If Charminar is the signature building for Hyderabad city from the times of Nizams, Ramoji Film City is the new signature of the city, being the world’s largest film studio spread across 1666 acres of land and the Guinness Book endorses it. It is about all that is filmy and fake and at the end of the visit you would have a feeling of having visited the Fakedom, but then that is what is required for the amount of films that the region and the country produces.
Every time I visited Hyderabad, I wanted to visit this one of its kind place but somehow missed it, probably because it is too far from the city, a good 50 kms from the centre of the city. But this Saturday we decided to finally do this much awaited attraction and took a taxi and reached there by 10:00 AM. And we were late; you should reach there by 9:30 or so to see the opening ceremony, as by the closing ceremony you would be too tired to enjoy it. Now there are two types of tickets that you can buy – Normal and Special. The former costs you Rs 600/- and the later exact double of it and includes lunch, water and snacks in it and they promise to take you around in AC vehicles, but then it is just a promise and with all the attractions not too far from each other you hardly use the vehicle except for getting from the ticket gate to the main gate which is a few kms apart. So a strong advice is not to fall into the trap of special package and just go in nicely designed open-air buses and you can always eat whatever you like from the multiple restaurants in the campus. At couple of places the special package gives you an advantage of not standing in the queues but then the queues are quite fast moving and shows are just the same for everyone.
Guide told us that there are as many as 124 different types of Gardens in the film city, though this number may be a bit exaggerated, there are a many gardens, each one with a different theme like a Shell Garden, a Mughal garden, Mysore garden, Japanese garden, Thinking man’s garden, Hawa Mahal, Arizona style cactus garden and a whole lot of them with European look and feel. All of them have been designed to shoot films without actually going to the actual locations. There are various tree-lined walkways, which are used to shoot institutional scenes and with right signage can re-create various locations from across the world. There are highways where just change the milestone and you are transported to that location. There are detachable lampposts on either sides of the road, which can be modified again according to the place to be depicted. One interesting set is that of Buddhist caves, that has been executed quite well and is reasonably big in size. A small show in the deepest corner of the cave takes you a world where the idols on the walls can come out and dance at their will.
Most amusing part of the Ramoji Film City was various sets that create various scenes like a village scene, a market scene, a city skyscraper and streets. There was a huge building, which is designed as an airport on one side, a hospital on other side, a church on third side and a bank on the fourth side. Similarly, there are bungalows, which have 4 different facades on four sides, and a single building can serves as multiple houses for various characters of a film. Similarly there is a fake railway station with fake wagons on whose two sides there are two platforms, one that serves as village platform and the other as a city platform. One fascinating set is that of a palace scene probably used for all the mythological and period dramas. The grandeur of this set does give you a feeling of being in a different era. Similarly a set called Movie Magic takes you for a few minutes into the fantasy world of movies where everything is bright and shining and in a minute you go around the world. In between all this you have small shopping areas to buy souvenirs though I must say the choice of merchandise is quite poor and you may not find anything really innovative or interesting to buy. Incidentally, most of the stuff sold is closer to fake items than the real ones, wonder if this is intentional or co-incidental.
There are a few shows, which give you a breather and you can relax as you enjoy them. There is a spirit of Ramoji show that is about film dancing and some very interesting and entertaining pieces that showcase some really talented artists. We saw a show where a person balanced himself on a rolling pipe, a clown show and a ring dance. All these shows were amazing and you would get up from your seats and applause. The stunt show showcases an action scene setup in a stud farm and with typical gangsters as they are depicted in the films. Actors fight with each other, and yes with the right background music enhancing the effect of those punches. There is gun firing, there is bombing and there are buildings falling and people jumping from top of the buildings. If you scared of the sound, do not sit very close to the stage. In a show called Action, they pick up a person from the audience and make a small movie with them, showcasing the camerawork, sound and music mixing and editing. This is quite an informative show and I specially liked the demonstration of the re-production of natural sounds like air, rain, thunderstorm and even running horses. We missed the opening and closing ceremony, as no guide told us about it and I figured it out only on our way back.
To keep up with the current amusement park norms, there is a 4-D show called Ramoji Tower and kids would enjoy it. There is Borasura the magician’s workshop that is a maze created to scare but is actually quite funny with its sometimes sinking sometimes moving floors, its easy to navigate mazes and some popular but still enjoyable illusions. This is again something that the kids would enjoy. This is amidst the area called Fundustan, that is more like an entertainment park, with an area for rain dancing, the jungle book graffiti, fountains, Titanic look alike ship and rope bridges to play around. There are rides as well to twist and turn you around and keep the kids interested in the place.
There are many restaurants around for you to eat and have snacks or buy water etc. We had our lunch in Superstar restaurant and it was a nicely designed restaurant featuring portraits of film stars and a model of a director on trolley shooting a film. The food was also decent.
Overall the place is good to visit once. You can spend a whole day there, so it is good to go with your family or a group of friends. Keep in mind that by end of the day you will be tired, but I guess it is worth it. Do put it on your itinerary if you are travelling around Hyderabad.