Before Bollywood came along, Connaught Place cinemas were an elite affair, frequented by royal families and influential Indians of all stripes. Places like Regal, Rivoli, Odeon were known to showcase Russian ballets, Urdu plays and silent movies. With Alam Ara, these theatres also came to be known as “talkies”. Talkies gradually evolved into single screen halls in the 1940s and later on, with the commercialisation of Hindi cinema and the emergence of Bollywood blockbusters, the single screen halls were quickly replaced by multiplexes. Most of the old Delhi theatres have not survived to this day, while talkies like the Regal have  been routinely shutting down, sending many on a nostalgia trip.

Banking on the guzra zamana of single screen “heritage” culture, Merlin Entertainments, the world’s largest and most renowned entertainment operators, have planned the launch of Madame Tussauds, the world-famous wax museum, in the heart of the national capital. The 23rd edition of Madame Tussauds across the world, India’s debut edition of the museum will be spread across the first and second floors of the Regal Cinema complex in Connaught Place. The museum, renowned for the creation of detailed and lifelike wax figures, will house statues of prominent figures from the world of sports, Bollywood, politics etc.

“Madame Tussauds will open doors in June this year,” said Anshul Jain, General Manager and Director of Merlin Entertainment Pvt Ltd, during a curtain raiser programme on the legendary wax attraction entertainment hotspot held recently in Delhi. 

Marcel Kloos, Director, New Openings Europe & Emerging Markets, Merlin Entertainment, said, “It is a thrilling experience to bring the legend of Madame Tussauds to the culturally rich land of India. Our Wax Attraction will open a new chapter in entertainment to the populace of India at large by giving them the ultimate experience from the red carpet to stardom.”

Anshul Jain added: “The decision for the location of Madame Tussauds was where we could expect a good footfall. What better than the iconic Connaught Place theatre?”

While Marie Tussauds, Big B and Lady Gaga were some of the wax figurines that were unveiled at the event, the museum is expected to open with more than 50 statues. Ticket prices and online availability of the same were also elaborated on. “You know we are the No. 1 wax attraction. Each and every wax statue costs about Rs 150 crores, so the ticket price would also be set according to such standards. But in India, there will be ‘special prices’ for school kids and senior citizens,” said Jain. 

He further added, “Since there is no clearance on GST yet, we have not been able to decide the exact price of tickets. Only after GST gets cleared, shall we get to know whether there will be implementation of an entertainment tax or not. We shall then also deliberate upon and declare the ticket rates.” 

An interesting point on Tussauds artistry was also discussed here. Marcel Kloos said, “One of the things that make us unique is that all our statues are the same throughout the world. That is important for us, as it is the lifelike quality which is at the heart of Madame Tussauds.  Therefore, all the figures will be made in London, where it all started. Here during the opening, you will get to meet one of our studio artists. Her name is Pedra. She can give you insights into the process of making figures. We also have a local research on-site team here in Delhi to coordinate with the artists of London. Since you get the exclusive opportunity to touch them, there is going to be a well-trained local team to make sure that the quality of the statues do not get compromised on any account.

“Another specialty is that when we inaugurate it, we shall throw it open for our visitors to give us feedback on who are the people we could launch next. That has been the tradition in all Tussauds museums across the globe.”

While the marketeers are busy crunching numbers and are hopeful of an investment of about 50 million pounds in this “project” over the next ten years, as a film connoisseur I can only hope that as a mark of tribute to Regal Cinema, Madame Tussauds will house the wax figure of the Charlie Chaplin of Indian cinema: Raj Kapoor. The Regal was his favourite, after all.  

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