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NB: as of 23 September 2008, all new artSMart articles are being published on the site news.artsmart.co.za.

CHALO CINEMA 2 (article first published : 2006-05-10; last edited : 2008-09-7)

A year ago, almost to the day, I reviewed “Chalo Cinema in the Playhouse Drama. The title is loosely translated as “Let’s Go to the Cinema” and the production pays tribute to India as being the world’s largest producer of films. The show marked the Nateshwar Dance Company’s 25th Anniversary under the artistic direction of Smeetha Maharaj.

A year later, while publicised as a fresh new look at the glamour and glitz of Bollywood dance extravaganzas, Chalo Cinema 2 is virtually a re-run of last year’s production. However, the second half does introduce new sequences inspired by scenes in the top movies of the year (2005) – in the show’s guise of being a Bollywood awards ceremony.

India is the largest producer of films in the world and the show runs well-known numbers from movies by Raj Kapur, Bollywood’s greatest showman who started off as the world’s youngest actor/film maker. Early scenes were played behind a scrim depicting the black and white film genre of the time.

All the familiar scenes are there including the hectic auditions with some hopeless hopefuls (a brilliant little Tamil style dance was a jewel in itself) and a prima donna’s mother who tries to take control over her daughter’s appearances on a film set.

Taking the dramatic roles once again and lending their considerable comedy experience are Afzal Khan and Jailoshini Naidoo supported by Pubern Padayachee, Deepa Jagivan and Aakashna Deokumar with dancer Kajal Bagwandeen appearing in some good solo numbers and giving a moving interpretation of the deaf girl in Black.

In a hilarious sequence, which seemed somewhat at odds with the structure of the show, Afzal had the audience in gales of laughter as he recounted the old days of the movies in Durban.

Viabhav Joshi’s choreography is fast-moving and excellent, covering styles from North India and South India as well as Bangra. It was good to see Quinton Ribbonaar, Ebrahim Medell (hilarious as a highly camp secretary), Natasha Tait and Siyanda Duma among the dancers. As before, the costumes by designer Draupadi Singh are superb with Irek Karamon and Rakesh Maharaj’s set is highly workable and versatile. Richard Parker’s lighting design is beautiful. The use of screened visual material adds another visual dimension and the first scene after interval was a highlight for me, rounded off as it was by a nicely controlled exit as Natasha Tait was carried off into the wings.

It must be said that tonight’s opening was less than satisfactory – technical cues were late, the sound was erratic (even excusing the fact that some of the film soundtracks are over 50 years old) and the show was under-rehearsed. But these things can and, no doubt, will be remedied and I predict that Chalo Cinema will go on to play to full houses like its predecessor. I still feel it is too long by about 20 minutes and could do with some judicious pruning, particularly in the student scenes. I would also suggest that the presenters appear in film clips which would also streamline the action. Full credit to the cast for their energy, stamina and sincerity of performance.

Presented by the Playhouse Company and directed by Smeetha Maharaj, Chalo Cinema runs until May 21 in the Playhouse Drama. Book at Computicket – Caroline Smart.




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