Rajeev Goswami’s Beyond Bollywood at the London Palladium can only be described as an extravaganza. I haven’t seen any Bollywood films but this is exactly how I imagine they would be. The acting is over the top, melodramatic and peppered with slapstick comedy, but that’s all part of the fun. And the storyline is a little absurd but again, that’s what you sign up for. Anyway, the acting and the storyline is not why one would choose to see Beyond Bollywood; you go for the dancing and the music and the glamour. Make no mistake, Beyond Bollywood delivers on every one of these levels.
The plot follows Shaily, the daughter of Indian parents living in Munich. Shaily’s mother was a brilliant traditional Indian dancer, and rented a theatre in Munich with Shaily’s father. But Shaily’s mother dies and her father wants to leave the now run-down theatre; Shaily decides to breathe life into the theatre once more with traditional Indian dance. She decides goes to India to experience firsthand the culture of dance, before bringing it back in essence to Germany.
The first half of Beyond Bollywood drags a little (or a lot) as it mostly focuses on the story. But the second half is filled with spectacular dance numbers, beautifully choreographed by Goswami. The music by Salim and Sulaiman Merchant is stirring – you can’t help but smile as you listen! But the traditional Indian dance numbers are absolutely the best part; they are magnetic to watch. Seeing the glitzy, vibrant costumes swirl about the stage is a thing of wonder. The two leads, Ana Ilmi and Mohit Mathur, are stylish and talented dancers; Mathur has particular gravitas on stage.
Ideally, the creators would have made Beyond Bollywood an unadulterated dance spectacle without the framework of the storyline, which holds the production back. But this production gloriously fun and at times truly splendid – it is certainly worth seeing!