Imagine yourself in a helicopter, hurtling through rocks and ravines, skimming just inches above the gleaming water of Pangong Lake in Ladakh. Moments later, you are thousands of kilometres away, swooping over colourful houseboats and precarious Chinese fishing nets in the backwaters of Kerala. Scepticism was my response to the unabashedly patriotic opening music of the 3-D film called “I for India.” But the film, a stunning simulation of flying the length and breath of the country, all at one go, was a great way to start my visit to Manmohan Shetty’s new venture – Adlabs Imagica, a new entertainment theme park in Khopoli. The park opened on April 18th, and is located on the Mumbai-Pune Expressway – a day trip from either city. With 16 rides, three multimedia simulations and five restaurants, the park has something to offer visitors of all ages.
Many of the park's attractions tell popular stories from Indian history and culture. I was unimpressed with an archaeological visit to temple ruins called “Wrath of the Gods,” a special effects show screened in a cave. With special effects including a live flame and gusts of wind indoors, the cave attempted to recreate the rage of deities who did not want to be disturbed. The splashes of water and quivering drawbridges were only slightly exhilarating, but when two large, perfectly round, neon smoke rings crossed paths and then disappeared into thin air, I couldn’t stop myself from going, “whoa.”
At the time of my visit, all the rides were not operational, but the ones that are cater to younger children as well as thrill-seeking teenagers. “Mambo Chai Chama – Crazy Tea Cups” was an innocuous spin in giant teacups – though if you twist the steering wheel hard enough, you might feel giddy when you step off. To make up for the lack of thrills in the previous ride, I stepped into a time portal for “Rajasaurus River Adventure,” a boat ride through the world of dinosaurs. The constant chirping of insects and longnecked brontosaurs chomping on prehistoric trees brought Jurassic Park alive, and I clutched the safety bar extra tight when we took the final, steep plunge into the lagoon.
My legs were still shaking when I walked into “Mr. India,” a recreation of the popular Bollywood superhero film from 1987. The villain, Mogambo, is back, holding the children hostage on a wooden ship. I climbed into Mr India’s car for the hair-raising ride to rescue the kids, all the while cringing at Mogambo’s creepy cackle. This is truly a “must-notmiss” attraction, even though most visitors to the park weren’t even born when the original film was made. The Mr India version of the victory of good-over-evil is timeless. The smart thing would be to start with this ride, because Mr India takes a virtual tour of the theme park through its six regions representing different cultures.
Other rides at the park include Viva Europa which tells children the stories of the Loch Ness monster and Robin Hood, while Arabia boasts “Alibaba aur Chalis Chor,” a laser tag hunt for the 40 thieves on a moving vehicle. Americana will make your heart race: twist and turn on the Gold Rush Express roller coaster, free fall 132 feet from the sky on “D2 Dare Drop,” and sway back and forth on a high-speed giant pendulum, the “Scream Machine.” I was disappointed that I couldn’t go on a dark roller coaster ride through space in Asiana and visit the haunted fortress of Salimgarh in India, but both were slated to open later this month.
Anticipating that all the excitement makes visitors hungry, Adlabs Imagica has five restaurants. Indian and Italian at the Imagica Capital are expected staples, but the more adventurous diner can stop by for African barbecue at the Zeze Bar and Grill, a large open-air restaurant with elegant wood and tribal art décor. At a tranquil lagoon at the centre of the park is an old ship that has been transformed into a Spanish restaurant, Arrmada Tapas Bar. The top deck is a great spot to unwind after a day of adventure, but beware of returning pirates. If you’re craving a milkshake, or the comfort of a greasy burger and fries, visit the Red Bonnet American Diner, a quintessential diner with chequered floor and red leather bar stools included. For visitors who can’t make up their mind, Roberto’s Food Coaster serves cuisines ranging from Asian to Mexican under a brightly coloured circus tent.
Adlabs Imagica is close enough for a day trip from either Mumbai or Pune, though future plans include a hotel and a water park at the complex. Catering to India’s “VIP culture” of impatience, visitors can pay a premium to skip the lines when the park gets crowded. Shuttle buses drive visitors to and from the attractions, making it easier to get around the park in the hot summer months.
Adlabs Imagica Off the Mumbai-Pune Expressway, 30/31, Sangdewadi, Pali- Khopoli Road, Tal-Khalapur, Dist-Raigad, Khopoli, Maharashtra 410206; www.adlabsimagica.com, Tel: +91 22 4213 0405 From May 1 to June 15, tickets will cost R1,200/ R1,700 for children and R1,400/ R1,900 for adults (weekday/weekend). Two-day and family passes are also available.
By Shanoor Seervai on May 07 2013