Lounge Preview: India’s first Madame Tussauds
India's first Madame Tussauds is set to open its doors in New Delhi
“This is not a museum, it’s an attraction," says the host with a smile, adding a moment later, “Sir, these are not statues; we’re supposed to call them figures." Probably, “statues" doesn’t quite convey the throbbing potential of life that a “figure" does. With such nomenclatural issues cleared up, she guides me to the ticket counter of India’s first Madame Tussauds in New Delhi.
A discreet flight of stairs transports one from the hubbub of Connaught Place to the upper storeys of the old Regal Cinema building, now a spruced-up space bearing the trademark Tussaudian colour scheme of bright red and gold. It’s the 23rd in the world and opens on 1 December, with previews beginning in November.
Spread over two floors, it has 50 figures from the world of sports, music, film and history, covering the gamut from Mahatma Gandhi to Lady Gaga. Apart from the figures, which cost a jaw-dropping Rs.1.5 crore each, there are other “interactions": a counter where you can get your hand cast in wax in any mudra and take it home as a souvenir or a virtual hockey game in the sports section. The tour ends with the customary merchandise shop selling mugs, T-shirts—all flown in from London.
The facts involving the production of a figure can boggle. It takes 15 hours to make a pair of resin eyes, 30 hours for each tooth to be replicated in dental acrylic, 50 hours to colour the wax head, and 140 hours to insert every strand of hair by hand using a fork needle in the scalp and eyebrows. Handmade, with no machines involved at any point, a figure can take as long as six months to make.
For this reason, perhaps, Madame Tussauds the world over witnesses a unique phenomenon where exquisitely thrilling craftsmanship serves as promotional material for crowds wielding selfie sticks that throng its corridors. It could be to bask in reflected glory or feel a second-hand brush with fame and fortune. A visit to Tussauds is hardly ever out of an interest in anatomical precision. It’s for one thing: taking pictures for instant broadcast.
“Attraction" in this case seems a fitting description.“Museum" carries a dignified air which could spoil the fun. It sounds far-fetched, then, that we can walk up to the stunt-performing “Tom Cruise" frozen on a motorbike at an angle, lean in and admire the illusion of blood flowing in his cheeks, gasp in wonder at the immaculately rendered veins on his hand which seem to pulsate and, without so much as a thought for a camera, move on.
Previews start from 3 November. To book, visit https://www.madametussauds.com/delhi/