February 17, 2010
State Theatre, Melbourne
With more hip shaking, toe tapping numbers than you can poke a poppadom at, Merchants of Bollywood has all the glamour and romance of a Bollywood musical.
Based on the real-life story of choreographer Vaibhavi Merchant, it traces the development of the Bollywood film industry through gaudy dance routines and simple dramatic passages. Merchant is a Bollywood dance guru, combining classical grace with modern energy in true Bollywood style. Some of her most famous routines are lifted straight from the films for which they were created and included in the show. (See one of the better ones here: a Youtube clip of Kajra Re)
It’s daggy, but mostly fun, with extra spice added by an occasional pelvic thrust from the outrageously handsome and bare-chested Deepak Rawat. As the young choreographer, Carol Furtado performs speaking and dancing roles with elegance and charisma.
Although some of the movie-style sequences are a little overstretched and repetitive, the hip hop flavoured, ultra-modern routines really raise the roof while intricate and fast-paced classical dances set the heart alight.
Rajastani folk dances, including spinning drummers, invoke a village atmosphere and give a touch of authenticity to this unashamedly glitzy show. Barrel leaps and back flips in vividly coloured and richly adorned outfits provide relief from the relentlessly pounding Bollywood rhythms.
The large cast shimmy their way through innumerable costume changes with plenty of enthusiasm, and thankfully the show doesn’t take itself too seriously. If there were more space in the aisles, the audience would surely be up and dancing, singing along with one of the catchy encores.
Review by Chloe Smethurst
First published in The Age newspaper