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RENATO FRANCESCHELLI WALKED HURRIEDLY towards the magic carousel on a baking Saturday afternoon in the middle of April, just three days after the opening of Adlabs Imagica, which styles itself as India’s first international-class theme park. The ride provided the “Arabia” zone with a gentle, almost reassuring presence, unlike the expansive mocked-up Ali Baba palace and soaring roller-coaster nearby. A handful of pushchair-wielding parents stood around the edge, watching it turn and pondering which attraction to visit next, while their children bobbed up and down contentedly on gaily-painted animals. Franceschelli, by contrast, looked worried.
Dressed in a designer white shirt and tight dark blue jeans, Franceschelli has a distinctly European air, although his sing-song Italian accent comes with a clear American twang. Although generally upbeat and cheery, he frowned ever so slightly as he gazed out over the colourful mishmash of attractions that he had spent the best part of four years creating. Not everything in the first few days had gone exactly to plan. “One thing we have learned already is we are going to have to stay open later,” he told me, shielding the strong afternoon light from his eyes. The park closed at 8 pm each evening, he explained. But “then it’s hot in the sun in the day so when it gets cool, they want to stay on. These first few days the kids are still getting wet in the fountain at eight at night, and that means they don’t want to leave. And if they don’t want to leave, their parents don’t want to leave either.”
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