Despite its promising pedigree and some splendid costumes, Blame it on Bollywood loses something in translation to the South African stage. For one thing, it features local dancers who fail to match the innate grace and flow of their Indian counterparts. By LESLEY STONES.
Blame it on Bollywood is one of the oddest shows I’ve seen for ages. Not odd in the interesting sense, but in the ‘what were they thinking’ version.
For once it isn’t just me being over critical, because my Indian escort soon grew as disappointed and frankly, bored, as I was.
Blame it on Bollywood has a promising pedigree, with the blurb telling us it has run successfully in Asia for two years, has an Indian writer and choreographer, and that the central characters are played by popular Indian actors. But something certainly got lost in translation.
For the local run at Montecasino it’s been stocked with local dancers, and for the first time ever, I realised there’s a fundamental difference. They’re following the same dance routines, but the Indian dancers have an innate grace and flow that the local dancers couldn’t match, making their movements look staccato in comparison.
Then there’s the plot, written and directed by Bharat Dabholkar. It’s the story of a young Hindu woman (Anchal Sabharwal) who announces that she’s marrying a Muslim man and wants the whole glorious Bollywood-style razzamatazz wedding.
Indian actor Anant Mahadevan plays the father of the bride and our narrator as he fights to keep on top of the budget that is spiralling out of control in this upcoming wedding extravaganza.
The weirdest part is after the bride-to-be’s parents hear that their future son in law is a Muslim. The next scene has the stage overrun by machine-gun toting men in balaclavas. The only thing I can say about that is WTF? Turns out it was only the father’s nightmare, but seriously, I don’t think a racist nightmare belongs in a family musical.
Moving swiftly on, the show has scene after scene of lame jokes, a few decent chuckles, some scanty costumes that had my Indian friend lamenting that this isn’t really Bollywood, a tap-dancing routine, and generally just far too many scenes for anybody’s tolerance level.
At the interval, Mahadevan jokingly tells us that the best part of the show has now arrived but not to worry, the second half isn’t so bad. Unfortunately it is.
Some Indian members of the audience laughed in a few places where the cultural jokes were lost on me, but not all of them. “It’s incomprehensible” my friend whispered reassuringly. And the dancers shouldn’t have their tied up in buns, she added, because free-flowing hair is a standard feature of a Bollywood show.
There’s an attempted stab at poignancy later on where the daughter suddenly doesn’t want to grow up and leave home, but by that time I would have got on stage and packed her bags for so we could finally reach the end.
And one last gripe, it didn’t help that the sound was sometimes fuzzy so a few of the words were lost.
Yes, the costumes are splendid, it has some occasional good moments, and the lead characters of mum (Jayati Bhatia), dad and daughter bring a graceful touch to the dancing. There were no programmes, so the rest of the cast went unnamed.
I don’t think Bollywood should take the blame for this show, but somebody ought to. DM
Blame it on Bollywood runs at The Teatro at Montecasino until October 11.