Bandits of Robin Hood
Bandits of Robin Hood

Adlabs Imagica! | High roller

A roller-coaster junkie finds Adlabs Imagica! a mash-up of some of the world's popular theme parks

When the Imax Adlabs Theatre opened in Wadala, Mumbai, in 2001, one of the first movies screened at the giant dome-shaped screen was Mysteries of Egypt. The National Geographic-style documentary felt like a helicopter ride, a roller coaster even, navigating the gorges of the Nile basin and on to larger-than-life landscapes of the Valley of the Kings and the Abu Simbel temples. Scores of visitors would complain of dizziness and run out of the theatre midway. It was only a few years later, on a trip to Egypt, that we realized the Imax epic was even better than the real thing.

It’s no wonder then that a decade on, the signature attraction at Manmohan Shetty’s just-opened Adlabs Imagica! is a 12-minute airborne tour of India designed to mimic a thrilling chopper ride. I For India is a whirlwind adventure, capable enough to stir up vertigo, with sweeping panoramas, from the Valley of Flowers in the north to the Thiruvalluvar statue at Kanyakumari in the south.

The founder of Adlabs Films Ltd (now Reliance MediaWorks Ltd) may serve as India’s Walt Disney, but Shetty’s love of cinema comes through clearly at Adlabs Entertainment Ltd’s first theme park. Shetty not only handpicked locations featured in the I For India ride, but also commissioned the building of an experimental contraption that uses hydraulic chairs to lift audiences to the top half of a 90ft-wide screen.

As at I For India, the first-ever and made-in-India tags accompany nearly all the attractions at this 110-acre wonderland, located 90 minutes from Mumbai and 60 minutes from Pune, 10 minutes away from the Khalapur Toll Plaza on the Yashwantrao Chavan Mumbai-Pune Expressway. Shetty hopes Imagica! will serve as an alternative to lazy weekends in Lonavala and Khandala.

The story of Mr India The Ride picks up from where the movie ended, with an animated clip of Seema and Arun aka Mr India (with voice-overs by both Sridevi and Anil Kapoor) at their sea-facing home with Mr India’s new sidekick, a robotic monkey named Toota Phoota. Turns out, India’s best-known villain Mogambo was just playing dead and is now holding Calendar (Satish Kaushik) and the children hostage at Adlabs Imagica!

Pop jets

Fighting off animated versions of Teja, Daaga and Mogambo also leads to the destruction of the park’s best attractions. If Mr India’s flight over the entire park doesn’t help in deciding where to head next, remember the left half of the park (as seen on the park map) is much like the Universal Studios theme park, with film-themed attractions, while the right is a lot like Universal’s Islands of Adventure theme park.

Since most of the movie-themed attractions are indoors, we suggest you start your day at I For India (it’s also closest to the entrance) to avoid the summer sun. Follow it up with an Indian version of The Little Mermaid meets Beauty And the Beast at the country’s first 360-degree dome cinema (which accommodates 150 guests). The Prince of Dark Waters love story lacks punch but it makes up for it with stunning visuals and surround sound that convert the screening hall into a tunnel-shaped, glass-roof aquarium. It’s likely to drive you to the park’s only water ride, the Rajasaurus River Adventure.

Mogambo

The story is largely inspired by Pixar’s 2009 film Up, with Dr Roy replacing explorer Charles F. Muntz as the explorer on a mission to find the Rajasaurus instead of the Paradise Falls mystery monster. We sat in the first row of the boat ride and still managed to dry off completely on our walk to the park’s next big-ticket ride, Wrath of the Gods. After a little bit of Disney and Universal, this one gives visitors a taste of Las Vegas-style entertainment. Almost identical to the Fall of Atlantis show at Caesars Palace, this 15-minute show unfolds at the Temple of Harmony and ends with holographic rings of harmony travelling to the centre of the hall—you’re left with another lesson on saving the planet. We recommend skipping this one for Alibaba Aur Chalis Chor, a combination of a laser tag shooting gallery and a dark ride, much like Disney World’s Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin.

Thrill seekers will be largely disappointed with Imagica!’s current list of rides. Only three rides are operational, including a drop tower, a family-friendly Wild West-themed roller coaster and something called the Scream Machine, a type of pendulum ride coupled with a circular gondola that rotates as it swings back and forth. In the offing are a five-loop indoor roller coaster much like Walt Disney World’s Space Mountain, which will use a magnetic launch to attain top speeds so there are no slow climbs.

Still, adults can be thankful for the two bars inside the park. An American-style diner, an all-you-can-eat Indian buffet, an Italian bistro and an African safari-themed barbecue restaurant are priced reasonably, with starters and mains in the 70-200 range.

Mr India’s robot monkey Toota Phoota
Mr India’s robot monkey Toota Phoota

At 1,200 per adult on any given weekday, Imagica! is pricier than the city’s only other amusement park EsselWorld ( 590), but it gives you unlimited access to the park’s 18-odd attractions, including several one-of-a-kind movie shows. Don’t forget that at EsselWorld, you may find yourself shelling out anywhere from 50-150 for add-ons like ice skating, 4D and 7D simulator rides, bowling and buggies that transport you from one ride to another. A recent trip to the park in Gorai even left us bruised after single turns on their rides. Our legs ached for days since we refused to shell out 50 per turn on the buggies that transport you from one ride to another.

Speaking of shuttles, the entry fee at Imagica! also includes unlimited use of the hop-on, hop-off golf carts. Renato Franceschelli, director of Attractions International, the Hong Kong-based company behind the park’s landscape and architecture design, believes Indians are culturally averse to walking so, in addition to the shuttle service, even distances between rides, restaurants and restrooms have been kept to the minimum.

At an estimated cost of 1,650 crore, this theme park is no small gamble for Shetty. It’s evident that no cost has been spared to ensure Imagica! matches international standards, from high-grade cutlery and furniture to clean restrooms and attractions manned by a staff of more than 2,000.

30/31, Pali-Khopoli Road, off the Mumbai-Pune Expressway, Khopoli, Raigad, Maharashtra. For details, visit www.adlabsimagica.com, email contactus@adlabsimagica.com or call 022- 42130405/4068000. Weekday tickets: 1,200 for adults and 900 for children (ages 3-12); weekend and holiday prices: 1,500 for adults and 1,200 for children; Imagica Express weekend tickets: 2,200 for adults and 1,900 for children.

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