Bollywood Love Story: A feast for the eyes and ears

Emma Townsend, Saturday 5 Apr 2014

New musical, part of the India by the Nile festival, is on in Cairo until 6 April, and thereafter in Alexandria and Hurghada

Bollywood musical
Bollywood Love Story - The Musical at the Cairo Opera House's main hall. (Photo: Bassam Al Zoghby)

Part of the India by the Nile festival, Bollywood Love Story - The Musical features more than 35 dancers, live music and singing, intricate costumes and magical set design and lighting.

Directed by Sanjoy Roy and choreographed by Gilles Chuyen, the musical is being staged at the Cairo Opera House's main hall between 3 and 6 April and will then move to Alexandria (10 and 11 April) and Hurghada's Sahl Hasheesh (15 April). The show is part of the multi-disciplinary arts festival India by the Nile 2014 (1 – 20 April), which seeks to present India’s cultural diversity through various art forms and to encourage cultural exchange between India and Egypt.

The musical has been touring for more than four years, putting on more than 150 shows in different parts of the world, including South Africa, Japan and China. It tells the story of a young man, Rahul, who travels to the city and falls in love with Priya, only to face the anger of her father who wants to tear the young couple apart.

Through the accessibility of this classic theme -- two protagonists in love threatened by a villain -- the story cuts across time and cultures and is made even more universal through the mediums of dance and singing..

An old wise man narrates the musical from the beginning. Switching between English and Arabic phrases, he invites the audiences to “come and see marvels” before the opera house erupts with the raucous calls from vendors  who walk through the audience, recreating the atmosphere of a busy market. It is clear that the Egyptian audiences are delighted at the scene that could easily be a recreation of Cairo’s own Khan El-Khalili.

Bollywood musical
Bollywood Love Story - The Musical (Photo: Bassam Al Zoghby)

These familiar elements, which are common to both Egyptian and Indian culture, had the audience laughing and clapping. Director Sanjoy Roy explained this intention at the opening reception of the festival. "We love to go out and share what is Indian about us and what is universal in the world," he told Ahram Online.

The cast succeeded in putting on a performance translating the richness of Bollywood film and the richness of life to the stage. Speaking to Ahram Online backstage after the first performance, choreographer Gilles Chuyen said: "I think what is exciting is finding the many facets of Bollywood to portray the different phases that we have in life: joy, first love, disappointment, anger and sadness. I wanted to create a show that was as rich as life itself."

The happy atmosphere in the theatre was contagious and the cast called upon the audience to dance, pulling audience members up onto their feet during the finale. But for an audience who expected to sit intently for the duration of the two-act musical, this concept was hard to embrace. Only a few let go of their inhibitions, allowing the musical to defy the usual formalities of the Cairo opera.  

Bollywood musical
A dancer in between the audience during the Bollywood Love Story - The Musical, Cairo Opera House (Photo: Bassam Al Zoghby)

The performance was more than two hours long, but the dance was effortlessly executed and full of energy until the end. Chuyen, who was born in France but has lived in India for 20 years, seamlessly merged together Bollywood dance styles with salsa, ballet and undertones of hip-hop and jazz.

"I was exposed to many dance vocabularies so the show is also a reflection of my own dance journey," Chuyen said.

The musical also carries an important message about the autonomy of women and their right to choose their own life path. In the opening notes of the festival’s programme, Indian ambassador to Egypt, Navdeep Suri, highlights the topic of “women of substance” as an important part of the fabric of this year’s India by the Nile.

Bollywood Love Story affirms that life should be celebrated, it displays an array of artistic skill from international artists merging dance styles from around the world, and yet it still manages to achieve an overall atmosphere of familiarity, connecting people and places.

3, 4, and 6 April at 8pm, 5 April at 11am and 8pm
Main Hall, Cairo Opera House, Zamalek

10 and 11 April at 8pm
Sayed Darwish Theatre (Alexandria Opera House), 22 El-Horreya Road, Raml Station, Alexandria

15 April
The Piazza, Sahl Hasheesh

See the complete India by the Nile 2014 programme here

Short link: