Lonavla is a lovely hill station and an excellent weekend getaway barely 100 km from Mumbai. On my list was the Karla Caves and the Celebrity Wax Museum. The latter had more of my attention because it was our very own Indian Madame Tussauds. A wax museum in India and so close to Mumbai had me eyeing this location for a really long time.
We started at 7:30 am from Mumbai and reached Lonavla by 9:30 am. Before we visited the wax museum, we chose to visit the Karla caves. The idea was that when the heat gets a bit harsh we would conveniently be inside the museum hall under cool air condition temperature, leisurely walking pass life-like celebrity wax sculptures.
We arrived at the museum at around 12:30 pm. The distance between Karla caves and the Celebrity Wax Museum is barely 8km or 15 min.
The museum has been marketing itself wonderfully with big flex banners on the highway while driving towards Lonavla. This could be one of the reasons we witnessed a large amount crowd at the museum (well! apart from it being a Sunday).
The Celebrity Wax Museum is the brainchild of Sunil Kandalloor. His first such wax museum was set up in Kanyakumari, Tamil Nadu in 2005 and he followed this up with similar museums in Thekkady, Kerala and Lonavla, Maharashtra.
Inside Celebrity Wax Museum:
Just at the entrance inside the museum you get to see a wax model of Indian cricketer Kapil Dev. That same area near the entrance also has models of Shivaji Maharaj (local Maratha ruler), Nelson Mandela, Indira Gandhi, Atal Bihari Vajpayee (local politician) and Mahatma Gandhi.
In the main hall, there are several other wax sculptures of celebrities – some international, some famous Indians and some locally famous. My disappointment was with the fact that the artist should have concentrated on very prominent personalities only. It would be okay if they were only Indians but at least those celebrities need to be universally famous. Some of the celebrity choices for the wax models inside this museum are influenced by the artist’s personal liking for that celebrity. Sample this: A not so famous Indian Bollywood actor like Jackie Shroff, an MLA from Kerala, a Malayalam feature film actor and some Indian politicians.
And yes! Not all wax models are perfect looking or completely resemble the real life celebrity such as the sculpture of Sathya Sai Baba – an Indian guru and Mother Theresa. The sculpture of Charlie Chaplin looked sad and depressed, and Angelina Jolie would cringe if she saw her wax statue.
However, there are some very good sculptures that appear life like and the best among those are Anna Hazare (local political activist) and Narendra Modi (famous Indian politician).
The number of sculptures inside the museum are not too many and the visit duration, even if you chose to click photos with every wax celebrity, would last no more than 45 minutes. Also, on crowded days, clicking photos with these sculptures without having other visitors randomly appear somewhere in the corner of your picture is a task in itself.
In terms of infrastructure, the size of the museum is a little bigger than a hotel banquet hall. The walls have lost paint in some corners and I did mention this in their feedback diary along with another pointer indicating costly ticket price for a small scale museum experience.
Yes, the entry charge to the Celebrity Wax museum was Rs. 100 per person, which I found a bit expensive. On the plus side, they allow photography inside the museum without any additional charge. They have a car parking space available in the museum premises. The premise also has a small cafeteria cum canteen. Museum timings are between 9 am and 9 pm every day.
On the whole, the Celebrity Wax Museum was a downer for me. I had greater expectations from this museum. However, I have also visited the Madame Tussauds in London, so that could partially explain my reason for the disappointment.
From a local point of view, the museum may be liked by tourists visiting Lonavla. Although, I still think Rs 100 is an expensive affair for a museum experience of such short duration. Nonetheless, the concept is novel to India and hence will be popular among Indian tourists. But for anyone who has visited the Madame Tussauds, you know this is far from the real thing!
Because the duration of our visit to the Celebrity Wax Museum was lesser time than we had speculated, we decided to visit the Pawana Lake in Lonavla. Ours was a day trip and we returned back to Mumbai on the same day around 9pm.
Here are some more pictures from inside the Celebrity Wax Museum
(Note: Ticket prices were correct at the time of publishing this blog. For updated information about prices, please check their website or contact their office)