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Friday, August 19, 2011


(Farai Gwaze, Nitin Dass, Adi Paxton, Yarisha Rajcomar, Rikki Hastings and Sudhir Kuldip going through the moves for one of the songs)

Five Durban actors are busy in the final stages of rehearsal for Bollywood Doll, a musical show with a strong dance component, which is due to open for a short run at the iZulu Theatre at Sibaya Casino on August 26.

Bollywood Doll is the first full local theatrical show produced by Imagination Unlimited. Suitable for the whole family, it offers a tale of friendship, support and belief in life. It is a delightfully humorous and vibrant show which focuses on a sense of belonging.

The setting is a rundown and neglected toyshop and the central character is Dolly, a little rag doll who is worried that she will be withdrawn from her shelf and replaced by the digital toys favoured by so many young children today. She shares her shelf with her long-term friends - a fairy, a teddy bear, a toy soldier and a Barbie Doll. They discover that she carries a tag that states “Made in Bollywood” and they come to learn what the term means as sayings and customs are interpreted by a group of dancers.

The underlying message is of being proud of who you are – and that while traditions and customs are important, nothing can replace the love and affection of family and friends.

In her first theatre script, Yarisha Rajcomar – who also plays Dolly – has created a vibrant and entertaining storyline, with script assistance by Clinton Marius who writes Lotus FM’s popular Lollipop Lane, in which Yarisha plays the character of Carmen. Multi-award-winning designer Greg King has created the fun atmosphere of a toyshop.

The dance sequences are created by award-winning choreographer Nitin Dass who has been imported from Bollywood for the occasion. He devised the dance moves for Bollywood movies such as Jungle and Jhankaar Beats and assisted with the choreography for the hit Devdas as well as choreographing reality dance shows in India such as Boogie Woogie India, Nach Ballye and numerous live shows, including the Star Screen Awards.

Yarisha Rajcomar is no stranger to the Bollywood style: “I have had the opportunity of learning and working with Bollywood choreographers before but this is the first time that I have had the chance to host a choreographer in Durban for a theatre show so the experience has been truly enjoyable. Nitin knew about my experience and ability before he arrived in Durban so it was really easy for us to work together. I learn something from every choreographer I work with which improves me as a dancer. Nitin has given me a lot of freedom to perform my dance pieces according to my feeling for the song and this has allowed me to bring my character to life.”

Sudhir Kuldip, who plays the toy soldier, says: “I’ve had a long-term experience with Bollywood dance and it’s really found a warm place in my heart. Bollywood dance and its dramatic layers is a learning experience that never ends.”

For the other three actors, the Bollywood style is an entirely new experience.

“The expressive hand movements and meaning in the dances are a real challenge,” says popular magician and children’s entertainer, Adi Paxton, who plays Fairy. “Never mind body language – it’s enacting the words especially the bad ones like “Saza” (punishment) and “Fassie” (hanging). I’m still recovering from a foot injury, so dancing was more “hop-along” in the early rehearsals but working with a Bollywood choreographer is really great and a fascinating process.”

As the Barbie-style doll Mali, Rikki Hastings, well-known for her appearances in adult pantomimes produced by Sue Clarence Promotions quips: “It’s a new experience because I don’t normally dance. At all! In this show, I need to do Bollywood and ballet – movements such as “screw the light bulb” as well as a classic plie. It’s fun and I must say it’s all very exciting.”

Farai Gwaze who will be remembered for his excellent performance in Othello plays Teddy and is on a real learning curve: “Wow! Where do I start?” he says. “From my days at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, I’ve always stayed away from anything that had to do with dancing on stage. The funny story is that I had an inside joke/bet with a friend about doing a Bollywood musical a few years ago. Long story short, I owe him 50 bucks! It’s been a pleasure working in this form because it really is stepping out of my comfort zone.”

Nitin Dass comments: “The actors have coped really well with the Bollywood moves. They are fast learners and have been very professional during the learning which has made it much easier to teach them. I'm very impressed with their effort for learning a new dance style and even dancing to music which is totally new to them. The dancers are definitely good, I am confident that they will perform well on stage. It is very different to India, where we have full-time professional dancers who earn a living from dance. The dancers here have the passion but it’s not a full-time job so they dance more for the love of performing. I am very proud of the effort they have put into learning the choreography.”

Director Caroline Smart, who was also a dancer in her formative years, smiles her approval: “It’s a fascinating experience watching Nitin work his magic,” she says. “He engages fully with the comedy aspect of the show and it’s a pleasure working with him.”

Bollywood Doll runs from August 26 to September 1, at the iZulu Theatre, Sibaya Casino and Entertainment Kingdom. Tickets R120 pp available from Computicket