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‘Taj Express’ – Live Bollywood extravaganza in the heart of London, acv talks to Shruti Merchant, director and producer

‘Taj Express’ – Live Bollywood extravaganza in the heart of London, acv talks to Shruti Merchant, director and producer

If you’re looking for some live entertainment to match what you often see on the big screen, you should check yourself into the goings on at the Peacock Theatre in London…

Shruit Merchant producer and director ‘Taj Express’

IT’S A BIG SHOW with more than 20 dancers and represents the very best traditions of Bollywood – there’s singing, dancing, a few jokes, a solid romance and some great self- deferential asides.
It’s a definitely one for all the family and it will be hard not to get up and dance.
Taj Express’ has been on tour before and returns for its second year to the capital – this time coming down from Birmingham.
Behind the extravaganza is Shruti Merchant, the show’s producer and director. Sister Vaibhavi is ‘Taj Express’ choreographer. The pair’s grandfather is B.Hiralal, a legendary name in the business, famed for developing dance in film and bringing a Jaipur style of dance to Indian cinema. Though he died when the girls were only seven, he remains a big inspiration for the two.
“My grandmother and mother have told me stories about how excited he was when I was born and he was the first person to hold me after my birth. What he achieved is our inspiration,” Merchant told
We caught up with Shruti to talk about the current ‘Taj Express’ and why musical theatre hasn’t taken off in India, or has it? (acv): What are the challenges of putting together a big show such as ‘Taj Express’?

Shruti Merchant (SM): I enjoy the creative process of staging musicals and producing stage content. In the process, human management can get a little overwhelming, but at the end of it, the challenge is well worth it.
The main challenge was how to do a new show for the same theatre, how to be original and at the same time be different and be the best. In a world of copycat shows watching your every move, how to false foot them and be better than all the competition was a challenge which I love to take up.
We also had a challenge on how to incorporate new live music, new songs keep it good but new.

ACV: How conscious are you having to produce shows that are accessible to everyone all over the world, or was it more just a case of creating a great show and worrying less, or not at all, about the show’s global appeal?

SM: The show has been designed to entertain the audiences world over. A lot of thought has gone into the various aspects of the production right from scripting, choreography and the visuals of the show to make it acceptable the world over.

ACV: Why isn’t musical theatre big in India itself? There doesn’t seem to much of a tradition of big musical shows…

SM: Indian audiences expect full value for their money song and dances, love triangles, comedy and dare-devil thrills are all mixed up in a three-hour extravaganza. They have preferred going to cinemas and watch their favourite Bollywood stars on the big screen. But there has been a change in the mindset of people in the recent past. They have started going out of their way to see theatrical productions. This is clear from the number of enquiries we get to perform ‘Taj Express’ in India and also about international shows coming to perform in India.
The main aim behind starting my company, Quintessence Entertainment Productions, was to promote commercial theatre in India.
Taj Express’ is just the beginning and I hope that not only ‘Taj Express’, but also all our future productions run across India just like it runs across the world.

Arjun (Hiten Shah) romances Kareena Kaboom (Tanvi Patil)

ACV: What next for Taj Express and what next for you?

SM: ‘Taj Express’ was performed at The Peacock theatre in London for three weeks last year. This year it ws performed in various cities in the UK for three weeks before returning to London. The audience reaction in UK has been outstanding and highly encouraging for us to return to the UK soon.
We are scheduled to tour the US for three months next year and Europe for three weeks.
We are at the pre-production stage for two new projects which are scheduled to hit theatres in 2019 and 2020. We are looking to bring the new shows to London soon.

More on Taj Express from 2017


‘Taj Express’ Until October 20 – The Peacock Theatre, Portugal Street London, WC2A 2HT 7pm (No Mondays; Tuesday-Sunday) – Saturday (October 13 & 20 2.30pm) & Sunday matinee (October 14 2pm)
Tel: +44 20 7863 8222

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Written by Asian Culture Vulture