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Tuesday, November 13, 2012


Energy of live dance entertains but falls flat as a cinematic experience. (Review by Raeesa Abdul-Karrim)

The South African silver screen was sprinkled with a little glitter this past weekend as Ster Kinekor screened the stage production, The Merchants of Bollywood. After a successful world tour, creators decided to immortalise their work and reach out to their fans through cinema.  Durbanites should remember the stage production from a few years ago.

Written and directed by Toby Gough, it is loosely based on the life of Hiralalji Merchant and his grand-daughter Vaibhavi Merchant, two choreographers in Bollywood. The Merchants of Bollywood takes us on an almost touching journey through dance in Hindi Cinema. Hiralalji, or Shantilal (Arif Zakaria) as he is called in the production, has firm beliefs on the traditions of dance. When his beliefs clash with those of upcoming filmmakers of Bollywood, he decides that it is time to retire from the fast-changing industry. His granddaughter Ayesha (Carol Furtado), on the other hand, chooses to leave the local temple and join Bollywood to create a fusion dance that combines the old with the new.

Undoubtedly, the production has received high acclaim because of the dance sequences. The dancers perform every segment exquisitely with endless energy. Together with popular filmy music and shimmering costumes this is beautiful to watch. As a stage production we could possibly forgive the unimaginative script, weak acting or the predictable digs at Bollywood because you have the high energy of live dance to keep you entertained. However, unfortunately as a cinematic experience it falls flat.

It was so disappointing to see that such a successful international production would be presented so unprofessionally. It felt like you were watching a recording of an amateur cameraman, with awkward camera angles and looped crowd scenes. The multiple scenes where all you see are the actors/dancers from the chin down are unforgivable unless I’m na├»ve and the focus of the production was on the torso!

Seriously though, more thought and editing should have gone into the final product, as it’s an unfair representation of the internationally popular musical. – Raeesa Abdul-Karrim