Bombay Dreams


I rarely (never) go to see Broadway musicals, so perhaps I am not the best person to be criticizing them, but a friend got us free tickets to Bombay Dreams so we went. It was beyond awful. Manish Vij summarizes the reviews of this train wreck on his blog. Manish actually liked this musical — to each his own, I suppose. Personally I was ready to crawl out of my seat during a musical number entitled Love’s Never Easy.” Eeeeech!

But what really upset me is that there was a complete and total disregard for the Bollywood movie genre which the musical is supposed to be a tribute to. With one notable exception (involving a wet-sari dance number) the songs were worse than your typical Andrew Lloyd Weber drivel (best parodied in the movie The Tall Guy, where Jeff Goldbloom sings in a musical version of The Elephant Man). A big hit in Lodon, the show was re-written for American audiences:

In bringing Bombay Dreams” to the States, its creators have retooled it in the hopes of making it more accessible to Bollywood virgins. Meera Syal’s original script, which follows a young man’s speedy rise from the lower depths to the height of movie stardom, has had its plot streamlined and its one-liners plumped up via the three-time Tony-winning writer Thomas Meehan (“Annie,” The Producers,” Hairspray”). Much of an involved criminal subplot, with attendant acts of stylized violence, has been jettisoned.

Thomas Meehan? There are so many talented South Asian writers in New York, couldn’t they at least have found someone who has watched a Hindi movie? Even worse, and I don’t know if this was in Meera Syal’s original script or not, the musical depends upon the premise that the main character’s impoverished lower-caste background is a barrier to a career in the movies. Quite to the contrary, several big Bollywood stars flaunt such backgrounds whenever they can. It sounds to me like a story that would make more sense in class conscious England than it would in India. As the New York Times says:

For a Broadway show set in Bombay that has arrived by way of London, this musical winds up suggesting another provenance altogether: Las Vegas, land of the flashy floor show and simulacra of foreign metropolises, where live entertainment exists mostly as lavish background noise.