Waxing lyrical over Bollywood idols

2014-10-30 00:00

KATRINA Kaif’s selection by popular vote to be the next Bollywood star to be immortalised in wax at the famed Madame Tussaud’s Museum in London reminded me how the tourist attraction visited by millions of people every year brought Bollywood into the fold quite late in its 200-year history.

During my first visit to Madame Tussauds in 1986, the closest connection to India was a wax statue of Mahatma Gandhi in the world leaders section.

Amitabh Bachchan was at the tail end of his first stint of being the biggest thing in Indian cinema, Shahrukh Khan was still to get his first shot at becoming the new number one, and even the concept of “Bollywood” to describe the film industry of Mumbai had not yet been born.

On my next visit almost two decades later, huge posters of Khan covered all the walls of the museum as hordes of people queued outside to get a glimpse of a wax model of the hottest new idol of Bollywood. But Khan’s was not the first statue.

As Tussaud’s acknowledged the growing popularity of Indian cinema, Bachchan became the first Indian star to have his mould cast in wax in 2000 after the first International Indian Film Academy Awards (IIFA) were hosted in London, sparking new interest in Bollywood.

Khan was only the third Bollywood star to make the grade in 2007, after he beat nine other big Indian stars — including Madhuri Dixit, Hrithik Roshan, Lata Mangeshkar and Abhishek Bachchan — in a poll.

Roshan got his turn in 2011, together with Kareena Kapoor, and Dixit in 2012 as Madame Tussaud’s began including Bollywood more frequently.

The honour of being the first female Bollywood star at the museum went to Aishwarya Rai in 2004, a few years after she won the Miss World crown at South Africa’s Sun City.

As she launched her statue near that of Bachchan, there was not the slightest inkling that he would become her father-in-law a few years later after her marriage to Abhishek Bachchan, his son and her co-star in several successful films.

Salman Khan got his turn at immortal stardom in 2008 when his statue was unveiled in London. He then had another one unveiled in New York in 2012.

Today, with 19 branches across the globe, Madame Tussaud’s regularly features a Bollywood travelling exhibit of these statues, with only a few Bollywood artists having the honour of a permanent figure at the two venues.

In Singapore’s film section exhibit, Madhuri Dixit’s statue stands proudly alongside that of Hollywood stars Audrey Hepburn and Marilyn Monroe, while Bachchan joins Kung-Fu King Bruce Lee.

In New York, Bachchan and Shahrukh Khan get pride of place along-side a whole host of Hollywood artists.

Now London-born Katrina Kaif has had intricate measurements taken and will wait excitedly for the next four months as 20 specialists recreate her in wax at a cost of more than £150 000 (R2,6 million).

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