'Set jetting', the concept of organising tour packages around famous movies and TV shows, is fast catching up in India.
Never mind the slowdown, would you look for an (affordable) holiday at Ram Nagaram, near Bangalore, where Sholay was shot? Or a spookier one at the Woodville Palace, Shimla, the site for horror flick Raaz 2? Or would you like to live out yet another cinematic dream — partake in the carefree spirit of Rang De Basanti, watching jets take off as the friends do at the Sahnewal Fort near Ludhiana? The fort has, since the film, acquired new-found fame as the “RDB Fort” and it is now being “packaged” (along with scenic day-long drives tracing the route of the RDB friends) for the benefit of middle-class Indians (and others) on a budget.
While Dharavi has become a destination of choice for tourists coming into Mumbai — despite the slowdown — thanks to the success of Slumdog Millionaire (foreign papers and tour operators have been reporting a traffic of at least 20-25 tourists per day), a new travel site, India Hotels Review, run by a bunch of 20-something IITians, is offering many other innovative Bollywood packages as well.
Ankit Rastogi, one of the five co-founders of IndiaHotelReview.com, and its business head, elaborates on the concept of “set jetting” that other countries like Britain, New Zealand and lately Malaysia have made use of to enhance tourism. “Set jetting is very popular in Europe and Australia. It means that potential tourists are likely to get influenced and visit the places, restaurants and so forth, because of their appearance in films or on TV,” he explains.
While tourism authorities in New Zealand, Switzerland, Britain and Malaysia have been cashing in on the popularity of Bollywood films, in India itself, this remains an unexplored territory. Now, for the first time, the domestic traveller has the benefit of this smart packaging. “I remember during my trip to Ooty, the song Chaiya Chaiya reigned heavily on my mind. Now, as an entrepreneur, I want to recreate the magic of the song on every traveller’s mind,” Rastogi points out.
The huge success of a film like Slumdog Millionaire has meant that all these “filmi” packages have been cashing in on the initial curiosity value at least. Rastogi & Co say that they have been getting about 15-20 queries per day for the last two months. Apart from a Dharavi tour (a day-long one starting with a pick up at the Churchgate station at Rs 800 per day), there is also a Kollam tour of the district near Allepy —Rs 1,500 per day, home stays— home to Oscar-winner Resul Pookutty, the sound mixer for Slumdog. Other popular packages include the Rang De Basanti tour (Ludhiana, Amritsar, Jaipur) where you can relive the “jumping into the water from a wall” scene at the Nahargarh Fort and so forth; the Jodhaa Akbar tour (that foreigners primarily enquire about) with visits to the Mehrangarh Fort and City Palace built in; and a Lagaan tour in Kutch.
The prices for all these are low since, Rastogi says, the website is aiming at a mass audience. Amongst the highest-priced packages is a stay at the Seven Mallay Bungalow at Munnar located within a tea estate where the Lolitaesque Amitabh Bachchan starrer, Nishabd, was shot — at Rs 7,000 per night.
“A general policy of IHR is to work on low margins in packages. We are following the same principle for the Bollywood packages also,” says Rastogi. But film locations are not the only thing that this website is selling. The promoters are trying to put together IPL packages too for the season ahead (including cheap hotel stay and tickets). Who’s game?