and Hum Saath Saath Hain (1999). Other studios in Mumbai like Filmistan, Kamal Amrohi Studios and the Big ND Film Studios are also is accredited with providing sets for movies like Jodhaa Akbar, Slumdog Millionaire (2008) and Bajirao Mastani (2015).