Beyond Bollywood Is Plotless And Plastic
Londonist Rating: ★★☆☆☆
Even by the standards of mainstream Bollywood films the plot of this new musical import from Mumbai is thin. And it’s the plot that’s squarely to blame for a frankly risible first half that stutters from half-baked dance number to excruciating comic interlude and back again.
To sum up: Shaily (Ana Ilmi) is living in Munich where her mean dad won’t let her fulfil her dream of becoming a brilliant dancer, while over in Bollywood, put-upon choreographer Raghav (Mohit Mathur) has been given just four days to find a brilliant dancer to star in his new film. Will these two kindred spirits find each other? It’s edge-of-the-seat stuff as we then watch Shaily fly over to Bollywood, do an audition and get the job with time to spare for a quick tour of India before bringing the house down in an extravaganza that’s cheesier than a bucket of mattar paneer.
This inelegantly brash production is sponsored by Air India, who may or may not have been present at story meetings, but are very visible in the Palladium itself, with a giant advert displayed during the interval on the digital screens spread across the stage in lieu of scenery (this is the first time we’ve seen such a bald commercial intrusion and are now quite worried that the idea will catch on).
When not displaying ads, the screens display some memorably bad digitised backdrops of Indian scenes and landmarks — think Nintendo circa 1987. The puffy clouds of digitised paint during the Holi festival sequence are especially disappointing when you think what fun the energetic cast could have had chucking the real stuff about. It’s symptomatic of a production that is airless and sterile and more like a Las Vegas style revue than something born in Mumbai.
The show does find a bit more soul in the second half as traditional dancing replaces modern Indian pop (the latter dragging on so long that even the characters in the story pour scorn on them). When all 27 dancers assemble for the bigger numbers, the effect is infectious, especially so on the occasions when the largely pre-recorded music is supplemented with live sitar and drumming. A little more of this and it might have been a night to remember instead of one to try and forget.
Beyond Bollywood is on at the London Palladium until 27 June. Tickets start at £26.50. Londonist saw this show on a complimentary ticket.
Last Updated 12 May 2015