Ever wondered what it would be like to meet your doppelgänger? How would you feel if you came face to face with a tangible, carbon copy of your self?
It’s not the kind of spooky situation many of us will ever find ourselves in. Unless, that is, you happen to be a world famous celebrity who has agreed to be immortalised in wax and put on parade in the strange museum of curiosity that is Madame Tussauds.
That is exactly the circumstance Bollywood icon Hrithik Roshan found himself recently when he came to London to unveil his waxwork figure to the world. Looking as dashing in real life as he does on screen, Hrithik struck all the right poses and said all the right things when presented with his £150,000 statue.
“I can’t believe I’m here in Madame Tussauds unveiling a wax figure of myself. It’s incredible just how detailed the figure is,” gushed the star of Kaho Naa… Pyaar Hai, Dhoom:2, and Jodha Akbar to the gathered media.
Accompanied by father Rakesh Roshan, mother Pinky, grandfather J Om Prakash, wife Sussanne and their two sons, like a good Indian boy Hrithik dedicated the honour to his loved ones, saying "I am thrilled that my entire family is with me sharing this wonderful moment. More than the wax figure it's a matter of emotions and pride that my family is there to see all this today.”
And like a PR’s dream, the six-pack endowed star also spoke about the first time he visited Madame Tussauds as a child. "I was nine years old, holidaying in London with my family when my grandfather and I went to Madame Tussauds. We had to stand in line for 45 minutes and while I was jumping up and down with impatience and excitement, my grandfather waited patiently. ??I even told him that we should go and come back the next day but my grandfather waited till we could enter Madame Tussauds. Today I feel he's like that excited child I was."
As I watched Hrithik stand next to his double and reveal his memories, I couldn’t help but recall my first visit to Madame Tussauds in the 80s. My parents had taken my sister and I along with an uncle visiting from India to gaze at the stars (constellations, not pop or movie) in the famous Planetarium that was part of the main attraction. At that time the only brown faces we got to see were those of Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Indira and Rajiv Gandhi. A decade later and another relative to accompany, I remember noticing Benazir Bhutto and Imran Khan had been added to the collection. Mother Teresa of Calcutta was always there but technically she was Albanian.
Despite their high profile, the inclusion of these political and spiritual leaders in the hall of fame came with none of the fanfare and hype that surrounded Amitabh Bachchan, the first of the Bollywood waxworks to be installed in 2003. A clever ploy by Madame Tussauds to attract growing numbers of Indian tourists visiting London, plus the resident British Asian community, the Big B’s popularity saw a marked increase in South Asian visitors. This soon led to other actors getting the waxwork treatment. Aishwarya Rai followed in 2004, Shah Rukh Khan in 2007 and Salman Khan in 2008. Breaking the Bollywood run in 2009 came sporting legend Sachin Tendulkar, who represented the other Indian obsession – cricket.
But why should Bollywood actors and sports personalities be the favoured figures we see in such places? Are they the only role models and cultural representatives of new age India? Wouldn’t it be refreshing to see successful Indians and other South Asians from other walks of life, such as Nobel Laureate Professor Muhammad Yunus, Indian-American NASA astronaut Kalpana Chawla, industrialist Lakshmi Mittal or legendary artist Maqbool Fida Husain? While they may not be ‘sexy’ pop culture figures such as Roshan and Co, they have achieved considerably more global recognition and respect.
But the chances of one of these successful people being cloned in wax is as probable as Madame Tussauds ghost waking me up at night and asking me if I’d like the privilege. Pop stars, Hollywood and now Bollywood sells. A R Rahman and Akshay Kumar are more likely to be next. Aamir Khan reputedly turned down the offer to be added to their Bollywood Zone, so that’s him struck off the list. Perhaps it will be South Indian superstar Rajnikanth, Jodi No. 1 Kareena Kapoor and Saif Ali Khan, or maybe Abhishek and Jaya to complete the Bachchan family set. Whoever Madame Tussauds decides to target next, you can bet that they will be more style over substance.
Image by Sunny Mathadu.