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Coming soon: Bolly Travels

- Guided tours of film city ready to roll
Shah Rukh Khan greets his fans outside Mannat. (Fotocorp file picture)

Mumbai, Jan. 1: Fans camping for days outside Amitabh Bachchan’s home Jalsa and Shah Rukh Khan’s Mannat is stuff of Bollywood lore. But a star sighting may not be as elusive now.

A “New Year gift” awaits fans who can take guided tours of film studios and other movie hotspots in packages designed for every pocket.

The Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC) last month unveiled the Bollywood Tourism Plan, a joint venture between the state-owned corporation and Film City studio that had long been in the making. The tours begin January 22 and Internet bookings a week earlier.

“Bollywood is one of the biggest film industries in the world. People come from remote parts of the country just to get a glimpse of their favourite stars and even camp outside their homes. But with the tours, they can watch shootings and if lucky, spot stars on the sets too,” said MTDC managing director Jagdish Patil.

Hopping on to the “Bollywagon” will be easy, with the packages priced at Rs 499, Rs 1,999, and Rs 3,250, depending on the duration, spots covered and facilities.

The Rs 499 package includes a three-hour bus ride around Film City — renamed Dadasaheb Phalke Chitranagari after the father of Indian cinema — at Goregaon in the western suburbs of Mumbai.

A guide speaking English and Hindi will be at hand, ushering the visitors into some of the locations in the complex. That includes a temple, police station, courtroom, jail, helipad, church, lake, garden and a bridge seen in many films.

A ringside view of film or TV serial shootings is promised if possible, other MTDC officials said.

Amitabh Bachchan’s residence Jalsa

“Many of these locations recur in Bollywood films and TV serials and the guides will provide visitors with the trivia related to them during the tour,” said an official.

The “medium” package of Rs 1,999 offers private car rides. “It will take up to five hours. The tourists will be taken to a specially created studio inside Film City where they can experience the Bollywood Gully walkthrough. That will give a glimpse of the 100 years of Indian cinema through posters and wall murals,” said Manoj Gursahani, the chairperson of Bollywood Tourism Company. The firm has been selected by MTDC to undertake the tours in the “middle” and “high-end” packages.

Thrown into the Rs 1,999 plan will be a Bollywood museum and café offering a peek into the 100-year journey through photos, phonograms, records and other artefacts.

“Cinematographer Jeetu Savlani has given his private collection of photos for the museum. We are also working on a costume gallery to showcase attires used in blockbusters,” Gursahani said.

Another highlight will be a demonstration of VFX, visual effects that transform sequences. “We will show tourists how a particular scene looked before and after, and how visual effects are used. They will also get a chance to see a TV set,” said Gursahani, who is also the founder of the Federation of Travel Agents of India and chairperson of Travelmartindia Pvt Ltd.

The “high-end” package of Rs 3,250 will have all of the above and more, such as guaranteed views of a popular TV soap. “This tour will extend to seven hours. We have tie-ups with Sab TV, which has two popular soaps, Chidiyaghar and Lapataganj, being shot at Film City. Tourists will get a chance to experience it live and interact with the production team,” Gursahani said.

Online bookings for the packages at mumbaifilmcitytours.com are expected to begin from mid-January, officials said.

The industry has welcomed the initiative.

“Mumbai is associated with cinema in popular imagination. This should have been done long ago, but unfortunately Film City had not done anything for tourists. We have long been in a dialogue with the government and we welcome this initiative,” said Kulmeet Makkar, the CEO of the Film and TV Producers’ Guild of India.

The tours are also expected to help boost the status of the industry. “We always needed something like Hollywood where one can go on a tour of Universal Studios. Mumbai has always had the potential to do that. We have told the government we fully support the initiative,” Makkar said.