Bombay Dreams, Andrew Lloyd Webber and A.R. Rahman’s musical, was the first taste of Bollywood that the West End had to offer back in 2002. So it’s very fitting that Bollywood returns to London at one of Webber’s theatres — the Palladium. Beyond Bollywood feels like the sequel to Bombay Dreams, but without any songs that match the standard of the legendary ‘Shakalaka Baby’, as well as a dire script.
It, apparently, tells the story of Shaily Shergill (Ana Ilmi) who fulfills her dead mother’s wish to travel from her hometown, Munich, to India to find money and new choreography in order to turn her theatre back home into a success. It is important to note how ropey the script is, full of clichéd lines such as ‘Follow your heart’ and ‘dance is my heartbeat’. If that doesn’t make your stomach turn as much as it did for the half-full audience, I admire your resilience…
We’re currently in May, and I already felt like it was Christmas time as the show was more of a pantomime rather than a sophisticated dance production. The melodramatic acting, particularly by Sudeep Modak, tried to make this dry love story into something much more exciting and ‘fun’. However, if someone left the theatre 20 minutes before it started, they would have guessed the plot very easily from start to finish. Cheap jokes about WhatsApp and confusing choreography with pornography, as well as the acotrs lip-synching the songs throughout, did not help.
Clearly the emphasis was put on the dancing and video design, which Beyond Bollywood pulls off very well. Rajeev Goswami’s large-scale choreography is high energy and fuses both Western and Indian culture tremendously to an almost overwhelming level. It is a perfect introduction for Bollywood newbies. Imran Rashid’s lavish design must be commended for its hundreds, and I truly mean hundreds, of costumes worn by the dancers, as well as the bold colours of the animated projections behind them as the backdrop. This is done so slickly, but I imagine the majority of the budget of Beyond Bollywood was spent on this alone.
Beyond Bollywood is advertised as a musical. If this was advertised as a ‘dance show’, I would have enjoyed it much more by focusing on the dance element more than the story. With the addition of the dire script, the pantomime acting and the lip-synching, Beyond Bollywood becomes incredibly underwhelming for audiences wanting to experience Bollywood, lacking any real cinematic or theatrical flair…
Reviewed by Jack Grey
Beyond Bollywood is playing at the London Palladium until 27 June 2015. Click here for tickets
Photo: Beyond Bollywood