May 1 2015
Celebrating one of India’s most popular exports, some of the most successful names in Indian film music want to combine the best of the Bollywood with the finest traditions of West End theatre after hit Indian run…
By Tasha Mathur
THEATREGOERS who are searching for something a little different this year can rejoice as director, writer and choreographer, Rajeev Goswami is bringing a taste of Indian culture and dance to the West End this summer with the highly anticipated “Beyond Bollywood“.
After a successful showcase in Mumbai last year, the enormous team of 45 (24 dancers, four actors, four musicians and the backstage crew) will be taking over the London Palladium, after Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Cats”.
The idea came from successful Bollywood choreographer Rajeev Goswami who told www.asianculturevulture.com: “The main thing I wanted to create was something different and unique. I wanted to see multiple dances on one platform where there’s Bollywood, folk, classical and live percussions all on one stage. I haven’t come across anything like that. A lot of shows they say they do that, but when I’ve seen some, they all boil down to Bollywood again.”
Goswami is joined by a multi-talented team with acclaimed songwriter, Irfan Siddiqui, who has written for box office hits such as “Heroine”, “Fashion” and “Iqbal” and music composer duo Salim-Sulaiman who have also worked on the above films as well as composed a Bollywood remix of Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way”.
But don’t let the team’s Bollywood backgrounds fool you as Goswami makes it clear that this is a musical which aims to go ‘beyond’ Bollywood in more ways than one.
“Beyond Bollywood is exactly what the title says. We’ve tried to live up to the title and created this concept because we all felt that we could do something more.
“I’ve lived all of my life in Bollywood so I felt I could break away and do something which has never been done before by exploring the raw talent that India has in its interiors.
“There are so many good things about India in terms of culture, tradition, costumes, languages, monuments, music, instruments and so on.”
Irfan Siddiqui added: “When you talk about India, the first thing that comes to mind is Bollywood right. So people love Bollywood but what they love more about India is the culture. And Bollywood is one part of it but there’s so much more to it.”
The story revolves around Shaily, a young Indian girl from Germany who wants to live up to her late mother’s dreams of reviving an Indian theatre in Munich.
This takes Shaily on a journey throughout India where she aims to learn the art behind Indian dance.
“The story is about how she gets into Bollywood, how she gets out of Bollywood and how she’s taken through a journey through the interiors of India where she is exposed to the folk dances of India which is very different from what people normally see in the commercial field,” explained Goswami.
Of course, apart from the music, the main focus of this production is to showcase Indian dance to a global audience and it’s impossible to avoid the intention behind Goswami’s vision through the story.
“Shaily’s late mother’s dream was to revive the theatre but the main aim is to revive audiences and bring your Indian culture in front of the audience where it truly reflects our culture and creates an impression.
“I feel the identities of classical dance have gone down because there’s so much commercialisation but I think even commercial audiences would enjoy this kind of performance,” Goswami enthusiastically explained.
And this enthusiasm shines through when we hear that this production has taken almost four years to create.
Goswami narrated: “I did a lot of research before getting into the actual production. I travelled all around the world and did a small survey with audiences all around the globe; in Australia, Paris, Germany, London and US.
“I used to ask them questions when they came out of the theatre from musicals such as Cats and Chicago. I would ask them questions such as ‘what did you like most in the play?’ so I understand my audience before I get into this. I know what they’re looking for.”
The process didn’t come without its challenges.
After working in the Bollywood industry for so long, we asked Goswami how he found the transition to theatre.
“There were a lot of challenges to make people believe in it. In India, the theatre culture isn’t that big and not commercially viable but at the same time, there is a lot of talent but somehow they all get directed to Bollywood.
“They get attracted to Bollywood and I think money is the factor. The audience is also very limited. So it was difficult to bring in people such as bigger investors, with more money, more people. You need a big team to execute a show of this level. So my first challenge was to generate the kind of funds that were required.”
With the dialogue in English but the songs in Hindi, www.asianculturevulture.com asked both Goswami and Siddiqui whether it will appeal to everyone.
Siddiqui replied: “It’s actually not about the region, it’s more for the people who love theatre. The thing about Bollywood songs is that it generally emotes a lot more than what the words say. So the music and rendition offers the purpose. There will be obvious language barriers but if you change the words of Hindi songs to English, you’ll lose the flavour of these songs.”
And Goswami concurred: “Yes. I want it to cater to everybody from kids to grown-ups, to Europeans, to Australians, Americans, and Indians.
“That’s why I came to West End because I feel we get global audiences in the West End with tourists from all over the world.
“What I’ve learnt over the years is that no matter where you’re from, if you are exposed to quality, it will be appreciated and you will enjoy it. That’s what my take is and I believe in Indian performing art. I feel Indian music, Indian instruments and percussions are very strong and will definitely make an impact on audiences.”
*Beyond Bollywood from Friday, May 8 until June 27 (7.30pm + 2.30pm, 2hr 15m), at London Palladium, Argyll Street, London W1F 7TF. Tickets: http://palladium.londontheatres.co.uk/
Tel: 0844 412 2957
More information on production: www.beyondbollywoodmusical.com