Saturday, June 14, 2008
Culture, Bollywood Style
Last night I went to see a musical. No, not a Bollywood film musical, a real, bona-fide musical. Live, on the stage, as a play. To be honest, I didn’t really know what to expect. Apparently, India hasn’t ever had a tradition of stage musicals, the kinds of things Americans are accustomed to seeing on Broadway. I got to thinking about it and it struck me that they seem to have done things backwards: they launched into movies, and movie musicals, without ever having had a tradition of musical theater. It made me wonder whether local audiences would welcome the stage version of Bollywood, or whether they would see it as extraneous.
The story centers around a girl named Adaa, who moves from the “small” town of Lucknow (this small town has well over 2 million people), to the big city of Mumbai, hoping to make it big in Bollywood. She runs into all the stereotypical Hollywood/Bollywood types – the struggling actress who’s played bit parts in films for 20 years and never got her big break, the sleazy producer with the “casting couch” interview, the high-flying movie stars, etc. Periodically, the action on the stage stops and a screen comes down for videos of some of Bollywood’s biggest stars talking about whichever aspect of the Bollywood business has just been portrayed. It’s a love story and a story about friendship, in addition to being fundamentally a story about Bollywood itself.
So what did I think? It was fun. It was entertaining. I was disappointed that the songs were not sung live (many of them were original songs for this production, but everything was prerecorded in a studio), but the dialogue was live. There were a few bumbles, some kinks that need to be worked out, but it’s only natural since last night was the first staging before an audience. Speaking of the audience, there were apparently quite a few Bollywood notables in the crowd, but I’m not yet familiar enough with that scene to be able to recognize who’s famous and who’s not. At any rate, my own verdict: it’s quite an experience, and I’m glad I went.