You may have expected the opening night of the new Shilpa Shetty musical Miss Bollywood to be bustling, when you consider how many headlines were devoted to the Celebrity Big Brother racism row. But, clearly many Indian cinema fans and Heat readers were not sold on the idea of a screen to stage transformation. Judging by this poorly attended, lacklustre star vehicle, they had the right idea, staying at home.
Bollywood cinema provides an audience with spectacle, colour, great costumes, exhilarating dance, Western movie references and a sense of fun. Unfortunately this new show rarely ticks these boxes. Part of the problem is the concept itself; it is billed as ...The Musical. But every aspect is mimed; so far so Bollywood, but this includes the crossover parts of the show, clearly aimed at a Western audience. At least Bombay Dreams succeeded in meeting audiences in the middle with its mixture of "Shakalaka Baby" (East) and "Love's Never Easy" (aimed squarely at the musical fan).
The wonderful Merchants of Bollywood also got balance right. But this piece lacks the pace and authenticity to please all comers.
At times the dancing is as athletic as you would expect, but to be honest there is not enough. Instead the show prides itself on cringe-worthy dialogue, even by Bollywood standards. One character says to Shilpa “I’ll be your big brother.” This undoes Shetty’s own argument that her stage debut will showcase her true self.
What of the star? She is an adequate dancer but during one pivotal scene her limitations are exposed when her character Maya is pitted against Riya (Anusha Dandekar) in a dance off. But, embarrassingly Dandekar herself is a much better mover, rendering the scene utterly pointless. Also, Shilpa is used to looking into a camera lens and she seems to look wistfully for a close up that never comes.
The plot is expectedly slim; a dancer tries to save her dance school from closing against the backdrop of the 2012 Olympics; cue lots of references to the Mayor, Trafalgar Square and picture postcard London. Cue the “let’s put on a show” narrative strand which you associate with many great musicals.
But Miss Bollywood is ill thought out and simply built around Shilpa Shetty’s sudden UK fame. With lines like “Life’s not always going to be goody goody” (referring to the villain Jade, of course) and “I hate reality” it feels like a vanity project and nothing more.
- Glenn Meads