New Delhi, Feb 22 (IANS) For Vancouver-based art dealer Richard Trout, Dharavi is an amazing tourist spot.
He watched 'Slumdog Millionaire' a month ago and is now in Mumbai for five days making his way through the dingy bylanes of the Asia's largest shantytown - 175-acre Dharavi, home to more than 600,000 people.
The urban sprawl has been made popular by the crossover movie 'Slumdog Millionaire' - which has picked up the maximum number of Oscar nominations in 2009. A global online tourism vendor, Expedia.com. inTM, which has unveiled a Oscar holiday destination package, is promoting Dharavi and the city of Mumbai as one of the hottest tourism destinations this spring and summer.
'I am amazed by the size of Dharavi. I have never seen anything like it,' Trout, who planned his trip online on Expedia.com, told IANS from Mumbai.
A bulk of Mumbai's recycling units are based in Dharavi, apart from pottery and textile industries. The slum that has an estimated 15,000 single-room factories has been featured in several international publications.
Managing director of Expedia Asia Pacific, Arthur Hoffman attributes the popularity of the destinations made famous by the movies nominated for Oscar awards to the impact cinema has on the travellers' psyche.
'Movies have a powerful ability to evoke a sense of the exotica about the locations in which they are filmed. They are widely acknowledged to inspire travel to those destinations. For travellers, the fascination of picturing scenes in the film and then comparing it to real life can lead to a strange sense of deja vu, particularly for those who have seen the movie several times,' Hoffman said.
According to Expedia sources, post 'Slumdog Millionaire', Mumbai now tops the chart of global tourist destination followed by countries like Japan, made popular by the movie 'Memoirs of a Geisha', South America because of 'Motorcycle Diaries' based on Che Guevera's life, and New Zealand for the 'Lord of the Rings', which has 17 Oscars to its credit for the trilogy.
The top 10 Oscar destinations - in which popular Hollywood Academy award-winning movies were shot over the last four decades - include Mumbai ('Slumdog Millionaire' in 2009), Kyoto in Japan ('Memoirs of a Geisha' in 2006), South America ('Motorcycle Diaries' in 2004), New Zealand ('Lord of the Rings' in 2004), Scotland ('Braveheart' in 1995), Transylvania in Romania (Bram Stoker's 'Dracula' in 1993), America (various locations related to the movie 'Thelma & Louise'), Florence in Italy ('Room with a View' in 1985), Kenya ('Out of Africa' in 1986 ) and Salzburg ('The Sound of Music' in 1965).
According to Hoffman, each of these destinations unveiled by Expedia has interesting histories which are linked to international cinema and the Oscar awards. 'Slumdog Millioniare', for instance, tells the story of a young uneducated man from the Dharavi slum in Mumbai.
The movie captures life and locales of Mumbai- both in the shanties of Dharavi and in the homes of the rich. The music of the movie, which is the toast of the Oscar, captures the diversity of musical genres of the country.
The ancient province of Transylvania in Romania for example - immortalised by Bram Stoker's 1992 classic 'Dracula', which won three Oscars in 1993 - is known for its famous castle of Bran, supposed to have been the home of prince Vlad Tepes, who inspired the Dracula legend. It is also one of the picturesque provinces of Romania.
Kyoto, where was the movie 'Memoirs of the Geisha' was set, is home to the Kiyomizu temple, the Fushimi Inari shrine and the rich geisha culture of Japan. The movie won three academy awards.
Scotland made famous by 'Braveheart', won five academy awards. The movie features the famous Scottish highlands, the river Nevis and the famous castle of Edinburgh.
Hotels and local tour operators are offering discounts to woo tourists in the season of the Oscars. A trip to any of the foreign locations, if made on a shoestring budget, said sources in Expedia, would not exceed Rs.300,000.