‘Ticket to Bollywood’ Entertains Diverse Crowd at Kennedy Center

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March 17, 2011

By Geeta Goindi

WASHINGTON – The ‘Ticket to Bollywood’ musical, at the Kennedy Center, took a jam-packed audience on an exuberant ride through the world’s largest film industry.

A scene from the 'Ticket to Bollywood' musical at the Kennedy Center

March 17, 2011

By Geeta Goindi

WASHINGTON – The ‘Ticket to Bollywood’ musical, at the Kennedy Center, took a jam-packed audience on an exuberant ride through the world’s largest film industry.

A scene from the 'Ticket to Bollywood' musical at the Kennedy Center

The vividly colorful, energetic, high-octane production was part of the Kennedy Center’s extravagant Maximum INDIA festival, held March 1-20, presented by the Embassy of India, here in Washington, and the Indian Council for Cultural Relations, New Delhi.

The hour-long show featured three segments divided into dances based on: classical forms like Kathak and Bharatanatyam; the traditional Indian folk dances such as the Punjabi Bhangra and the Gujarati Garba, as well as festival dances; and the traditions of Indian weddings from across the states.

Shubhra Bhardwaj, the amiable Artistic Director, told INDIA THIS WEEK, “This production is designed not just for Indians, but also non-Indian audiences.  It is a window into Bollywood.  Everything that typifies Bollywood, whether it be the romance, the big, fat Indian wedding or the classical forms which have now become popular art forms”.

Name a peppy, upbeat, foot-tapping number in the last five years or so and chances are, it was performed on stage.  So, one saw “Laung da Lashkara” (Patiala House), “Desi Girl” (Dostana), “Ainvayi Ainvayi” (Band Baaja Baraat), “Jai Ho” (Slumdog Millionaire), “Dhoom Taana” (Om Shanti Om), “Bole Chudiya” (Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham), “Tenu le ke main jawanga” (Salaam-e-Ishq), “Mujhe Rang de” (Thakshak), “Tumse mil ke dil ka jo haal” (Main Hoon Na), the title songs from Omkara and Aaja Nach Le, among others.  There were also the lilting “Chand chupa baadal mein” (Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam), “Kehna hi kya” (Bombay), “Jiya Jale” (Dil Se), “Laal Dupatta” (Mujhse Shaadi Karoge) and “Haule Haule” (Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi).

Artistes of the 'Ticket to Bollywood' musical got a standing ovation at the Kennedy Center

Ticket to Bollywood was choreographed by Praversen Yesambare whose strength lies in understanding the various dance forms of India, and reaching out to audiences globally.

Shubhra informed us that the production was created for the Shanghai Expo 2010, in China.  “We got a standing ovation from 8,000 people”, she said.  About the Kennedy Center spectacle, she gushed, “It was so heart-warming today to have a standing ovation again and from such a diverse audience like this one and a cultivated audience.  I thank God that my government had the faith to present Ticket to Bollywood as one of the productions” (in the Maximum INDIA festival).

The show was completed in some five months.  “This is a scaled-down production”, Shubhra mentioned.  “Today, there are 14 performers.  The original version has 60 people.  But, because we were going to be housed at the Eisenhower Theater which has a smaller stage, I had to downsize the production”.

She stressed that “the basic strength of the show is the dancers.  They are such a talent pool and they have such a grip on technique.  You can mold them into anything”.  The female performers were lissome beauties, their nimble steps complemented by the deft moves of the male counterparts.

Shubhra told us, “the dancers are from Mumbai, from the film industry.  They are all professional dancers who shoot for films, they do star shows.  We are all as filmy as it gets”!

The dancers were selected from some 300 applicants.  They perform in Shubhra’s multiple productions: ‘Ticket to Bollywood’; ‘Bollywood Through the Ages’; and ‘Glimpses of India’, a folk dance festival.

'Ticket to Bollywood' musical performance at the Kennedy Center

We asked her about the stunning costumes in rich hues.  Shubhra replied they are designed by Tanzeel Malik, a talented, hard core Bollywood designer.

“What you saw today is what we do for film shows like Filmfare and award functions where you see actresses quickly changing costumes”, she said.  “The girls are wearing body suits and these are quick-change costumes with no buttons or zips.  These costumes are very technique-based.  They are based on efficiency … A lot of thought has gone into the costumes.  We play with color variations because that helps us with the lighting and the background.  Since we are a traveling production, we can only bank on the screen.  The costumes have to stand out for themselves.  That is all we have literally, except the talent of the dancers”.

Shubhra added, “It has been an honor to be part of the Kennedy Center’s Maximum INDIA festival.  It does make me feel that we were part of something.  (There are) the dancers, my crew, a lot of backstage people.  It has been a huge effort to be here.  And today’s standing ovation was worth every bit of the effort that has gone into putting this together”!


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