Locating Fans in Fictitious Worlds: Understanding Tourist Experiences at Bollywood Parks Dubai


This paper attempts to assess the visitor experience of the ‘Bollywood Parks Dubai’ theme park at the Dubai Parks and Resorts. Bollywood Parks Dubai claims to be the first theme park in the world dedicated to Bollywood, which is a commonly used moniker for popular Hindi cinema. Upon interviewing management personnel and visiting the Theme park as a participant observer, it is indicated that the theme park invites tourism from majorly Indian tourists visiting Dubai who are fans of the popular Hindi cinema narrative. A theme park in itself is an interesting media text that is a creative visualisation of popular culture, with most focus on experiential set-ups and an attempt to create an immersive atmosphere. However, most research done previously on Theme Parks, concern themselves with a western lens, or franchises of the western popular culture established in the non-west- Such as Disneyland in Tokyo or Hong Kong; Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Orlando and so forth. These studies address the postmodern simulacrum displayed in theme park set-ups, also often criticizing the authenticity of these created, (over) simulated spaces that are copies of already fictitious popular culture. However, these studies do not lay much emphasis on the manner in which the tourists themselves experience and get immersed in the theme park. Moreover, it has further been neglected with regards to a globally popular cinema industry like Bollywood that has a wide audience-base also due to the presence of a global diaspora. Furthermore, geo-politically one may question the presence of a Bollywood Theme Park outside of India and what this means for Indians (re)visiting their ‘home’ when abroad. In this paper, we seek to understand how tourists-primarily Indian-experience the Bollywood Parks Dubai, and what makes them revisit the Indianness. Furthermore, we indicate if and whether Bollywood Parks Dubai, is an attempt to weave ‘Indianness’ into the Bollywoodized narrative, and whether that risks Indianness being stereotyped by the way of conducting a site-analysis of the theme park. The methods employed- Participant Observation, Site analysis and interviews lends this paper with thorough and rich qualitative perspective. Therefore, with this study, an attempt is made to understand and assess the authenticity of immersive experience of tourists while being in the theme park dedicated to popular Hindi cinema.