Bollywood and culture in an emerging India
Zangoora: Bollywood comes alive on stage
It’s not a film, not a play and not a dance-drama. Well, maybe it’s a fusion of all three.
But “Zangoora: The Gypsy Prince”, billed as Bollywood’s biggest musical ever, is definitely something Indian audiences have never seen before.
At the newly launched ‘Kingdom of Dreams‘ on the outskirts of Delhi, an elephant pops up on stage, the hero arrives flying on an eagle, the heroine swings down to the proscenium — of course, all this with the help of wires, stage props and huge LED screens that bring palaces and dungeons to life.
“Zangoora” is a celebration of Bollywood over the years, with dances set to popular musical numbers.
The vivid costumes, aerial acrobatics, sound effects and flawless choreography weave a tale of fantasy on the stage.
Of course, there is nothing new about the storyline of a young prince raised by a troupe of wandering gypsies far from the kingdom while the villain kills his parents and usurps the throne.
This is a Bollywood musical so all’s going to end well, good will triumph over evil, the prince will surely get back his throne and win his lady love.
Does the story really matter? If “Zangoora” were a Bollywood film, I would be sceptical about its success at the box-office.
But at the ‘Kingdom of Dreams’, the scenes unfold in front of a live audience spellbound by the aerial sequences, special-effects and even a bit of magic.
Interest does flag in the second half as “Zangoora” hurtles towards its expected climax and you keep wondering if there is some new aerial stunt or unseen special effect in the offing.
Some of the denouement scenes are a tad melodramatic but the rest of the two-hour show more than makes up for it.
I can’t help wondering whether “Zangoora” would have been a bigger draw with Bollywood stars like Shah Rukh Khan and Aishwarya Rai.
Viraf Sarkari, the man behind ‘Kingdom of Dreams’, has said “Zangoora” cost much more than a Bollywood movie. A few millions more may have sufficed to bring in a more saleable star.
Even so, the musical seems perfectly cast with a bunch of talented television and theatre actors. There’s Zangoora (Hussain Kuwajerwalla), his gypsy dancing partner Laachi (Gauahar Khan), princess Sonali (Kashmira Irani), villain Zohrawar (Sadanand Patil) and dozens of minor characters and dancers.
At an entry fee ranging from 1,000 to 6,000 rupees, watching musicals at the ‘Kingdom of Dreams’ may be a luxury for India’s middle-class but for those who can afford it — you have to watch “Zangoora”.