Ramoji Film City

If ever one asks me for suggestions on places to visit in Hyderabad, this would definitely be on the top of my Must-See list. I am willing to bet that Ramoji is on the list of all professional guides (local tourist guides/ websites and the likes) as well. And why not, this is truly the place where imagination meets reality, and I mean, literally! You must not miss it especially if you are a movie buff like I am. And yet, if it weren't for my two friends who made a last minute decision to visit Hyderabad, before I left, I may have actually missed seeing this marvelous ingenuity!

There are buses that would take you from wherever you are in the city till the entrance of the Film City. And these buses were amazingly easy to book, on time and cheap. We started from my place at 7.30 in the morning and reached the Film City entrance by 9.30.  After buying the tickets (the entry fee is around 600Rs/ person--totally worth it!!), we were told that there were three shows, collectively known as Movie Magic, that we may like to watch before the guided tour around the place started. Since there was time before these shows began, we had some breakfast and then hopped on some of the complimentary rides that came along with the tickets. For those who have already visited the Film City, you would know that these rides were meant for kids, but who was to stop us from revisiting childhood that day- after all we were in Fantasy Land!

We then gathered at the Central Court to watch the opening ceremony. Not very grand, but a decent effort by some kids who paid homage to some patriotic songs- both filmy and non filmy. Each of the three shows were experiences on their own, and good ones too, if you don't mind waiting in the never ending queue to get into one, that is! I didn't quite enjoy the first show, screened at the Ramoji Tower- where we were strapped to our seats and made to watch a five minute 3D action flick. The idea was to allow the viewers to experience the movie- to be part of it- they even tried adding slimy vibrations under your feet when snakes and rats were shown on the screen; sprayed water when the movie showed rain and so on....but it didn't quite work. Maybe it could fool some very young kids, but the effects were definitely low-end to adult viewers. The next show, called Filmy Duniya, was way better. It was a train ride- a nine-seater coach that cruised through major world cities, showing visitors a glimpse of how different yet breathtaking different cultures can be. At the end of the ride, there was a small souvenir shop, but the quality and variety of the items sold were not commendable. The third show was named 'Action Theatre' but reminded me of my college's theatre classes. It was a quick peek into the various technical aspects behind film making, including sound mixing, editing and other pre/ post production techniques. For this, the guide made a short film using a volunteer from the audience itself. It was an informative session for people like me, who didn't know that the sound of horses galloping could be made by tapping two cobblestones over a pile of smaller pebbles in a rhythmic fashion, or that the sound of rain can be re-produced by splashing grains of sand over a large sieve! Amazing!

Finally, the buses that were to show us around the various sets had arrived and we got to see the magnitude of this City. Spread across 1666 acres of land, Ramoji has recreated almost all major locations in the world, a filmmaker can dream to shoot at. Be it a village, a market, a railway station or a hospital. Be it Taj Mahal or Hawa Mahal. Be it a scene from the Mahabharata or a cut from the Budhha cave. What more, they had recreated more than a hundred gardens from across the globe- the Japanese garden, the Butterfly garden (found at the Changi Airport, Singapore), the Mughal garden and the Vrindavan, to name a few....As we roamed through these sets, we were able to recognize a few of them from films that we had seen, like the Detective house in Baadshah or the dance sequence in Bade Miyan Chote Miyan..:). We also clicked some filmy poses for our own collection...:)

We did not know how time sped by, but by the time we blinked our eyes (in truly Indie filmy style), evening had set in and it was time for us to leave. We were late to catch the return bus so we had to miss the Stunt Show and the closing ceremony. But no regrets, it was a fun filled and colorful experience. When Mr. Ramoji (in one of his videos, we saw at the Movie Magic show) claimed that 'a director could walk into the Film City with a script and walk out with a film' I didn't quite believe him. But after spending the day, viewing his architectural marvel, I must say he is quite right!

A small video on the Buddha cave....

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