The Indian Quarterly
Real Life Dummies Image Credit: The Indian Quarterly
Real Life Dummies Image Credit: The Indian Quarterly

Real-Life Dummies

One of the world’s great tourist traps, a Victorian relic, comes to India.

Shougat Dasgupta

Madame Tussauds, the world famous waxwork “museum”, opens in Delhi this summer, though no precise date has yet been announced. It’s a wonder it has taken so long. Tussauds, a fusty Victorian relic that is a worldwide phenomenon, an accoutrement for aspiring “global” cities. Four Chinese cities have a Tussauds, five if you count Hong Kong. In London, where the first Tussauds opened its doors to the public in 1836, people of South Asian origin make up about 14 per cent of the population. Indian pop culture, or at least Bollywood, is intrinsic to London and thus represented in Tussauds in a way that Chinese culture, for instance, is not.

Waxworks of film stars are common. Amitabh Bachchan and Shah Rukh Khan are obvious candidates. But Aishwarya Rai was in Tussauds before Shah Rukh. Others include Salman Khan, Madhuri Dixit, Kareena Kapoor, Hrithik Roshan, even Katrina Kaif. A wax model of Prime Minister Narendra Modi was unveiled last April, while Sachin Tendulkar has been on display since 2009. The first waxwork of an Indian in Tussauds was, of course, Mahatma Gandhi, though not until the 1960s. Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, and Rajiv Gandhi have all been memorialised in wax. More unexpectedly, so has PV Narasimha Rao.

Given this history, and given, say, a city like Mumbai’s fixation with celebrity it’s genuinely surprising that it has taken this long for a Tussauds to make its way to India and that Delhi should be its

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