The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Wax eloquent' Hee-hee

London, Sept. 30: Aishwarya Rai burst into her trademark giggles the moment she caught sight of the waxwork model of herself unveiled today at Madame Tussaud's here.

A large crowd of reporters, photographers, television cameramen and dozens of 'special guests', who had been made to wait 75 minutes for the lady to appear early this morning, expected a profound quote from her.

The Indian press might be used to her giggles but not the British media. Once she had started, she couldn't stop.

She did manage to confide that the experience of seeing her replica for the first time was 'hysterical'.

Finally, still punctuated by giggles, she confessed: 'It's strange to see another me.'

The model, with left hand on hips and the right one outstretched, struck a coquettish pose.

Gurinder Chadha, who is anxious to promote her new film, Bride & Prejudice, muscled onto the stage with her leading lady, who flew into London yesterday, in time for the $18-million movie's world premiere on October 4 at the London Palladium.

Aishwarya was laughing so much that it was hard to make out her words but she seemed to be saying: 'I have a twin, this is the other me, thank you.'

Unlike the waxwork model, which was clothed in a red silk sari brought in yesterday by Aishwarya's designer, the Queen of Bollywood herself chose to turn up in a close-fitting black and dark red western suit, apparently made by Shahab Durazi, which showed off her figure.

'She's making a point,' said an Indian woman bystander. 'Unlike the model, which looks like a Gujarati Benji, she is saying she is a modern Indian woman.'

As Aishwarya twirled on her black high heels, some men simply could not believe any woman could be so 'incredibly beautiful'.

'She has the perfect face,' gasped restaurant owner Andy Varma, who is used to Bollywood stars since his establishment, Vama, caters for Indian film stars during their UK shoots. 'There is no doubt she is the most beautiful woman in the world.'

Aishwarya, meanwhile, was still giggling away.

Chadha, groping for something quotable to say about the lookalike model, ventured: 'It's beautiful but not as beautiful as the real thing.'

As Aishwarya and Chadha reclined regally on a sofa, a group of young boys and girls threw themselves around energetically on stage in imitation of the dances they have seen in Bollywood movies.

'It's really sweet,' commented Aishwarya.

Asked if she could pass on any tricks of the trade, she responded: 'It's all about having fun.'

After 200 years of conservative marketing policies, Madame Tussaud's has woken up to the power of Bollywood. Members of the public who want to do a 'Bollywood for Beginners' dance round Aishwarya's model will be charged '8. It will be another '6 for a photograph.

Almost ignored as an also ran today was the waxwork model of Amitabh Bachchan which was unveiled four years ago in the presence of the Big B. In the large hall, the statues of Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Margaret Thatcher, the Dalai Lama, Adolf Hitler and many others also looked on.

The next Bollywood star to be immortalised might well be Shah Rukh Khan.

'His name keeps cropping up,' hinted Diane Moon, one of the waxwork museum's senior executives who has been closely involved in Madame Tussaud's Bollywood mission.

She was thrilled that Aishwarya had turned up for today's unveiling.

'We are absolutely honoured,' said Moon. 'Aishwarya has been very cooperative ' she gave us a two-hour sitting. We have worked closely with her people, like her hair and make-up artists.'

Bachchan, said Moon, had brought in a new audience to Madame Tussaud's. She added that it had been 'fantastic' for her to have taken Bachchan's model to Mumbai. It was entirely possible that the Aishwarya waxwork, too, would be shown to people in India.

Moon was pleased that today's unveiling had pulled in more than the Asian media. 'We have the UK mainstream press here, photographers from all the national newspapers. She has achieved the crossover.'

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