x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Bollywood's latest waxwork

It's a sign of Bollywood's popularity that so many of its stars have been immortalised by Madame Tussauds, and the Ra. One star Kareena Kapoor is just the latest.

The Bollywood star Kareena Kapoor, left, with her waxwork at Madame Tussauds.
The Bollywood star Kareena Kapoor, left, with her waxwork at Madame Tussauds.

There is her busy schedule of forthcoming film releases, a turn in the recent blockbuster Ra. One and millions of fans to consider, but lately there has been a more pressing – and recognisable – business for the Bollywood star Kareena Kapoor to attend to.

The 31-year-old called being immortalised in the form of a wax statue at Madame Tussauds "an honour and privilege".

Kapoor is the sixth Bollywood star to get her own wax figure, a regularity for Hollywood stars. It was unveiled last week in Blackpool, but it won't be staying put for long. The museum is launching a special global exhibition of Bollywood stars and plans to take them on a world tour to London, Hong Kong, Bangkok and other Madame Tussauds museums in Europe and the US in the next year.

The first Bollywood statue to be commissioned by the famed waxwork makers was of Amitabh Bachchan back in June of 2000 in London. It's another sign of the growing mainstream popularity of Bollywood, especially in the past few years, that a host of the genre's biggest names have since joined him as wax figurines.

Aishwarya Rai was the first actress to be given the treatment, followed by Shah Rukh Khan in 2007.

In an international competition in 2008 to determine which nine Bollywood stars should next be immortalised, Salman Khan came out on top. More than 10,000 people voted on the poll with the other names on the list being Madhuri Dixit, Hrithik Roshan, Rani Mukerji, Karan Johar, Kajol, Lata Mangeshkar, Abhishek Bachchan, Priyanka Chopra and John Abraham.

Roshan is the only one of these candidates to have since been given his own statue. First unveiled in London in January, it cost £150,000 (Dh886,000) and took four months to create.

As with other wax figures, the process involves the taking of 200 photographs from every angle. Measurements are taken from the face and the body to ensure that the figure is the same scale and proportion to the real person. The statue is then created in clay, from which moulds are made. A team of hair and colour artists add hair and imitate the skin tones using layer upon layer of oil paint; each freckle, mole and wrinkle is reportedly accurately reproduced.

The Kapoor statue is a replica of her image from the song Mauja Hi Mauja in the movie Jab We Met.

"This is a moment of pride for Indian cinema," said the Mumbai-born actress, who attended the recent unveiling with her mother. "I did a double take when I saw it myself – they have really done a superb job capturing my essence."

It's no surprise that Bollywood stars are a new growth area for Madame Tussauds. Bollywood films sell four billion tickets around the world annually, 33 per cent more than the three billion ticket sales generated by Hollywood.

The unveiling of Kapoor comes just as her new film Ra. One, also starring Shah Rukh Khan, is breaking international records.

"Our Bollywood area is one of the most colourful and popular in the entire attraction – particularly with our Asian visitors," said Liz Edwards, the public relations manager for Madame Tussauds. "We want to ensure we continue reflecting the very best of Bollywood."

The number of Asian visitors to Madame Tussauds jumped dramatically after the inclusion of the Shah Rukh Khan waxwork in 2007. Both Khan statues that have been made are on the Madame Tussauds list of the 10 most-kissed celebrities. Since the introduction of the Ra. One star, there has been a policy of introducing Bollywood stars at regular intervals.

The global Bollywood exhibition also features a newly commissioned statue of Aishwarya Rai Bachan. Once put into the gallery, stars are regularly updated to keep up with the changing times or new poses are struck for waxworks housed in different Tussauds venues. The former Miss World was first given a statue in 2004. Since then she's married Abhishek Bachan, son of Amitabh; the couple's first child is due this month.

The stars take the honour of being given a Madame Tussauds statute very seriously. Even the notorious rebel Salman Khan donated his own clothes and worked studiously with the model makers to create a replica as close to his image as possible.

Already, debates are raging over who will be the next Bollywood star to join the list of luminaries in the museum, with Farhan Akhtar or Katrina Kaif among those considered front-runners.