The moment one leaves Mumbai and moves towards Lonavla, the billboards advertising Sunil`s Celebrity Wax Museum catch attention.
Opened in Lonavla on March 31, 2010 with 13 wax models, the museum, set up along the lines of London’s famous Madame Tussauds, now proudly displays 35 such statues. The most recent statue is of former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, which was unveiled by BJP national president Nitin Gadkari on July 26.
The museum exhibits the models of personalities such as Mahatma Gandhi, Pt Jawahar Lal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, Bhim Rao Ambedkar and Anna Hazare.
The museum, founded by Sunil Kandalloor, a 38-year-old wax artist from Kerala, is also home to images of spiritual figures like Swami Vivekananda, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Sai Baba, Sathya Sai Baba and Mata Amritanantha Mayi.
In addition to these, the museum also exhibits statues of foreign leaders, such as Adolf Hitler, Benazir Bhutto and Saddam Hussein. The image of Chhatrapati Shivaji is undoubtedly the highlight of the museum.
The wax figures are such that it is difficult to differentiate between the real person and the sculpture. The eyes of the statues are made of glass and chemicals. And eyebrows, eyelashes, hair are made of real human hair. Also, clothes and shoes worn by models are straight out of their personal wardrobe.
Sunil Kandalloor has never received any sort of training for making wax models.
Kamna Arora of Zeenews.com had a brief chat with the museum’s director Subhash Kumar.
Kamna: Why did you choose Lonavla for the museum?
Mr Kumar: The reason for opening a wax museum here is that Lonavla is situated between two big cities. And also, we are on the way to Mumbai. Within two years, we plan to shift the museum to Mumbai. It will be an international museum which could compete with foreign wax museums.
Kamna: What sort of details do you keep in mind while making a wax figure? How much time does it take to finish a statue?
Mr Kumar:Mr Sunil Kandalloor makes a wax model of a living person only after getting permission from him/her. He takes full body measurements and photographs from different angles. He can finish preparing a model within a month.
Kamna: How is the response of the celebrities to your museum?
Mr Kumar:You know, the main hurdle before Sunil is that the celebrities from Bollywood are focussing on foreign wax museums. They do not encourage an Indian talent like Sunil Kandalloor. For making the wax models of celebrities, he needs their co-operation.
Kamna: How is the response of the visitors?
Mr Kumar:We are getting good crowd in the museum. All the visitors are very happy and they are surprised to see the models in the museum. When they enter into the museum, they wonder watching the life-size figures of the celebrities. We get good response and encouraging words from the visitors who have already visited foreign wax museums. In their opinion, the quality of Sunil Kandalloor’s wax models is much better than that of foreign wax museums.
Sunil has plans to make the wax models of Mr Amitabh Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan, Salman Khan, Aamir Khan, political icons like Sharad Pawar, Narendra Modi, and sports icons like Sachin Tendulkar, MS Dhoni, Saina Nehwal etc.