Troupe brings Bollywood to Birmingham

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The Independent Culture

For connoisseurs of Bollywood, it will be a reminder of the genre's greatest hits. For everyone else, it is billed as an authentic introduction to the all-singing, all-dancing Indian film industry.

A troupe of more than 40 actors, singers and dancers, assembled in Mumbai by the promoter Harvey Goldsmith, are about to bring the glory of India's Hollywood to the UK.

Having sold out houses in Zurich and Berlin, The Merchants of Bollywood opens at the Birmingham Alexandra Theatre today ­ the first stop on a British tour that includes Glasgow, Bradford and Cardiff before ending in London at the Hammersmith Apollo at Christmas. The show will include some of the most famous songs in the history of Bollywood, with the dialogue in English.

The stories are of Stories of dreams and sacrifices, family rebellion and romance.

Goldsmith, whose previous live events include Live Aid, first caught the show in Australia, where an earlier version was staged. "I fell in love with it on the spot. I was just enveloped by the fantastic atmosphere in the audience," he said.

Seeing the show's potential for a larger audience, he and its British director, Toby Gough, who had previously worked on shows of Cuban and African music, planned a new £3m production for Europe.

The new version, about a young woman Ayesha Merchant, her grandfather, Shantilal, and clashes between generations, is based on the real-life story of the show's choreographer, Vaibhavi Merchant.

At 29, Merchant is already a Bollywood hotshot with productions such as the Oscar-nominated Lagaan to her credit. Arif Zakaria, 39, who plays the grandfather, described the show as "a great bouquet of our culture and the kind of work we do in the Hindi industry. It's like a mini-guided tour of India."

Goldsmith said he expected audiences to be a mix of those who attended Bollywood screenings and knew the genre, and others who did not but just wanted a good night out.

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