By Amrita Mukherjee From Dubai
Dubai has come up with a project that is set to further cement the close relationship it shares with Bollywood. The announcement to build a Bollywood theme park comes close on the heels of the world premiere of Happy New Year – a large part of which is set and shot in the emirate.
Bollywood Parks Dubai, the world’s first Bollywood theme park coming up in Jebel Ali, a 45-minute drive from downtown Dubai, will be complete and operational by 2016, attracting an estimated five million visitors in the first year itself.
From being a city with umpteen Bollywood fans, spread across the Indian diaspora and local Emiratis alike, to being the latest go-to place for shooting Hindi films and being the first place to come up with a Bollywood theme park, Dubai’s association with the Hindi film industry is only becoming stronger.
And with the seal of approval already being given by B’wood bigwigs like Aamir Khan, Shah Rukh Khan, Arbaaz Khan and Rakesh Roshan, whose films will be featured in the park, it is all set to make history, as the first of its kind.
Built by Dubai Parks and Resorts LLC, a Meera’s holding company, the destination will have 16 rides and attractions within five theme areas which would be Bollywood Film Studios, Mumbai Chowk, Hall Of Heroes, Regal Plaza and Rustic Ravine. There will be live entertainment and street theatre taking off at the entrance named Bollywood Boulevard, along with retail outlets and a number of restaurants.
Spread over around 69 acres (3 million square feet) the Bollywood Parks Dubai promises to be a colossal structure, but it is dwarfed in comparison to Ramoji Film City in Hyderabad, which is built on 2000 acres and is the largest film studio in the world according to Guinness Book of World records.
Here’re an artist’s impressions of what the different sections of the park will look like once it is complete.
I bring in Ramoji Film City here because although it is a studio, something Bollywood Parks Dubai is not, but it is the first place to have started the concept of Bollywood themed entertainment something on the lines of Universal Studios in Hollywood, and now 60 per cent of the film city’s income comes from 1.5 million visitors who throng it every year.
I remember the first time I went to Ramoji Film City in 2003 and I could not help walking around endlessly and marveling at the larger-than-life city mounted on cardboard (barring the two hotels inside its premises and studios I believe). It was an experience, tapping those humongous structures and being greeted by a hollow sound. Some buildings had four facades – the hero’s home, a shop, the villain’s home and a medical clinic. The huge airport was also a hospital from the other side.
I walked and walked through the plush lawns and Japanese gardens, through Chinese pagodas, through the Wild West, to train stations and bus stops, stood inside Rajasthani hawa mahals and ancient forts, till my feet ached. This was topped up with shows and rides and an unforgettable evening party inside the set of a Mughal King’s Durbar.
I went back to Ramoji Film City twice after that and each time explored the places where Amitabh Bachchan shot for Lal Badshah, Rekha for Yatra, SRK for Ra One and Hrithik Roshan for Krissh 3. In fact an added bonus in Ramoji Film City is that you might bump into a star anytime.
That way Bollywood Parks Dubai might not be able to toss up the authenticity that Ramoji Film City can by dint of its studio status, but going by the track record of UAE’s theme parks (Wild Wadi, Yas Waterworld, Ferrari World, Ski Dubai, Aquaventure, Sega Republic) it would definitely make up for it by being technologically advanced, visually charming and creative.
The added advantage is Dubai’s status as a tourist hub for visitors the world over. As Bollywood goes places, people’s interest in the Hindi film industry has also gone up many notches making Bollywood Parks Dubai a timely addition to the tourist map.
As Raed Al Nuaimi, CEO of Dubai Parks and Resorts LLC, puts it, “Bollywood has a global fan base of over three billion people. Here guests can live, learn, and immerse themselves in the delightful fantasy that they get to experience on the silver screen.”
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