February Issue 2011

By | Arts & Culture | Published 13 years ago

For an invitation that strictly stated “Seating is on a first come first served basis” and “Guests will not, under any circumstances, be allowed inside after the prescribed time,” the organisers did a terrible job of keeping their word. After 30 painful minutes of director Shah Sharabeel forcing younger audiences to give up their seats for late-coming guests and celebrities (not necessarily of the elderly variety), the show was finally on the road.

The curtains opened to a beautiful scene of all the characters standing like statues, holding sparkly phool jharis, right before breaking into a high-energy sequence of song and dance. What followed was a rendition of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s 2002 London production of the Bollywood-themed musical, Bombay Dreams.

The story centres around Akaash, a young man from the slums of Bombay, who dreams of starring in a Bollywood film one day. A twist of fate brings Priya, the daughter of a famous Bollywood director, and her lawyer fiancé to Akaash’s slums, to save their home from being demolished. Given a chance to audition for the next film, Akaash quickly finds himself falling in love with Priya, and complications arise when Akaash is exposed to the reality of show business and the hefty price of fame.

It was not the plot itself that incited cheery enthusiasm among the audiences; it was the sheer entertainment that each of the actors brought to the stage. Three particularly excellent characters were Akaash’s slum-friend eunuchs, Sweety, Dolly and Pinky, who aroused uproarious laughter with their very natural antics on-stage and even off-stage as they pranced through the audiences during the dance sequences. Overall, however, the acting was not as sharp as one would expect of the high-quality theatre that is being produced in Pakistan nowadays. While most of the actors gave respectable and enjoyable performances, nobody (other than the eunuchs) was spectacular in their role, and glitches were plenty in both the dancing and the deliveries. This could also be due to the fact that (as revealed at the end of the performance) both the male leads, Akaash (acted by Gohar Rasheed) and the lawyer fiancé Vikram (acted by Hamza Ali Abbasi), replaced the original actors merely days before the show. The role of Priya was played by Mehwish Hayat, who despite being a well-known TV actress, gave a sweet but unexciting performance.

The dances composed by Breakhna Yousuf, Zarmeena Yousuf and Wahab Shah were all electrifying and entertaining, as were the dancers who performed them. The costumes, however, were largely disappointing. Not only were they tacky and ill-fitting, they seemed unnecessarily conservative, perhaps due to the criticism received for the costumes in last year’s production, Moulin Rouge, which featured some glamorous but risqué dresses. Live singing, as with other theatre productions in the past, could have also really helped to amp up the thrill factor.

Overall, Bombay Dreams had its fair share of exciting moments, and credit must be given to the actors for impressively staying in character even when the spotlight was diverted elsewhere. If it hadn’t been for the irritating and unprofessional seat-swapping 30 minutes prior to the show, it would’ve been a great night of entertainment.

BOMBAY DREAMS is directed by Shah Sharahbeel based on a musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber with music by AR Rehman. Its scheduled run for Karachi is from January 27 until February 20, 2011, at the Karachi Arts Council Auditorium.