Lonely Planet Writer

New Delhi's oldest cinema reopens as Madame Tussauds newest waxworks

The opening of Madame Tussauds in Delhi’s Connaught Place last week brought star-gazing within reach of the masses. The opening weekend saw thousands queuing for glimpses of a waxwork roll call of Indian and international legends of sport, music, politics and film. Stars of Bollywood are particularly well represented, with convincing effigies of Amitabh Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan, Madhuri Dixit, Salman Khan and Ranbir Kapoor, amongst others. With tickets priced at Rs 960 for adults, this is the cheapest Madame Tussauds in the world, but still out of reach of many Indian film fans.

Angelina Jolie displayed at Madame Tussauds Museum, situated in Regal Cinema building. Image by Raj K Raj/Hindustan Times/Getty Images

The wax museum is housed in the refurbished Regal Theatre, founded in 1932. Earlier this year, this icon of cinematic history called curtains on a decades-long career as ‘New Delhi’s Premier Theatre’. Frequented by Jawaharlal Nehru, Lord Mountbatten and Indira Gandhi, the Regal was famed in its heyday for glitzy red carpet premieres. It was here that the London Review Company and Russian Ballet Troupe staged exclusive shows for Indian royalty and British sahibs. Thespian Raj Kapoor’s Sangamand Mera Naam Joker premiered here, as did Hollywood great Gone with the Wind, way back in 1940.

Wax figure of Indian track and field athlete Milkha Singh displayed at Madame Tussauds Museum. Image by Raj K Raj/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

The Regal’s fates changed in the 1970s as Mumbai took up the mantle as the official home of Indian cinema. The relocation of the International Film Festival of India to Goa further deprived ‘dilliwalas’ of opportunities to mingle with the stars. However, Delhi’s atmospheric neighbourhoods still remain popular locales for Bollywood shoots, with film crews frequently spotted in Chandni Chowk, Nizamuddin, the Lodi Gardens and at India Gate Shah Rukh Khan’s Fan, Salman Khan’s Bajrangi Bhaijan, and Aamir Khan-starrer PK were all filmed in Delhi.

Wax figure of Indian actress Madhu Bala displayed at Madame Tussauds Museum. Image by Raj K Raj/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

To really get close to Bollywood, however, you’ll have to travel to Mumbai, where tours take you behind the scenes at the big movie studios. Bollywood Tours is one well-established operator. To get even closer to the action, look out for movie scouts cruising the streets of Colaba in south Mumbai, recruiting foreigners to step in at short notice as movie extras.

By Puneetinder Kaur Sidhu