Saturday, April 12, 2008

Bombay Dreams

Riveting and Provocative Theatre- right in the heart of Lahore

With 75 cast & crew members, over 20 costume changes, tantalizing sound and light effects, Bollywood style dance numbers and Bollywood glam all live on stage, this was one of the best productions I've seen. This bold production takes a stab at many of the cultural taboos that are pervasive in this society and seeks to widen people's world views and understanding of those considered "least" among us. For anyone living in Lahore I definitely recommend you check out Shah Sharahbeel's latest: Bombay Dreams.

The plot revolves around a young slum dweller names Akaash (Zac Khar) who dreams of becoming a Bollywood star. His friends and family hope that in going to Bollywood he could make enough money to save the slums from the hands of the greedy developers Honey Singh (Omar Iqbal) and Money Singh (Kamran Rangeela) . Right when the Singhs give the slum dwellers a 30 day eviction notice, a pro-bono lawyer, Vikram (Gohar Rasheed), and his pretty fiance, Priya (Rudaba Nasir), show up to save the day. Priya agrees to introduce Akaash to her father Madan Chopra (Abdullah Farhatullah) who is a famous Bollywood filmmaker.

Once Akaash sets foot in Bombay he starts to realize that Bollywood isn't all glitz and glamor, but hard work, heartbreak and conflicts too. Is Bollywood too big for him, or will he become a superstar?

You're guaranteed to be on the edge of your seat as you share in Akaash's journey from the slums, to Bollywood, and back to the slums again. Choreography by Wahab Shah and Alyzay Sultan Ali will have you moving your shoulders, ready to jump out of your seat and join in with the bhangra beat. You'll get to see the two masterminds behind the dance scenes themselves during the number, "How Many Stars." An entourage of male and female dancers seem to appear in different costumes every other scene. I don't know how they can do so many high energy dance numbers all in one night!

Although it's a musical, you won't find any live singing this time. I assume part of that is because it would quite hard to sing well while doing all those Bollywood dance numbers. And, well in Bollywood, they usually don't do their own singing anyway! Hands down, Priya (Rudaba Nasir) is the best lip syncer of the cast, while others were not as convincing. The choreography will keep your eyes busy during most musical numbers, although it would have made it a little more intimate if some of the other main characters looked as if they were singing their songs.

Rudaba Nasir as Priya was not only good at the lip sync, but an excellent dancer and outstanding actress. There were only four women with speaking parts, but all were well chosen for their roles. Faiza Mujahid will crack you up as Shanti, Akaash's aging mother from the slums. The superstar Rani, played by Arfah Khawaja, is a character the boys will wish was on the stage more. And finally, Enshe Ahmed plays Paro who is a girl from the slums pining for Akaash's lost love. Among the male actors, many of the cast were excellent, but I'd have to say that Yasir Rehmat Hussain as Sweetie would win my "best actor" award, with Shams Aftab as Dolly at a close second.

As someone who has participated in musical dramas myself (as a dancer, choreographer, set designer, and backstage crew), I must give props to the costume designers, set designers, backstage team, and everyone who helped with lights and sound. It takes a lot to create the effects that they managed to pull off flawlessly despite the constant threat of loadshedding.

Bombay Dreams is directed by Shah Sharahbeel and produced by Umer Hameed, not only a manager but also a black belt and fight scene choreographer.

As Lonely Planet says, India will "whirl you mind and dazzle your eyes." Bombay Dreams will do all that more. Go see it for yourself!

**Bombay Dreams will be performed every night until April 20th at 8:30pm at Al Hamra Centre, Mall Road. Buy Tickets at Gloria Jean's (Hussain Chowk), Cafe Zouk, Marble Stone (Lalik Chowk, Defence), Mini Golf (Centrepoint) or the Al Hamra box office (Mall Road). Tickets are 500 Rs each.

Be sure to buy tickets 2-3 days in advance and arrive early and people start queuing at 7:00pm. Doors open at 8:00pm and close at 8:25. Go EARLY if you don't want to sit on the stairs or be locked out! Yesterday even the aisles were completely full with people sitting on the steps and the floor. At least 50 people came too late and were locked outside!

The original musical was written by Meera Syal with music by A.R. Rehman and lyrics by Don Black. It was first produced in London in 2002. Here in Lahore it is being produced with amateur actors and actresses from the city's universities.

1 comment:

Mansur said...

Thank you for your review. I was looking for a review online for a long time before making a decision whether to watch the show or not. Having seen the original production in London back in 2003, I finally decided to go see the show here at Al Hamra, and I absolutely loved it!!! Knowing that its an amateur production, I was blown away with the talent that was on display. My only regret is that I went on the second last day, otherwise I would have love to see this again!