As Madame Tussauds is all set to launch its first Indian edition in Delhi, the owner firm of the global wax figure attraction has welcomed the government’s move to make parts of Connaught Place area vehicle-free, saying pedestrianisation would only benefit its business.
“One of the factors we take into account while choosing a city for launching is the footfall in the area. Connaught Place (Regal Building), as a name came to the table, and we knew it was the right place for us.
“As far as the government’s pedestrianisation move is concerned, we think it would only make our debut here more successful and benefit the business. From our attractions at Times Square (the US) to Brandenburg Gate (Germany), open vehicle-free spaces have witnessed greater footfall, and we expect the same in Delhi too,” said Marcel Kloos, Merlin Entertainments Director, New Openings Europe and Emerging Markets.
Times Square in New York City and Brandenburg Gate in Berlin are pedestrianised zones and see huge inflow of both domestic and international tourists.
UK-based Merlin Entertainments currently operates 22 wax attractions around the world and the museum in Delhi is set to open in the 1930-era heritage building in June.
Merlin Entertainments India General Manger and Director Anshul Jain also welcomed the decision of the Urban Development Ministry to make inner and middle circles of ‘CP’ vehicle-free for three months on a pilot basis starting February.
“We are excited about its success and and recent study says, footfall in the area is likely to increase, so for us it only makes sense to open it right in the heart of Delhi. Besides, standing in long queues to gain entry is one of the exciting things about visiting Madame Tussauds. And, more pedestrians would mean more excitement,” he said.
The museum will be housed in the iconic building, housing the eponymous theatre and spread over the ground and first floors.
“The attraction would come up where the ‘Standard Restaurant’ used to be. We have modernised the interior but the heritage architecture of the building would be kept intact,” Kloos said.
The Centre’s move to pedestrianise CP has, however, has miffed traders having shops in the famed market, who fear a slump in their business. But, urban experts and heritage activists have argued to the contrary, saying, eventually the scale of business increases, as evidenced in Shanghai’s Nanjing Road or New York’s Times Square.
Besides, Bachchan, Mahatma Gandhi, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Hollywood superstar Jackie Chan, cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar and pop icon Lady Gaga are among the host of personalities whose wax figures will adorn the country’s first Madame Tussauds.
Having a legacy of over 250 years, the Delhi wax museum would be the 23rd such attractions opened globally, including in London, Berlin, Amsterdam, Shanghai, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Singapore, Hollywood, New York and Washington.
Madame Tussauds’ Regional Studio Manager Midway Europe/EuroAsia Petra van der Meer, who also visited Delhi for the unveiling of Bachchan’s figure says, “We already have a few attractions housed in heritage buildings, like in Washington DC, Amsterdam, Istanbul and of course the one at Baker Street in London, where it all began.”
“The London attraction was burnt down in a fire, but we had the moulds, so we recreated the figures,” she said.
At the launch, two wax figures — Lady Gaga and Madame Tussauds — were flown in specially for the occasion.
“Madame Tussauds, of course is present in all our attractions. And, in the one showcased in Delhi, she is seen holding the clay model of the head of Benjamin Franklin. It is an exciting journey for us now to be in India,” van der Meer told PTI.
The UK-based firm, also owner of other brands such as SeaLife and Legoland, said, “60 per cent of the figures would be of local (Indian) personalities, and the rest would be of global ones, from all walks of life, entertainment to sports to famous leaders.”
The Madame Tussauds museum in London opened at Baker Street in 1835. It has since expanded to other countries, drawing 550 million people worldwide so far.
Asked if there were other choices for the city, Kloos said, “Mumbai is the entertainment capital of India, but we go beyond entertainment, as far as our figures are concerned.”
“We conducted a market research and also took a sample survey, and Delhi turned out to be right fit. Also, the venue, Regal Theatre building, a heritage building in Connaught Place area was, also the right find for us, so we did not look any further.”
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“All figures are being made in our UK studio and will be brought here. But, we do have a local team, who will work on its maintenance,” he said.
Jain also said, “We are looking at bringing in other brands but our priority is to launch Madame Tussauds in Delhi. We plan to invest 50 million pounds over the next 10 years.”