The Merchants of Bollywood

Theatre, Drama
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‘Any resemblance to Bollywood stars, living or dead, is purely intentional,’ a voice announces as the curtain rises on this all-lip-synching, all-dancing tribute to Bollywood past and present.

It epitomises both the production’s central appeal – the high-octane choreography of big-name Bollywood dance arranger Vaibahvi Merchant, drenched in sparkle and bling – and its major flaw.

Writer-director Tony Gough, bringing the show to London for the second time, has linked Merchant’s dance numbers with a story line loosely based upon Merchant’s own life. In it, a top Bollywood choreographer, Ayesha Merchant (Carol Furtado) travels home to Rajasthan to build bridges with the grandfather whose classical style lit up mid-century Indian cinema.

It’s a neat idea, but the conflict at the heart of the story – between the commercial Bollywood cinema of today and the purer traditions of classical dance from which it springs – is undermined by dance numbers that indiscriminately employ both styles. The result is an awkward narrative mish-mash that isn’t helped by a dreadful script.

The dance numbers are often impressive: Furtado is a charismatic lead, excelling particularly in the scenes of classical kathak dance. Sushant Pujari is all oiled, rippling muscles as her childhood sweetheart Uday; and the ensemble is a mass of energy and spangles.

True Bollywood devotees may not mind the confusing premise and hackneyed script: the films are about spectacle, not scintillating dialogue. But this is, overall, a disappointing show that really needs to up its game to seriously compete in the West End.

By Laura Barnett


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Zane Tafadar

Thanks you timeout's vouchers, went along to this as the price was too good to turn down. However would have paid 5 times what I paid as it was truly amazing. Fun, loud, colourful and energetic taste of bollywood. Great base, and traditional bollywood anthems and a funny yet charming storyline. Definitely a must see for those who love bollywood or those who are curious as to what bollywood has to offer. I promise you you will not be disappointed. :-)