Live your filmy dreams here

India's first Bollywood theme park 

The ambience is nice and settings add value. Visitors are captivated and catapulted into a different world.

Set in the picturesque and nature-rich town of Karjat in Raigad district, ND’s Film World is like a centroid in a triangle connected to Mumbai, the financial capital of India and hustling-bustling cities of Pune and Nashik.

Entrance reminds visitors of Mount Rushmore of the United States as it has huge sculptures of legendary personalities in cinema, including Dadasaheb Phalke, the father of Indian cinema. At the gate, visitors can see a huge cutout of Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan in Deewar-style at the box-office. When visitors pass through the cinema wall, they can see several posters of super-hit and award-winning movies like Dev Anand-Waheda Rehman-starrer Guide, Rajesh Khanna-Sharmila Tagore starrer Aradhana, all-time multi-cast super-hit Sholay, that cuts across generations.

Visiting India’s first and only Bollywood theme park is like entering the silver screen and coming out. Visitors might feel a day is too short as they would be treated to a variety of sets and would be tempted to take too many selfies in front of various fixtures on the premises.

“Welcome to ND’s Film World, we would take you to the world of Indian cinema,” a girl dressed like an actor, welcomes guests.

The ND’s Film World is the brainchild of Nitin Chandrakant Desai, the noted Indian art director and production designer of Indian cinema turned film and television producer.

One can pose with a sword on the sets of Jodha Akbar or sit on the grand throne on the sets of Chakravartin Ashoka Samrat. The Sheesh Mahal of Prem Ratan Dhan Payo is sure to mesmerise visitors. For the religious minded, they can have darshan of Nava Durga and Ashta Vinayaka. Visitors can take a picture in front of the lake adjacent to a theme village. They can experience how films are made and also enjoy music at a retro-café set.

This is not all, visitors can climb up a machaan or even see a T-Rex, like the one in Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park or a space theme which represents the science fiction thriller Gravity, starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney as American astronauts.

One of the most interesting themes is the coronation of Chhatrapati Shivaji, the legendary Maratha warrior, at the Raigad Fort.

“I have been part of the industry for 32 to 33 years. The Indian cinema is all about moviegoers and fans. We are here because of them. It’s nothing but just showing respect to them,” says Desai, speaking about ND’s Film World, which is part of his mega studio spread over 46 acres.

Desai tells people-- “jee lo apni filmy khwahishein” (live your filmy dreams). “We have trained guides, a majority of them are locals, who take you around the studio and narrate stories of the last 100 years of Indian cinema,” says Desai, who has created sets of films like Jodha Akbar, Prem Ratan Dhan Payo, Bajirao Mastani, Slumdog Millionaire, Lagaan, and mega serials like Chakravartin Ashoka Samrat, reality shows like Bigg Boss and quiz show like Kaun Banega Crorepati, hosted by Amitabh Bachchan.

Lovingly called Dada or Nitin Dada, he is currently busy in making the set of Panipat, a period film featuring Sanjay Dutt, Arjun Kapoor and Kriti Sanon–which is directed by Ashutosh Gowarikar. The film will be based on the Third Battle of Panipat in 1761 between Afghans and the Maratha warriors.

“We have several sets that we have not dismantled. We take visitors there,” he said.

Just looking at the grandness, the Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation has included it in the popular Mahabhraman scheme. Artists of the Talent Street would also be presenting their skills at the ND Studios.

“This is an international project,” Desai says and points out to the life-size figures of stars like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jackie Chan, Sylvester Stallone, Michael Jackson, Marilyn Monroe, Rowan Atkinson (Mr Bean) and Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter).

“We want people to feel it. You can dress up like a Gabbar Singh and move around the place,” he says, adding that ‘makeup dadas’ make you feel at home. “If you are a fan of an actor, you can dress up like that, if you are a fan of a character, you can dress up like that…this is something that is a lifetime experience,” says Desai.

“There are some unique projects in the offing…we are going to have a replica of a commercial aircraft,” he says. A station like Bandra suburban station too is coming up. “In fact, this is located next to the tracks along the periphery of the ND Studio. “One of the most famous acts of Bollywood is the ‘water-tank suicide’ of Dharmendra in Sholay. We would have a surprise theme around it. We are creating a real water tank to store water and there would be a theme around it,” he says with a laughter.

“Bollywood in a way is part and parcel of Indian society, its emotion. People smile and sob in the same scene. A lot of work goes behind it which people are not aware…we want to tell them all. This is the real Bollywood tourism,” he said.

What is more important is the inspiration. In early 2000, when Desai was working on Devdas, Dr P C Alexander (the then Governor of Maharashtra) came to visit the set. He was shocked when he was told that beautiful set pieces would be dismantled after the shoot. Desai recalled the governor saying, “You put so much effort and money, why do you have to dismantle? See Universal Studios, Warner Bros, Disneyland.”

And this gave the idea to Desai. A lot of inputs have also come in from Mansi Desai, his daughter who studied in the United States and had come out with themes and concepts.

“We want people to come. We want aspirants to come. We audition them and send videos and inputs directly to production houses,” he says, adding that in Bollywood – “zeros” have become “heroes” – but it's hard work and bringing out the hidden talent. “A visit here can change your life,” he says.

“Right from Dadasaheb Phalke, producer-director-screenwriter, known as the Father of Indian cinema, we have covered the entire Bollywood,” he adds.

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