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Beyond Bollywood: An authentic Indian production full of talent but lacking in narrative

| Dance, Theatre | 14/05/2015

Beyond Bollywood. London Palladium.
Beyond Bollywood. London Palladium.

Renowned Indian director and choreographer Rajeev Goswami’s has attempted to bring the vibrant sounds, colours and atmosphere of India to the West End in this new production at the London Palladium. However, despite the innovative dances, chorus of traditionally produced songs, Beyond Bollywood is in drastic need of a narrative. There is no doubt that with 45 dancers, technicians and musicians from India, that Beyond Bollywood is nothing more than an authentic production, but this lavish spectacle is let down by a poor script, which lets down what could have been a perfect summer smash.

The story follows a young Indian woman Shaily, who lives in Munich and through visions is constantly urged by her late mother to ‘follow your heart, where dreams turn into reality’ in her pursuit of a dancing career. To find her rhythm Shaily goes to India and it is there where she meets choreographer Raghav, and together with a comical sidekick they embark on a discovery of India tour. They discover the joys of authentic Indian dances such as the Garba from the Gujarat, and the Punjabi bhangra. These folk dances are a wonder to the eye in the second act, where the dancing takes precedent over the script –just as it should have done all the way through.

When anyone thinks India they think of colour and vibrancy, but these are two features which this production sorely misses. In the celebration of the Festival of Holi, one would expect the stage to be lit up with an array of colours; reds, greens, purples, blues and oranges, but what we get instead are colours presented on large video screens. The excitement and drama of Holi somehow is eroded during this part. Beyond Bollywood is so close to becoming a hit show, but it you’re going to bring Indian culture to the West End, you need to do it properly; this half-hearted attempt falls flat.

At times watching this production was like watching a poor Bollywood film, where the story has completely overshadowed the talent of the dancers. If you’re going to bring a production like this to one of the biggest theatres in the West End, you need a strong set-design. Apart from the video-screens the Palladium’s stage looked bare, empty, and lacking in all departments creatively. The creative minds of Beyond Bollywood I felt could have dressed the Palladium up in the colours of India; what we get is a feasible production, which has the talent but not the feeling you expected.

Beyond Bollywood. London Palladium.

Beyond Bollywood. London Palladium.

One thing that cannot be taken away from the production is the talent of the dancers. It is in them where the production excels, and I would think that it would reach greater heights if Beyond Bollywood scrapped the narrative, and just showcased Indian dance and music. Have a live traditional band and group of dancers –essentially this production did not need a narrative, it needed more dance, more colour, and just more of India.

Beyond Bollywood is a perfect summer show to kick-start the London Palladium’s summer programme. But I think that if you’re going to put on a show revolving and centre on Indian culture, one cannot be afraid of really brining India to the West End -Beyond Bollywood just falls short of being a truly well-rounded show.

Written by Sandip Kana | @sandipkana

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