If you are in Mumbai, include a quick trip to Film City in your itinerary to experience the rich tapestry of Indian cinema and, more recently, television programmes and soaps
IT WAS a much-awaited trip to Mumbai, coming 14 years after my last visit. Travelling on work, I was to stay for about a week and in between, I managed to squeeze in a day of sightseeing. Upon the cab driver’s suggestion, I decided to include Film City in my day’s itinerary.
After 40 years of allowing only film crews, Film City opened its doors to tourists last year. In March 2014, the Maharashtra tourism board started weekend tours, which are offered three times a day. A two-hour bus ride with a guide costs R499.
Film City, or Dadasaheb Phalke Chitranagri, in Goregaon is 500 acres of pure action, churning out spools of films and television programmes in huge quantities each year.
After almost a 10-minute drive into Film City, you start spotting signs of activity. On our right was filmmaker Subhash Ghai’s Whistling Woods complex. However, we couldn’t see much of the acting school since the main complex is located inside the periphery. Moving a bit ahead, we spotted Reliance Entertainment’s huge office building, where there was a lot of hustle and bustle, with cars moving in and out of the complex pretty frequently.
But the real action lay a kilometre ahead. Seeing a slender figure in a sari and bun walk by hurriedly, someone screamed, “Daya Bhabhi!”—the lead character of Taarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chashma, a popular TV serial.
Some excited fans tried to get off the bus, but were admonished by the guide. Fortunately, the bus halted right in front of the sets of the TV serial and we watched the proceedings in silence. A scene of 60 seconds took more than 30 minutes to shoot minus the pre-shoot time. By the end, even the spectators were feeling exhausted.
Once the scene was over, our guide allowed us two minutes to pose for photos with Daya Bhabhi and other characters, and the bus moved on. Next up was a school set, with two kids sitting on a bench, while a number of children in school uniforms walked up and down in the background. There were also a few ‘teachers’ on the set. A lady from among us screamed, “Duggu!”. One of the two kids sitting on the bench was a leading child artiste from another popular serial, Yeh Rishta Kya Kehlata Hai. Unfazed by the crowd around them, the two young actors continued to enact their scenes.
Moving on, we saw a girl, dressed in bridal finery, sitting on a plastic chair on the roadside, busy texting someone. This was Simar, the lead character of Sasural Simar Ka. She waved at our bus and the guide allowed people to deboard for a few minutes and take photos with her. Further down the road, other characters from the same serial were busy shooting a kidnapping and murder scene. A few takes and retakes later, the shot was okayed.
And then, we were taken to that famous temple location, which has made an appearance in umpteen films and TV serials. The climax of the film Deewar was shot there with Amitabh Bachchan. When we visited, the temple was being repainted for the next shoot. We took a few photos and I wondered why we hadn’t till yet come across any film being shot at Film City. Where was Bollywood? I asked the guide. He answered, “Film shoots these days utilise a lot of technology and paraphernalia. Film City hasn’t been upgraded in that sense. Many Hindi film shoots are now happening down south in Hyderabad at Ramoji Film City since it has world-class technical facilities. Plus, for films, there are always Switzerland, Dubai and New York. Mumbai’s Film City is now mostly reserved for saas-bahu sagas.”