Sachin Tendulkar greets you twice, both times with a wide grin and his arms stretched in cricket poses. He is surprisingly short, and you can’t get your head around the fact that this little man has the tallest record in Indian cricket history.
Yesteryear screen icon Madhubala and boxing champ Mary Kom are unexpectedly diminutive as well. On the other hand, Amitabh Bachchan and Hrithik Roshan loom tall and skinny above the crowd. All those close-ups on screen make them appear broader, perhaps.
And Narendra Modi? He’s a bit boring.
One of the defining reasons why a wax museum would survive two centuries, a revolution, several wars, natural calamities and changes in ownership is because humans are curious beings, and the one thing we’re most curious about is other humans.
And that is why, though Madame Tussauds had a somewhat tepid launch event in New Delhi on November 30 over wine and hors d’oeuvre, it is guaranteed to draw in crowds and leave even the most jaded visitors star-struck.
Considered one the world’s most successful attractions for adults and children alike, Madame Tussauds is named after its founder, who was born Marie Grosholtz in Strasbourg, France, in the late 18th century. The daughter of a housekeeper, she learnt wax modeling from her mother’s employer, a physician.
He nurtured her talent and took her to Paris, where, at the age of just 16, she modeled the head of famous philosopher Francois Voltaire. Soon, she was hired as an art teacher to King Louis XVI’s sister at the royal court. The French Revolution put an end to her royal career, but through a fortuitous combination of talent and luck, she managed to build up a vast collection of wax models of famous people including Benjamin Franklin and Jean-Jacques Rousseau.
Using her married surname, Tussaud, she displayed these models at shows across Europe over the next 33 years of her life, and finally settled in London. Her sons and grandsons later took her legacy forward. (Fun fact: the apostrophe was removed from ‘Tussaud’s’ in 2007.)
With 116 attractions in 24 countries so far – most of which have been set up in this century – its current owner Merlin Entertainment sees India as the next step of its growth journey. With 50 million pounds planned for investment over the next 10 years, the Delhi attraction has been set up at the site of the old iconic Regal Cinema, which shut down this March after 84 years in the business, to give way to Madame Tussauds.
Tickets are priced at Rs 960 for adults and Rs 760 for children below 12, with Rs 100 discount per ticket if purchased online. You can also ‘jump the queue’ with a VIP ticket of Rs 1,400, or save some money with the online group package.
The wax museum has 50 figures, of which 30 represent Indian personalities and the rest international. The figures are ultra-realistic – every detail down the eyelashes has been designed with state-of-the-art technology – and each one costs upwards of Rs 1.5 crore.
Though sports stars are well represented and set in fun zones with gaming facilities that children would love, the majority of figures represent film personalities and pop stars from Bollywood and Hollywood – to the complete exclusion of popular icons from southern India, including superstar Rajinikanth.
At the opening, the maximum crowd was to be spotted around the Bollywood section, where visitors lined up to pose with their favourite actors – from Kareena Kapoor and Madhuri Dixit to Ranbir Kapoor and Salman Khan. You can’t blame them. It’s a thrilling experience to stand next to your favourite childhood icon or adult fantasy, maybe even lean over and touch their shoulder or arm, or click a pout-faced selfie, cheek-to-cheek.
You know it isn’t the real thing, but it’s as close as you may ever get!
First published in Blackbook – The Luxury Insider