All the World’s a Stage
Bollywood Parks Dubai creates the first theme park dedicated
to Indian movie studios
It seems like a no-brainer now, but for some reason it took until 2016 for a multibillion-dollar movie industry to finally have its own theme park.
Bollywood Parks Dubai opened in November of last year, offering an immersive experience dedicated exclusively to the Hindi-language films produced in Mumbai, India. And while the movie industry provided plenty of source material, the question park planners wrestled with immediately was … what, exactly, should a Bollywood theme park look like? When in doubt, officials always went back to one fundamental concept: authenticity.
“The popularity of Bollywood is skyrocketing, but it’s the stars that make Bollywood … Bollywood,” says Stanford Pinto, chief parks operating officer for DXB Entertainments, parent company of Dubai Parks and Resorts. “The challenge for rides and attractions was selecting the right star, and then going through that star’s library of movies and seeing which one makes sense for a ride.”
Officials say the goal was a good mix of movies, from classics to modern, much like a traditional Western movie park would offer. To that end, DXB conducted a series of focus groups to learn what franchises were most important to Bollywood fans; DXB then went to the films’ producers and stars to pitch the product. Officials say there was a good bit of education that went on in those studio meetings, as no one had ever attempted to turn Bollywood IPs into attractions before, but the studios that ended up working with the park were enthusiastic about the process.
The park debuted with four media-based attractions and a dark ride:
- “Krrish: Hero’s Flight” stars Bollywood leading man Hrithik Roshan as superhero Krrish in this flying-theater experience.
- In “Don: The Chase,” Bollywood superstar actor Shah Rukh Khan reprises his role as the title character to lead guests on a pursuit through the streets and skies of Dubai, based on the 2006 version of the film “Don.”
- Khan also appears in “RA.One: Unleashed,” a 4-D theater show based on the 2011 film “RA.One,” where a video game comes to life and creates real-world havoc.
- “Lagaan: The Thrill of Victory” is a motion-based simulator ride that takes guests through a surreal Cricket-themed carnival where it feels like they are the ball.
- “Sholay: The Hunt for Gabbar Singh” is an interactive 3-D dark ride, where guests shoot their way through frenetic scenes based on the Bollywood classic “Sholay” from 1975.
The Shows Have to Stand Out
The signature of Bollywood movies is song and dance. So officials knew several high-tech rides wouldn’t be enough for this venture—there had to be a strong live-stage component to Bollywood Parks’ overall offer. In fact, officials say the shows are as big an element of a day at the park as the rides.
There are five stages spread throughout the park, where song and dance seemingly spring to life right off the pages of a movie script. There is also the action and special-effects bonanza “Dabangg: Stunt Spectacular Show,” as well as a behind-the-scenes look at moviemaking called “Cinemagic,” based on the 2011 film “Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara” (also starring Hrithik Roshan).
The crown jewel, however, is a two-hour Bollywood-meets-Broadway live show, “Jaan-e-Jigar,” performed in the park’s Rajmahal Theatre. The Rajmahal is Bollywood Parks’ central icon, an opulent 856-seat venue featuring cutting-edge theater production assets. With its sweeping spires, marble columns, and lush tapestries, the Rajmahal is an attraction unto itself. “Jaan-e-Jigar” is a separately ticketed show that runs on select nights and involves more than 150 cast and crew.
Down to the Smallest Detail
Like any group of pop-culture enthusiasts, Bollywood fans consume everything there is to know about their beloved films and stars. Thus, Bollywood Parks planners knew they had to live up to such expectations when translating movies into three-dimensional spaces. So while Bollywood is the smallest of the three theme parks at the resort (39 acres), every square inch of the park feels like part of an immersive experience.
Officials focused on spot-on theming, making everything in the park 100 percent correct, down to the equipment used on food carts.
This level of detail extends to the culinary experience throughout the park’s six restaurants, which all seek to reflect elements of Bollywood in some way. Mughai-e-Azam is a fine-dining locale made to feel like a banquet hall for Indian royalty and inspired by the 1960 film of the same name. Rock On!! Restaurant and Nightclub is a music-themed restaurant named after the 2008 musical “Rock On!!” and complete with an in-house band.
“We wanted food to be an experience in and of itself,” Pinto says, since dining is important to both Bollywood and Dubai cultures.
Continuing to involve major Bollywood stars in the park will also be crucial for its success, park officials believe, to reinforce the level of authenticity the project professes. When Roshan visited during the holidays to ride “Krrish” for the first time, with his two sons in tow, the park was mobbed with fans. Officials say it’s crucial guests see these stars give the park their “stamp of quality,” thus adding to the attraction’s authenticity.
“I was shocked, in disbelief. The ‘Krrish’ ride especially blew my mind,” Roshan told UAE newspaper The National in January after visiting the park. “They have outdone themselves. I’m just so proud.”
“Indians are the most dominant nationality in the UAE, and it’s a sense of pride that this country has decided to showcase an industry from India,” echoes Pinto. “I suspect our first expansion [at Dubai Parks and Resorts] will be in that park.”