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TOUR BOLLYWOOD STUDIOS IN MUMBAI


They call it the ‘world’s largest dream’ factory, a reference to the 1,000-odd films literally churned out by the Hindi film industry every year. And though films are shot both on location and on indoor sets, it’s a visit to Bollywood studios in Mumbai that brings home the true essence of the typical Hindi film and television serial.

R K Studio: There are many state-of-the-art Bollywood production houses in Mumbai, most of them family-run businesses. One of the oldest is R K Studio in suburban Chembur, opened by the legendary Raj Kapoor in 1951, it was here that the iconic filmmaker and actor shot some of his landmark films and gave the Hindi film industry some of its pioneering techniques.

The studio, still owned by the Kapoors – also known as the first family of Bollywood – is a must-see on any Bollywood studio tour.

BIG N D Studio: Another must-do Bollywood studio visit is a halt at BIG N D Studio, by far the largest studio property in Mumbai. Opened in 2005 by art director Nitin Desai, this studio is arguably home to the “longest studio floor space in Asia”.

BIG N D Studio is located on the outskirts of Mumbai and makes for an excellent half-day outing. The drive to Karjat, where the property is situated, is a soothing 90 minutes away from the hustle and bustle of the metro, once you turn off the highway and leave the city.

Apart from its sheer size – 42 acres – what sets it apart from other Bollywood studios in Mumbai? Well, once dressed up by expert art and set designers, the property can masquerades as a wide range of locales, from India to Singapore, the Swiss Alps to the English countryside. Imagine the cost-savings for filmmakers!

BIG N D Studio is indeed an experience for the tourist keen to sample exactly how those dramatic sequences in a Hindi film are shot. Behold the Jodhaa Akbar set and be wowed. This once, like a few other ‘permanent’ sets here, was constructed for a movie by the same name and it recreates the grandeur of the Red Fort (Delhi), Agra Fort (Agra) and Amer Palace (Jaipur), all of them built to scale!

Enter ‘Bombay Street’ and you’re suddenly caught in a time warp. This is a typical street in the heart of Old Mumbai, where the houses are choc-a-bloc, tiny shops selling all sorts of goods and kitsch cram the streets, homely Irani-style cafes beckon, and a colonial-style traffic signal stops you dead in your tracks.

Like any premier Bollywood production house in Mumbai, BIG N D Studios offers the full range of post-production facilities, making it a one-stop shop for filmmakers. And with the property offering chalets to actors, the stars can live here during extended shoots rather than brave the daily commute from and back to Mumbai.

Some stars have found a way, albeit expensive, to beat the crowds. The studio has a helipad that is “frequently used” by the glitterati who need to jet set back to the city after the day is done.

Considering the size and range of facilities at BIG N D Studios, tourists get a panoramic view of how a typical Bollywood film is shot and processed under one roof. If you’re lucky, you might even catch some shooting action as well!

Filmcity: Shift venue to Filmcity in suburban Goregaon, Mumbai, and you’re transported to a very different world of film-making. Also called Filmstan, you’re in the middle of a green oasis – 1,287 hectares of forested land – also called Aarey Milk Colony after the government-owned dairy situated here.

Set up in 1949, Aarey is also a popular tourist spot and includes lakes, gardens, a nursery and an observation pavilion atop a small ‘hill’. The state government runs a school and a hospital on the property for the benefit of dairy workers. The government has also leased plots to various state and central government organisations and institutions in this no-development zone.

Balaji Telefilms: Among these leased plots are many film studios on the list of any Bollywood studio tour. So amid the mooing of cattle – there are 16,000 heads of cattle reared on 32 cattle farms at Aarey – step into the studios of Balaji Telefilms.

Affectionately dubbed Mumbai’s ‘largest soap factory’, Balaji Telefilms is a production house that churns out the largest number of TV serials, reality shows and, most importantly, TV soaps in the country.

Set up in 1994 by Jeetendra, Bollywood star of yesteryear, Balaji Telefilms is noted mainly for the creative talent of the actor’s daughter, Ekta Kapoor. The success of the production house lies in Kapoor’s uncanny ability to create serials that connect with the soul of various sections of the Great Indian Middle Class, whether mythological serials, cultural extravaganzas or sheer family and romantic dramas.

Yes, when you think of the quintessential melodramatic Indian TV soap, think Bajali Telefilms. Taking a Bollywood studio tour of one of the sets here is a precious experience. Sheer drama fills the air as the actors play their parts on sets of brocade, walls with loud colours and plush furniture meant to lend an aspirational touch.

Walk into another set and you’re in the living room of a feudal landlord, the mythological era of the Mahabharata or a 21st century love story of star-crossed lovers. When it comes to the Indian soap opera, Balaji Telefilms leads the way.

A household name for 16 years, Balaji Telefilms is known for its K-serials – yes, every serial began with the letter ‘K’, Though the management denies any numerological connection, the fact is that numerology and superstition play a significant role in Mumbai’s Tinsel Town – both film and television.

Whistling Woods: Also located at Aarey is Asia's largest film, television, animation and media arts institute or Whistling Woods International. Promoted by celebrated producer Subhash Ghai, also known as ‘The Showman’, Mukta Arts Ltd and Filmcity, Whistling Woods International is a premier film and television educational academy.

The institute, situated on a generous 20-acre campus, offers various courses for students looking to make a career in the highly technical and highly competitive world of film and television.

So if it’s a day of drama you’re looking for, a Bollywood studios visit is the perfect choice. We, at Bollywood Toursim, offer a guided tour and give you an exclusive peek into a fantasy world that 1.5 billion Indians and millions of fans overseas are crazy about. It’s easy. Just log in and sign up. Or call us for a day of excitement and fun!
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