A critical reading of ‘Beyond Bollywood’: The Musical

It was a nippy cold morning in Gurugram, near to the IFFCO Chowk Metro Station is an artificial and odd structure modelled after a grand Indian Palace functional as an Amusement Park. It is Traditional Indian Culture (a broad category) meets Disneyland or Universal Studios on a far more moderate scale called as Kingdom of Dreams. The Shah Rukh Khan promoted venture, is better known for its as unreal it can get ‘Culture Gully’ or Culture Lane which is a mega food court with counters of traditional food from all corners of the country, pretty much like a Singaporean Hawker Center, only far more fancier (reminded me of the Chinatown food street after it was sanitised for the tourist crowd).

This commoditization of culture, packaged for the MNC working Global Indian, short of time to connect with one’s traditions, in a systematic manner with fresh natural jaggery infused tea (Gur wali chai) and piping hot Jalebis available at astronomical prices as the musical ticket prices. Blingy over the top, very Bollywoodish take on Indian traditions.

In this context, the musical ‘Beyond Bollywood’ is set; a very over the top performance. Excellent dance sequences especially the Kathak by Aditi Mukherjee (Jasvir Shergill), is a stand out. The engagement with the audience, is rather refreshing with performances from the trampoline and the dholak from the middle of the auditorium.

The storyline is quite scripted and squared; the tension between a NRI Dance artiste (Shergill Junior) looking to rediscover the traditional in India, and a folk dancer turned urdu spewing choreographer (Raghu) who takes the NRI Dancer on a cultural tour of India. She wants to learn the traditional to restore and pay homage to her mother’s legacy at the Indian Dance Theatre of Munich (an obvious lift from the Great Indian Circus of Chicago from Dhoom3).

Demonetisation jibes at a musical: Beyond Bollywood at the Kingdom of Dreams, Gurugram. Politics is culture and culture is politics. Modi ji has captured the cultural imagination.

There is the not so funny gay joke angle of the theatre owner and the the titillating dance sequences from ‘Baby Doll’ and ‘Tip Tip Barsa Paani’. But the stand out is the exposure to the Chaw Santal Dance of Bengal and Lavni of Maharashtra. An entertaining two hours of non stop energy and amazing dance talent. It is reducing these dance forms to an accessible manner for the mainstreet audience. The mode of cultural production is commercial but it is indeed encouraging to find dance artistes finding the correct platforms. Now, have to attend a Navdhara Dance Theater performance soon.

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