[ReviewAZON asin=”0736064761″ display=”inlinepost”]”The Merchants of Bollywood”, a musical inspired by well-known Bollywood choreographer Vaibhavi Merchant’s life, is set for world tour this year.
First produced in Sydney in 2005, the musical has had two successful runs in Europe and was well received in Asia and Australia. But the success of “Slumdog Millionaire” has finally helped it unlock the doors to the North American market with a two-week run in Toronto set for October, followed by a similar run at the New York City Center and a six-week tour in other parts of the US, reports the New York Times.
“It’s taken us a long time to get there. Our American partners were always curious and interested in the show, but they weren’t convinced four years ago. ‘Slumdog’ certainly changed that a lot, and I think India also changed this. It keeps on growing and the interest in the country is also growing,” Mark Brady, the producer of the musical, told the newspaper in an interview.
“The Merchants of Bollywood” was recently staged at Singapore’s Esplanade Theatre.
The glitzy musical, with energetic dance routines and colorful costumes, was written and directed by Toby Gough and is loosely based on the real-life story of the Merchant family dynasty, whose members have been prominent choreographers and filmmakers since the beginning of the Hindi film industry in the 1920s.
Prior to being staged in the US, the $3 million production will run at the Hong Kong Academy of Performing Arts Feb 2-11, and then tour Australia starting on Feb 17, before taking the stage of London’s Peacock Theatre for a three-week run starting mid-May.
Taking inspiration from the life of Vaibhavi, who has choreographed the musical, the plot uses the conflict between the young Vaibhavi and her grandfather about her career choice as an opportunity to retrace the history of the Hindi film industry.
Actor Tony Bakshi, who has been in the production since the start, believes the musical gives real glimpses of work conditions in the Indian film industry, which churns out more than 800 films a year.
“The Merchants of Bollywood” is pegged as the first “authentic” Bollywood musical: The production was entirely rehearsed in Bombay’s Film City studios and has a 40-member cast, all of whom regularly work in the industry.
“I could have produced this in Sydney or London, but authenticity for us was very important from day one,” Brady pointed out.
“As producers, we’re always interested in interesting cultural products and India for us had all the right ingredients to produce a unique show,” he added.
“It’s an ancient culture with a diverse population, incredible music, great colours. Plus this giant film industry, which has been flying stealth for quite a long time.
“We also thought there was a huge undercurrent of interest in India that was going to break through. At the time, India was rising economically, not only with trade but also as a tourism destination,” Brady explained.
The musical, which incorporates different styles of Indian dancing, from classical to folkloric dances of Rajasthan to contemporary dance forms of Bollywood, including disco.
“Bollywood dancing is energetic, it’s vibrant,” said Vaibhavi. “It’s about expressing yourself and letting go,” she added.
“There is no form to it, but a lot of soul. It’s meant to titillate the audience; it’s a more commercial form of expression where you’re using your body. It’s very sensuous.”
“In the show, we cover all sort of dancing that also goes with the narrative. That’s very important, because as a film choreographer, I’ve learned that in order for the story to work, the music and dance should also push the story forward,” she said.