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

BOMBAY CRUSH (article first published : 2005-12-2)

India, and particularly Bombay, produces the largest number of films in the world. Most of these over the last decade are in the Bollywood genre which focuses heavily on song-and-dance numbers. There is a strong element of romance and the stars lip-sync (mouth to backing tracks) as they perform dances or other action sequences. Go onto the internet and ask for “Bollywood” and the search will come up with 26,045,342 results which gives you some indication of the size and popularity of this movie genre!

As Sibiya Casino and Entertainment Kingdom celebrated its first birthday tonight (December 1), it also celebrated the opening night of what is probably the largest Bollywood-themed theatrical stage production staged in South Africa, Bombay Crush. The credits list is a dazzling line-up of who’s who in the South African entertainment industry. Produced by Sibaya in association with Anant Singh and Videovision Entertainment, it is directed by Junaid Ahmed and choreographed by Jay Pather with an extensive and stunning array of costumes designed by Gitanjali Pather and Jay Pather.

Charismatic and good-looking Indian television star Gaurav Chopra and beautiful Durban actress Kajal Bagwandeen play the two main characters. They are supported by the wonderful Vaibhav Joshi, who virtually steals the show, and feisty Fawzia Banu Kadoo. The storyline deals with a young man who does a favour for a friend and goes to Durban in his place. Within minutes of his arrival, he falls in love with the daughter of his hosts but is forced to keep his true identity from her despite her growing affection for him. However, her jealous boyfriend discovers his secret and resolves to remove his rival and send him back to India. This fairly simple story takes close on two hours to tell but, remember, Bollywood movies are about three hours long!

Notable performances come from Birbal Singh as the young student and Jacqui du Toit who plays the elegant and controlled Geeta. The rest of the cast includes a strong representation of Durban talent and it’s good to see some new faces on the Durban theatre circuit. Among the dancers are well-known performers such as Siyanda Duma, Louise Fraquet-Golding, Ebrahim Medell and Quinton Ribbonaar.

While remaining faithful to the Bollywood escapist style, the production places a filmic genre in a theatre space. This means that audiences will have different expectations and these are not always fulfilled from a dramatic point of view. Occasionally, important aspects of the plot are not sufficiently explored and overlong dance sequences tend to lose the dramatic impact of the storyline.

Bombay Crush is visually magnificent and Tansen Nepaul’s musical score is lush and evocative. Excellent use is made of video imagery and footage. While at first the set seems to be little more than a blank white wall, it conceals numerous doors and windows. It also forms a background on which to play the film sequences or backdrops. Unfortunately, sound problems marred much of tonight’s performance.

Apart from the fact that it is a major new musical being presented in a beautiful theatre, Bombay Crush is worthy of extensive support as it represents a considerable amount of faith in the Durban theatre scene by the producers as well as the creative team and the cast. Don’t forget to buy a programme – it’s very splendid!

Bombay Crush runs in the iZulu Theatre at Sibaya over the festive season into early January with performances from Tuesdays to Saturdays at 19h30 (Sundays at 115h00). Booking is at Computicket or call 031 580 5555 for credit card bookings. – Caroline Smart




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