Mumbai: BKC public park is TikTok's Film City

Updated: Sep 01, 2019, 17:32 IST | Diwakar Sharma, Suraj Ojha | Mumbai

TikTok's young influencers from as far as Aurangabad, vote manicured City Park with chilled-out security and clean toilets as top shoot location

Meraz Pathan (@MerazPathan2727), 28, makes the daily trip from Kurla to BKC with his team to shoot videos for his 79.5k followers. Sometimes, they shoot within the park. At other times, it's in the parking lot like in this photo. Pics/ Atul Kamble and Nimesh Dave

Pics /Nimesh and Atul Kamble
Meraz Pathan (@MerazPathan2727), 28, makes the daily trip from Kurla to BKC with his team to shoot videos for his 79.5k followers. Sometimes, they shoot within the park. At other times, it's in the parking lot like in this photo. Pics/ Atul Kamble and Nimesh Dave Pics /Nimesh and Atul Kamble

There's a series of three-second-long videos on TikTok—the app that refuses to stay out of the news—in which a young man, approaches a woman asking her if she has a map. When she asks why, he says, "because I have got lost in your eyes." The girl, laughs even as a romantic number starts playing in the background. In another video, the man asks for a band-aid, after having fallen on his knees over another woman's beauty.

A prank video, uploaded by @manishthestar34, the videos have garnered over 3,000 views on the short-video sharing platform. The channel, run by 21-year-old Manish Rajpurohit—who also runs Md Neyaz Alam's channel @brbhai and often collaborates with another creator, Annu Singh—has 34,000 followers and 3 lakh likes. And yes, while pranks are a common feature in the videos, in which passersby are roped in to act in videos that feature humour set-ups—a woman who hands her phone to a stranger to make a call witnesses an abduction threat—what else is common is the location: the sprawling City Park at Bandra Kurla Complex.

Naveed Patel
Naveed Patel, 19 @NaveedPatel46 High score: 11.5mn likes

Owned by the MMRDA, the park is now maintained by Silver Spoon Hospitality, which has leased the park for five years. In E-Block, it boasts of the RBI building as its nearest landmark. With lawns, an amphitheatre and walking paths along with several trees and benches, the park which stays open from 5.30 am to 8 pm, is now not just a place for locals to get their daily exercise and dose of green, but also a prime shooting location for Mumbai's burgeoning TikTok community.

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We meet Rajpurohit, a resident of Andheri East who is pursuing MCom from an Andheri East college, while he is shooting his videos. "Crowds play an important role in making prank videos. Here at City Park, there's a heterogeneous crowd with everyone from college students, office-goers to couples, whose presence enthuses us to choose this location over others. Above all, the greenery, gardens, bushes at the City Park help hoaxers as we can hide mischievous items to cut jokes in our 15-second videos."

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Manish Rajpurohit
Manish Rajpurohit @manishthestar34 USP: Prank humour

How TikTok found BKC

Launched in 2017, by ByteDance for markets outside of China, TikTok is an iOS and Android social media video app for creating and sharing short lip-sync, comedy, and talent videos. Since then, its popularity had exploded in India with as many as 200 million users in India, with 120 million active users every month. On April 3, the Madurai bench of the Madras High Court had passed an order directing the government to prohibit downloading of the TikTok app in the country, calling it "dangerous for children". The ban was lifted later that month. Mumbai, including Thane and Navi Mumbai, boasts of several TikTok stars, with Faisal Shaikh at 24.1 million followers, being the most well known. Yet, here, if a location was a hero, City Park would be the top influencer.

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Several factors work in its favour. While other popular locations in the city are largely the promenades at Bandra (Carter Road and Bandstand) and Marine Drive, BKC is easily accessible for TikTokers—as the video makers are called—from Dharavi, Bharat Nagar, Kurla and Bandra. It's not just the greens, but also the tall buildings against a clear skyscape and the general cleanliness that BKC boasts of, that makes City Park attractive. Videos shot here tend to get more hits and likes than from other locations in the city.

With Tony Kakkar, Siddharth Nigam and Riyaz Aly's August release Yaara teri meri yaari sabse pyaari playing in the back, the video opens with a young man trying to balance a rotating football on a finger, rather unsuccessfully. Krishna Gupta, who happens to be passing by, helps the hapless young boy and spins the football and hands it to him, helping him win both self-confidence and the admiration of the mean boys.

Watch video of Tik-Tok Users' Antics at Bandra Kurla Complex

But, Gupta is not an ordinary well-skilled-at-football TikToker. A freestyler, the 24-year-old has the much-vied-for blue tick on his account @KrishnaFSboy, and while his videos turn out much like others, often coupled with romance, friendship or collaborations with other famous TikTokers, the Golden Statue at Bandstand aka @goldenuniqueboy, a prime prop always remains the football.

He comes to City Park daily to practice his freestyle skills. The six-hour workout, not just keeps the followers intact—his current number is at 6.5 lakh—but also his fitness levels. Admittedly, the short videos help him make money as well. "I have been making videos for the last six months. I foresee my career in this as it has been helping me mint money. I get paid R700 per video, provided I wear sports brand in front of the camera. Many youth in foreign countries like the USA and London have been making huge money," says the HSC graduate.

City Park, for the Dharavi resident, scores over other locations for the audience size it offers. "Each day the fan following increases and onlookers are stunned at my live performances. The presence of a large crowd encourages me to perform even better than before," adds Gupta, who has been approached by sportswear brands.

Krishna Gupta
Krishna Gupta @KrishnaFSboy Paid: Rs 700 per video

Yet, even for a short 15-second video, Gupta, often ends up spending as much as an hour just to prep for a script. Take for instance, the video with @goldenuniqueboy, where Girjesh Gaud, is seen both with and without make-up. It took an hour to wear the make-up and a few minutes to shoot. Here, City Park helps especially because as a venue there's an entry fee of only R10. Amenities such as toilets and wash basins allows the artistes to keep themselves looking good despite Mumbai's sweltering skies. And, most importantly, there are no men in khaki to shoo them away.

Krishna Gupta
Krishna Gupta, a Dharavi resident, is a freestyle footballer and practices his skills at City Park every day for six hours

Twenty-eight-year-old Kurla resident, Meraz Pathan vouches for this. Pathan has been making TikTok videos for the last seven months and has 79.5K followers on his handle @MerazPathan2727. He says, "The cops and security guards never stop us from making videos." His daily routine involves coming here and shooting videos with his crew of four. "There should not be hindrance while the shoot is on, else we will have to shoot again," says Pathan, who we met while he was shooting at the park's parking lot.

Reflected glory

And if selfie spots in Mumbai are popular among tourists, City Park's fame has moved beyond the city region. We meet a team that's come from Aurangabad in central Maharashtra. It takes Naveed Patel, 19, and his team of six, a near eight-hour travel via train to get to Mumbai and Rs 235 for the trip which sometimes is merely overnight, but a day at City Park, is worth it. "I have been on TikTok since one year and have made 1,100 videos, which I have posted on #NaveedPatel46," says the HSC graduate. "Since the public likes me, I visit different places in Maharashtra, but BKC is the best location of all," says Patel even as fans surround him. Patel has over 4.76 lakh followers and 10.9 million likes.

Naveed Patel
Naveed Patel, who runs the TikTok handle @NaveedPatel46, with his team of six at the City Park parking lot on Thursday. Patel and his team live in Aurangabad and often travel to Mumbai via train to catch the buzz at BKC. 

His partner, Altamash Patel, says, "We have been making these videos to chill and to entertain our followers. Since the public demand more videos, we have been visiting different places in Maharashtra, but BKC tops them all."

With the leaders in the business gravitating to this park, the area is also a hub for budding TikTokers, who come here to learn the tricks of the trade. And, like all interns, their first job is to help the seniors with transporting video kits. Other events on City Park's horizon include rappers. YouTubers are also seen capturing stunts on bicycles, kick scooters on the ground.

Annu Singh
A TikToker, who features in several of Rajpurohit's videos, during a shoot

For those who come to the park for mundane things like taking a walk, TikTokers offer entertainment minus the downloads. Nikita Rathod, whom we met along with her friends, says, "This is new to me. After work, we visit here (City Park) in the evening to see them shooting. It's entertaining." said Rathod, who works in a private bank at BKC. Pankaj Jadhav, who is here with his two children, says, "This is like bonsai version of Film City. Our kids enjoy the evening at City Park as it is very entertaining for them."

Young teens
Young teens who help out TikTok stars by becoming their crew

Dr Samir Patil, psychiatrist, director, Fortis Mental Health says, "Social media has become an integral part of a young person's life. They use it to connect with their peer group, find affirmation and validation to express their thoughts. Above all, social media is highly accessible. It's on your phone, which is always with you. So whether you are at any place you have your phone with you and you are connected. Peer-to-peer connectivity, influence and learning and social conformity play a lot of role in it. If anything becomes a trend, it trends for a short time because it never trends forever."

The park has an entry fee of Rs 10. TikTokers, YouTubers share the space with regular walkers

Once a marshland

Built on marshy land between Bandra and Kurla along Mithi River, the MMRDA tried all through the 1980s to attract developers to the Bandra-Kurla Complex as it is now known. It was envisioned as an alternative business district to help decongest Nariman Point. However, it was closer to the new millenium that BKC came into its own after banks, consulates and then the diamond bourse shifted here. The restaurant scene took off with easy access to high-paying diners.

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