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The Peacock Theatre comes alive with The Merchants Of Bollywood

Published 20 May 2010

Judging from the sweeping success of the opening night (18 May) of the Peacock Theatre’s latest show ‘The Merchants of Bollywood’, Londoners have been starved for beauty and magic. The show, based on the true story of a grandfather and granddaughter who belong to the choreographing Merchant family, pays tribute to one of the world’s greatest film industries. It is also a tale of the ancient and eternal conflict of generations.

The birth of Bollywood movies goes back to the beginning of the 20th century. It started with the making of silent feature films, and by the 1930s the industry had blossomed and produced 200 films a year. Fast-forward to 2010, and this number has increased to over 800 films a year and 15 million cinema tickets sold a day.

As Mark Brady, the producer of the show says, the appeal of this production is its authenticity. The production was entirely rehearsed in Bombay’s Film City Studios and features a cast of forty, all of whom regularly work in Bollywood cinema. Vaibhavi Merchant – the choreographer of the show – is one of Bollywood’s top young choreographers, whose grandfather Shri Hiralal was one of the founding fathers of classical Bollywood cinema and a legendary choreographer of the 50s and 60s. Vaibhavi’s family had been the custodians of the classical kathak dance in India for generations. Vaibhavi Merchant’s dream was the same as her grandfather’s, but she did not get Hiralal’s approval to follow her destiny, and so the conflict between them began. The show is Vaibhai’s tribute to the late Hiralal, proving that modern dance and music can live together with traditional forms. Moreover they can complement each other to produce something exciting and special. To see the traditional kathak dance performed to disco music is dazzling indeed. Living in the 21st century with its advantages and disadvantages does not mean that we have to leave our heritage behind to live up the modern lifestyle. On the contrary, we must know our roots to be able to find our place and keep our heritage alive.

Toby Gough, scriptwriter and director of the Merchants of Bollywood, is acclaimed for his productions that cross cultures, conventions and continents. He works on development projects around the world, but he has directed high profile celebrities such as Kylie Minogue in Shakespeare’s The Tempest. The performance in Merchants of Bollywood of main actress Carol Furtado as Ayesha, and actor Deepak Rawat as Uday is magical. Deepak, trained in jazz and street-style hip hop in Los Angeles, lives and breathes dance. You simply cannot stop smiling in awe while watching them. Due to lack of space the article can give only some details about the work and life of the participants of the show, but we can appreciate how lucky we are to have the opportunity to enjoy the performances of such internationally renowned artists direct from the heart of Bollywood.

There are moments when words fail us, like it happened to me when I tried to describe the show, but sometimes words cannot express the true emotions; it is hard to resist dancing or singing along to the hit songs from Bollywood blockbusters such as Lagann, Devdas Musafir, and Dhoom.

Tickets are sure to sell out quickly once word of its brilliance spreads; make sure you book yours early!

Show dates: 18 May 2010 – 5 June 2010
Performance times: Tue – Sun at 7.30pm, Sat & Sun Matinees at 2.30pm
Tickets prices: £15 – £40 (Half price tickets for children under 16, discount for 8+ groups)

Website for ticket booking and show information: www.sadlerswells.com/show/Merchants-of-Bollywood
Theatre address: Sadler’s Wells, Peacock Theatre, Portugal Street, London WC2A 2HT