Bollywood Carmen – my take on it.

For the last 2 weeks everyone seems to be asking me about my opinion of the live showing of Bollywood Carmen on BBC 3 that aired on Sunday 9 June.

I had written this blog almost immediately after watching the performance but am only posting it now. The reason for my tardiness is that I wasn’t sure I wanted people to read the blog – as I have been quite critical – and have quite strong opinions on what I thought of the show! But, as a few people have pointed out – they are my opinions, my take on the show!

I was really looking forward to watching this show. With strong names behind this production, including Kuljit Bhamra – one of the most talented and influential musicians and producers in the UK, Honey Kalaria – well known Bollywood dance choreographer and a stellar cast including Meera Syal and Preeya Kalidas, this BBC Three live televised event promised big things!

And boy did it let us down! And on so many levels!

I won’t go into the story – there is enough written about it and can be found online – but below is my take on the actual production.

Dancing

I’ll start with the dancing – as it would be fair to say that I would scrutinize the dancing more than any other aspect of the show – after all it is what I am about. Given that the show had Honey Kalaria billed as the choreographer – I thought that the choreography would be of a high standard.  But I was sorely disappointed. The dances did not have enough content and the dancers really didn’t look like they knew what they were dancing to. They lacked facial expressions, their faces didn’t tell us the story – and they just didn’t convey the essence of Bollywood dancing.

The only bit of dancing that I think worked was the Flashmob sequence – but let’s face it – that isn’t that hard given that it is all simple, repetitive movements…

Over the years I have gone on and on about Bollywood dancing needing technique – and how choreographers and dancers are not creating good work because they do not have a solid foundation in technique. Yes – these dancers may have been good – in other forms of dance – but what was their knowledge, training and understanding of Bollywood dancing? You would not ask a jazz or hip hop dancer to perform ballet on such a big, important platform – so why do you not afford Bollywood dancing the same courtesy.

Costumes

A mixed-bag really. The salmon-pink dancer outfits really didn’t do anything for me – and they seemed to get lost in the setting. Abhay Deol’s sherwanis looked good – but I was disappointed that Preeya’s red outfits didn’t have more of a Bollywood flavour. And the turbans for the guys? I mean really!? Otherwise costumes were ok….

Cast

The biggest let down of the cast – was the so called big Bollywood Star AD – Abhay Deol in the real world. Now at the best of times Abhay Deol is not a huge Bollywood star. Yes, he comes from an illustrious family of Bollywood actors – and has delivered the occasional hit film – but he is nowhere near as popular as his uncle – the legend that is Dharmendra or his cousins Sunny and Bobby. And most importantly of all, the men in the Deol family are not known for their dancing! In fact, it is an industry joke that they cannot dance! So why on earth did BBC think that Abhay Deol would suit this role – a role that needed someone with huge stage presence and the ability to dance. His acting on stage was wooden, he fluffed up his lines – oh yes it was very noticeable – and he did not come across as natural or at ease at all!

He even admits he us a rubbish dancer!! http://www.indianexpress.com/news/i-am-the-worst-dancer-in-the-world-abhay-deol/815877/

The rest of the cast were ok – given the rather poor script. Preeya Kalidas looked amazing – and put in an admirable effort – but overall the acting lacked conviction. Even old hands like Meera Syal came across as unnatural and ill at ease.

Cheesy acting is part and parcel of Bollywood films. But there is good cheese – and there is bad. This definitely was not so good! The lines were clunky, the acting wooden and the lines just didn’t flow. It also felt under-rehearsed.

Music

All would have been forgiven if the music had lived up to expectation! But no, this too just wasn’t quite right! As many people on Twitter said “It just wasn’t Bollywood enough”! And what was from Bollywood was watered down versions or worse still Anglicised versions of Bollywood classics.

I read another blogpost on the music – and I think this sums up perfectly just how I felt about the music. So I won’t repeat what this blogger says – take a look! http://saricladspeakers.blogspot.co.uk/2013/06/the-bbc-brings-bizet-to-bollywood-via.html

I think what angered me most is that there is an abundance of Bollywood music available – and cheap, watered down versions do not always show the music in the best light. Also, why on earth would you put on a Bollywood production and then not use Bollywood music? The mind boggles.

Production

This was a difficult production to pull off – given that it was live, had multiple settings and large casts of dancers – it actually didn’t do too badly to be televised with minimum disruption. But, it was hard to escape the clunky scene changes, the wooden, cringy acting and the overall feeling that this was an under-rehearsed, ill-thought out production.

The only real winner in this whole sorry saga was Bradford City Park which looked stunning in the evening light with the fountains and colours and crowds.

So, that’s how I felt about the telecast of Bollywood Carmen. It really is my opinion – and I don’t want to offend all the people who did work so hard on putting this show together. But, I do think that this was a lost opportunity to showcase the beauty, colour, vibrancy and talent that is Bollywood in its best light. In that aspect, Bollywood Carmen failed miserably!

But hey – you might have seen something I didn’t – so do tell me – and if you haven’t watch it – it’s still available on iplayer until the end of June! http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/p0193ywt/Bollywood_Carmen_Live/

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