The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Taste Bollywood, with Popcorn

Mumbai, Nov. 10: Indian tourism is about to step into a place it has not been before: Bollywood.

Popcorn Entertainment, a Mumbai-based entertainment company headed by actor Suniel Shetty, has announced a Bollywood package for tourists in India, with Union tourism minister Renuka Chowdhury rooting for it in the country and abroad.

The company, which has started the venture with Travelmart India, a travel agency based in the country, hopes to start the tour next week. It has been soft-launched here and abroad, with Chowdhury speaking about it yesterday at the World Travel Mart exhibition, one of the biggest travel extravaganzas, being currently held in London.

The package, says Prashant Sharawgi, director, Popcorn Entertainment, is eyeing the NRI visitor and the foreign tourist in India. It has already created ripples abroad, with a half-hour presentation at the World Travel Mart, says Sharawgi, but the tour will kick off with the first group of tourists confirming their plans, hopefully, soon after Diwali.

There will be two parts in the 'one full-day package', says Sharawgi.

'In the first part, the group will be taken to a created set on an AC floor in Filmistan Studio,' he says. Called BollywooDrome, this session will allow visitors glimpses into the various elements of Bollywood.

On the set, well-known Hindi movie scenes will be re-created and original sequences will be performed by actors, dancers and action artists, along with a question and answer session. 'Film technicians will demonstrate how stunts and fight scenes are executed, choreographers will enact dance sequences with demos and all queries regarding potboilers will be answered by a panel of technicians,' says Sharawgi.

Next, the visitors will be taken through audio-visuals explaining post-production. It will be followed by lunch, Bollywood unit style, with food served as it is during shoots.

In the second session, the group will be taken on a round of other studios and actual shootings, of films or of television.

'We would like to clarify, though, that the tourists will not be guaranteed a meeting with a filmstar. As an entertainment company, we know the difficulty the presence of visitors creates on a set,' says Sharawgi. 'However, if they are keen on arranging a private party where they could meet a star, we could arrange that at an additional cost.'

The cost of the regular package' Only $100, says Sharawgi. Each group, ideally of 60 to 70 people, will be taken around the city in SUVs, not buses, he adds.

'We promise a totally personalised experience of Bollywood,' he asserts.

On individual requests, appointments with dress designers, hair stylists and skin clinics who cater to Bollywood stars will also be arranged. Appointments to have individual portfolios created will also be organised.

The response, says Popcorn, has been very good. 'We have confirmed groups from December-January.'

But will Shetty, who is actively engaged in every detail of the programme, be there in person for his visitors to compensate for the uncertainty of other star sightings'

'He would not be present at every tour,' says Sharawgi.

The concept, he says, generated with them, but the Centre has been hooked on from the very start. 'We met Chowdhury about two weeks back. She has been very encouraging. There are many other aspects that will be worked out, like expanding the tour to other places in India memorable for particular movies, but details are still being worked out.

'Bollywood, India's ancient monuments and natural beauty attract tourists. We want to combine all that.'

Popcorn is expecting another boost in its arm when Chowdhury meets them in Mumbai this month. By then, it is hoping that its first batch of visitors will be catered to.

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