A picture-perfect replica of the Hollywood sign shines in the clear, cool sunlight, a helicopter beside it and, down below, a city of fake fronts with signs advertising “Greg’s Pistol Ship,” “Bala’s Inn Bed and Breakfast,” and “Yogi Bear Bounty Hunters.” Not far away, in a square that’s closed to the public, a mob of children dressed in school uniforms is dancing and lip-synching furiously behind a pair of pouting lovers as cameras roll. I’m surrounded by 11 Indian men in matching white baseball caps, five young women in saris, and a screeching child. We’re seated in a minivan with whirring fans above every row, offering the “air-conditioning” that is part of the $25 V.I.P. “Ramoji Star Experience” tour. In the past few minutes we’ve seen a “Sun Fountain” that would fit in at Versailles, a Japanese “Sayonara Garden,” and an intricate hedge maze; at this moment we’re passing an “Arizona Cactus Garden” across from a town that could sit in the shadow of the Himalayas. Now, in the bright late-monsoon-season morning, I watch young women in shalwar kameezes—and black cowboy hats—sauntering toward the “Wild Western Days Shooting Gallery.” An Islamic woman clad from head to toe in a burka is approaching the Gunsmoke restaurant.
more from Pico Ayer at Vanity Fair here.