Have you ever wondered how it would be to stand in the very frame Hrithik Roshan did in the song Azeem O Shah Shahenshah in Jodhaa Akbar? Or the opulent house through which Paro dashes to get a last glimpse of her lover in Devdas? You could find out for yourself at a theme park in Karjat, a 90-minute journey from Mumbai, which is dedicated to Bollywood. ND Film World: A Bollywood Theme Park, which opened on March 8, is the brainchild of veteran art and production designer Nitin Chandrakant Desai.
The 43-acre spread has giant sculptures of Bollywood stars etched on a mountain, like Mt Rushmore. A disembodied “Mona darling” greets you at the box office as you buy the tickets (priced at Rs 999). “In 2005, PC Alexander, the former governor of Mumbai, came to visit the sets of Devdas. He asked me, ‘Do you dismantle these sets? Why don’t you keep them for people to see?’ That got me thinking,” says Desai, 54, who has worked with Govind Nihalani, Ashutosh Gowariker and Raj Kumar Hirani, among others.
Mumbai-based Desai studied photography at JJ School of Arts and started as fourth assistant director on the sets of the TV show Tamas. The theme park was born from his idea of bridging the gap between films and the consumer. “Till the last few years, filmmaking was seen as a fantastic thing, something that was out of reach for the larger population. We also have a section where people can observe the process of filmmaking. So, it would no longer be a surreal thing,” he says.
Other attractions include a segment where people can dress up as a personality from a film. In another segment, called “Talent Tumhara, Platform Hamara”, people can display their talent. The earliest frameworks of the theme world were the sets that Desai has created for his films — the village in Lagaan and the palaces of Asoka that were retained by the art director.