The London Palladium
Home of Variety, the big spectacle. Well, they don’t come much more so than this.
If Bollywood is your bag, Beyond Bollywood might just be the evening you’ve been waiting for. Oodles of energy, costume changes every five minutes, light, colour, action – a veritable visual feast.
Beyond Bollywood – `where dreams become reality’ – is a musical about dance, or to be more precise, a journey through Indian dance. Big and blowsy with digitalised back projects as scene sets, it’s nothing if not garish, Bollywood sent up, its sentiments drawn from Bollywood narratives with a love element, a histrionic element, slightly cheesy but constantly laughing at itself.
First of all we’re introduced with `Namaste’, welcome to India, with a thumping drumming intro. Next the musicians, on keyboard, tabla, sitar, drums and singer. Dancer Pooja Pant then presents us with a quick vision of classical Kathak dance before the heartbeat of the storyline lurches into the death of Pant and the attempts by her daughter, Shaily, to follow in her famous mother’s footsteps and make her dream of becoming a dancer come true.
Love of dance and pride in it as a cultural expression is the show’s real message. Shaily’s journey to discover herself in it takes her via Munich (where her mother was running an Indian theatre), to India to meet the man of her dreams, discovery of India’s dance history before returning to Munich in time to retrieve her mother’s theatre, in danger of being lost.
If the storyline is no more than the flimsiest of clothes peg on which to hang the rest of the show – it disappears almost totally after the interval – Grand Controller Rajeev Goswami (writer, choreographer and director no less) uses it effectively enough as an excuse to exploit his dancers and display Indian dance in all its current forms, from classical, to contemporary, east-west Fusion, hip-hop and memorably a very funny Bob Fosse style male Cabaret spoof.
At times, it’s a marvellous melange – crude, a bit rough round the edges but irresistibly, foot-tappingly, infectious as the dancers dance up a storm for a Ganesh festival or swirl into a spectacular sea of colourful scarf waving and costumes.
Sit back and let it roll over you. Riverdance come to Mumbai!
To June 27, 2015; London Palladium
First published in Reviewsgate May 2015