We were supposed to have been spending the weekend enjoying and experiencing Kolkata this weekend but due to unforeseen circumstances this had to be cancelled 😞 so it left us having a weekend where we had our friend Nic over from the UK and nothing to do with regard to showing her some of the sites of India 😲
A quick look through a well-known app that has loads of things to do and places to visit and the Ramoji Film City popped up.
Both Anita and I had almost dismissed visiting here during our stay as we didn’t think we would like or enjoy it but having looked into what the place offered in more detail we hoped it would be somewhere worth going.
I decided to book a Ramoji Star Experience which would get us an air-conditioned bus to take us around the 1666 acre site as well as a welcome gift, drinks & food tokens and lunch all included in the price.
The online booking process was not straightforward, however, as every time the site tried to process my card payment it just gave the message that the payment could not be processed at that time.
I tried looking at other websites to book the experience but the price was constantly working out at twice the price of booking direct 😳 I did think that the only way that I was going to be able to book would be to call up Ramoji however I was not relishing doing this due to the language barrier which is often there even when face to face.
I was fortunate to get the assistance of Sivaram from Oakwood who showed me that the problem was with the UK bank card that I was trying to use online. This is unfortunately the downside of a short term stay here as we are unable to get an Indian bank account so we had to book using Sivaram’s card. It then went straight through and we were booked!!!
For the experience we were booked on the website said that admission was between 09.00 & 11.00 so we all decided that we would get there early so we could see as much as possible. There were a couple of slight problems with this planning because I had agreed to meet Anita & Nic and some of the guys from their office for a ‘couple’ of drinks after they all finished work.
As was kind of expected, a couple turned into a few as well as dinner and then before we knew it, it was past midnight 😲 We called Oakwood for a car and they advised that the driver had gone home but they would sort something out and get a car to us within 20 minutes. Sure enough the car arrived but we found out that the driver had been on his way home after a 12 hour shift and had been called back in to collect us 😲😲 By the time we got home it was past 1AM. An early start seemed a great idea at the time of booking…
Nic had sorted the car for the trip to Ramoji so we were picked up at 07.30. I had already looked on Google maps at the location of the film city so knew it was going to take around an hour to get there. It’s a shame the driver hadn’t done the same thing as he took the exit off of the outer ring road way too early so we ended up driving through villages on the way to where he thought Ramoji was. He had to stop and ask several people where it was and they all directed him back to the road we should have been on in the first place. He did apologise but blamed the new road constructions for getting lost 😂😂
We eventually got to Ramoji just before 9AM so actually the timing was perfect. This is the view we got as we arrived at the main entrance gate off of the main road.
We proceeded up the long entrance road and round to the car park where the driver pulled up. We all thought that he was going back to Nic’s hotel and that we just needed to call him and give him notice of when we needed picking up but he advised that he was going to wait for us at Ramoji. We did point out that we were going to be all day but this was not a problem to him. This is not uncommon in India and is still taking some getting used to.
It was fortunate that the driver stayed with us because as I had purchased the Star Experience tickets this allowed us to skip the queue waiting to get in so he showed us where we were supposed to be going and also spoke to the welcome reception staff as we went in and booked in. I could see from the booking sheet that they had that we were the last people to book the experience online but as the driver had spoken to them we were booking in first and were shown onto the waiting bus first. Result!!!
The bus first took us to the main assembly area where we could have a quick look around and also a meet and greet with our guide for the day before we were treated to the Opening Ceremony. Once the display was finished there was a mad rush to get through the opened drawbridges as possible and into the main part of Ramoji. Here we had about 20 minutes to look around before we needed to be back on the bus.
The morning was spent being driven around on what they call the sightseeing tour so we were taken around a lot of the film sets. It probably would have been advantageous to have watched at least one Indian movie before we went to Ramoji, however I don’t think it detracted from the experience. The guide on the bus gave the tour in both English and Hindi and the drive went at such a pace that we did not miss out on anything due to translations. One of the first things that was pointed out to us was Ramoji Rao’s house which is located high up on a hill overlooking the Film City. He is a film producer and business who founded the Ramoji Film City and the Ramoji Group. He’s obviously done quite well for himself… 🤣🤣
There were a few stops during the drive where we got off of the bus and we allowed to have a good look around. One of the areas was a train station where there is a set of train carriages that are used during movies. After having a look around the carriages and the station we got back on the bus and were driven further. We found out that the building built for the train station is actually also a church on one side as well as an airport terminal building on the other side and the guide advised that by simply changing the signage they can make this one building into an unlimited number of different airports/stations/churches from all over India.
Next to this is a large sound stage where there is a display showing scenes from some of the films that have been filmed in this particular building as well as the sets. These were incredibly colourful and ornate
We also found out that the majority of buildings around Ramoji are not permanent buildings at all but are simply shells with temporary outer skins so they to can be made into virtually any type of building that is required. The houses below are part of an Indian television series. The last house was finished with so was being taken apart to be then rebuilt as something else and the large framework on the last picture is used to build apartment blocks or hotels if that is what is needed in the film.
Bizarrely we were then taken to an area where Ramoji have butterfly colony and also a massive bird enclosure. We all went through the butterfly colony but Anita has a fear of birds so did not want to go through that so we skipped that. I don’t feel cheated by not going there to be honest.
After this we walked through to the Kripalu Caves (all made out of fibreglass) which showed some Buddhist history
Following the caves we were allowed to walk through Ramoji’s Bonsai tree garden. Each tree was a different species and had a plaque with both the latin and English names underneath. I had a Bonsai tree back in the UK once upon a time. It died though 😢 Maybe I’ll have another go at growing one when we get back…
Anita had walked ahead and then started to get very excited and called me over. She had come across the tree below.
Our dog back in England is a Tibetan Terrier and we have named him Bodhi as the name is a traditional Tibetan word meaning Enlightenment. My stepson Bean set me a challenge whilst I am in India as he thinks it would be good for me to go on a trip to see the descendant of the original Bodhi Tree and experience enlightenment. I’m not entirely sure why he thinks I need enlightenment but I do I wonder if this counts???
Part of the bus tour also took us through a couple of different types of jail from around India. For display purposes these sets have mannequins in place of people but when the set is needed in a film the mannequins are replaced by actors.
Other sets that we were taken around include a village and town. There is a foreign street as well. All of the buildings are temporary and are decorated with the correct signage etc. dependant upon what movie it is being used in.
The tour broke for lunch (which was included in our ticket) so we were driven back to the main assembly area and then were treated to a buffet lunch. The food was excellent and I was stuffed by the time it was time to meet up for the afternoon and was thinking that if we were spending the afternoon on the bus then I would probably struggle to stay awake. Luckily (?) the afternoon was spent walking from one display to another. These displays gave us an insight into some of the different areas of film making at Ramoji.
The first area was space themed and we were treated to an interactive ride that was supposed to simulate space flight. Definitely more for children than adults (even a big child like me) but the interactive experience extended to pipes under the seats that fired jets of air every now and then which made Anita jump 😂
From there we had a bit of waiting around until the next interactive show was ready so amused ourselves with a few more posed pictures.
Once the doors opened there was again a mad rush of people to get in. We were ushered into a large room along with others that had paid for normal entry and then a presenter emerged and announced that they were going to show us how they make a basic Bollywood film and he wanted some volunteers. Both Anita and Nic instantly looked at me and wanted me to put up my hand.
Not a chance in hell!!!!
Fortunately there was no shortage of volunteers so those picked were led out to get ready and a set of doors at the end of the room opened to let us through to the first auditorium. Cue another rush to get in as soon as possible. Seriously you would think people were going to miss something!!!
The first part was for the action side of things filmed in front of a green screen so they could superimpose the action onto existing footage. Once this was done we moved round to a second auditorium (yep more rushing and pushing) where they showed us the sound effects. The last auditorium (getting a bit bored of the rushing and pushing now) showed the finished production.
We were then taken to a larger auditorium where we were shown a sample of the types of dancing and entertainment that is produced at Ramoji.
There was loud music playing as we went in and as the various different tour groups were all coming in to watch this performance a couple of people decided they would get up on stage and have a dance. One thing that the Indian people enjoy is a good dance and this takes place pretty much anywhere where there is music playing. It is only not limited to the ladies who get up and dance either as it seems to be in the UK. The guys enjoy a dance as well and on this occasion it was the guys that were getting up on stage (not that they were supposed to).
The first couple of guys to get up were ok and only really got up because they were encouraged to by their friends, however the guy in the video below needed no encouragement and had some truly wicked moves going on. Once these guys got off of the stage though the staff in the auditorium would not allow anyone else up there as the show was about to start.
The first performers on stage was a group of boys and girls performing what I would class as traditional Indian film dance routines.
This was then followed by a girl who seemed to be a contortionist who was able to twist and bend her body into what looked like very painful positions.
Her finale was to balance a cup of water that had been bought onto stage on her forehead and then to lower her whole body down onto the floor whilst keeping the cup upright and not spilling any. She did this and then stood back up again, all without spilling a drop. The stage hand then came back on stage to take the glass of water from her and she then proceeded to throw most of the water all over the stage as she handed it back to him 😂😂😂
The dancers came back on and then gave another performance and this was then followed by a table being bought onto stage with a tube and a board on it.
I could not believe what I was seeing next as a little person then came running onto stage and proceeded to climb up on the table and then stand on the board whilst balancing on the tube.
I then heard a snort and hysterical laughter to my left and looked around to see both Anita and Nic, along with most of the rest of the audience, break into fits of giggles as they also could not believe what they were seeing. After balancing for a while first a hoop and then two tables were bought out for the guy to balance on. He then climbed down and they were taken away and that was the end of his act. Very clever and skilful but, as with much that we had seen so-far, a little weird.
Little did we know it was going to get weirder…
The next act was a juggler who came onto stage first with batons but he was quickly followed by another little person. This was again followed by another fit of the giggles and laughter from the audience. The second guy, however, did not have the talent of the first and it seemed his only reason for being there was to give additional props to the juggler.
Once the juggling with batons, hoops, footballs and hats had finished they both left the stage and then an announcer came onto stage, thanked everyone for watching and then basically told us all to leave the auditorium. Very abrupt…
This part of the tour was not very well thought out as there were large multiple doors to get everyone into the auditorium but there was only one door to get us all out and then we were directed through the gift shop which resulted in another lot of pushing and shoving and generally being cramped and squashed.
The next performance (if you can call it that) was a little walk away and was in the scary house where we were supposed to be getting a magic demonstration. We all thought this was a very weird thing to add to the tour but walked over anyway. The scary house was situated in the children’s area which was accessed by walking through the mouth of a genie. We walked through and then followed the rest of the group to the scary house.
Unfortunately this was not a very scary House of Horrors (it must just be for kids) but there were a couple of things that did make Anita jump which both Nic and I found very amusing as did the couple in front of her because of course we ‘let’ her go first 😂 After spending about 10 minutes walking around this house we got to the end but there was no magic demo.
A little disappointed at not having a magic demo (NOT!) we then walked back to the main assembly area, passing by a large area where there was a large framework with sprinklers running and loud music playing. In this area there were loads of girls mostly in traditional Indian clothes all dancing to the music and enjoying the water and having a great time. It was amazing to watch but I was shocked by the amount of men who were stood around the outside of the area videoing what was going on. I honestly have no idea whether they had responsibility for the girls that were dancing but it didn’t seem right. I got a picture of the area on the way over to the scary house as it looked like something that would be great in England on the few hot days of the year that we get there 😉
By the time we got to the main assembly area all three of us were flagging so we decided to end our day a little early and return to the waiting car and driver. Our guide advised that we would not be able to get an air-conditioned bus back to the car park so would have to take a normal bus. This was fine with us all as the ride back only took about 20 minutes and once moving the air coming in through the windows was enough.
Once back at the car park, our driver was ready and waiting and pretty much as soon as I got into the car I fell asleep 😴 Apparently as we had stayed on the outer ring road all of the way back we were back home within the hour but I have to take Nic and Anita’s word for that 😴
Ramoji is definitely somewhere that we will probably visit again before we leave India because, as it is in the Guinness Book of Records as the worlds largest film studio complex, there is no way we could possibly see it all on one day but I would, and have already, recommended to people that they visit it. Interestingly we noticed that there is a Hollywood sign up on one of the hills. The guide told us that this sign was a gift to the film city from Los Angeles itself and is a slightly smaller version of their Hollywood sign.