rediff.com

NewsApp (Free)

Read news as it happens
Download NewsApp

Available on  

Rediff News  All News 
Rediff.com  » Movies » Aladdin: Indian theatre comes of age

Aladdin: Indian theatre comes of age

July 19, 2018 11:35 IST

The camaraderie between the Genie and Aladdin is expressed in Hindi, a language that only the two of them can use to communicate with each other.
The rest of the cast speaks in English, making Hindi the indigenous aspect of a globally loved tale.
Amrita Singh reports.

'All of us like to be dazzled, don't we?' remarks Mantra, the radio-jockey turned actor playing the character of the Genie in a Broadway-style production of Disney's Aladdin.

Aladdin, played by Siddharth Menon and Taaruk Raina, remains a resident of the mythical city of Agrabah, but he shares something in common with India.

The camaraderie between the Genie and Aladdin is expressed in Hindi, a language that only the two of them can use to communicate with each other.

The rest of the cast speaks in English, making Hindi the indigenous aspect of a globally loved tale.

'Broadway-style' theatre is short-hand for the commercial theatre native to, well, Broadway, in New York City -- for decades acknowledged as the most spectacular stage productions in the English-speaking world.

Produced by BookMyShow, this adaptation of Disney's Aladdin is every bit a large-scale production -- with extravagant sets depicting 14 different locations, the use of 450 costumes, a cast of 50, not to mention a veritable flying magic carpet.

Disney's Beauty And The Beast was the first Broadway-style musical to be staged in 2013 and Aladdin is the second such.

The musical is a comedy that boasts of a cast adept at singing, acting, dancing and generating laughter, all at once.

Menon and Raina are both accomplished theatre actors who also have a background in music and Kira Narayanan, a trained singer and actor set to perform on an Indian stage for the first time, plays Jasmine.

Vikrant Chaturvedi, a veteran theatre actor, who has also appeared on various television shows as well as radio, plays the evil Jafar.

 

The play's director, Shruti Sharma, says one of the biggest challenges in producing this musical was casting actors that fit the bill for such iconic roles.

Chaturvedi describes how the scale of the performance was not made evident as the preparation for the musical was broken down into intensive bite-sized sessions.

Menon explains how each day began with vocal sessions, followed by drama sessions that moved into choreography with a heavy dose of acrobatics towards the end of the day.

"When Shruti first met us, she wondered how we would manage to pull this off, but in the end it all worked out," says Raina.

Eventually, the four training sessions melded together into one grand production.

The musical follows the plot line of Disney's Aladdin production, which premiered in 2011 in Seattle, USA, and is now playing on Broadway at the New Amsterdam Theatre.

"The character graphs are the same as the original production as well," says Sharma.

But the interpretation of these characters by Indian actors is what adds a local element to the performance.

"India has its own culture and experiences and that's what comes out on stage. We decided to keep our performances natural," says Menon.

The four-month-long rehearsals led to the forging of relationships that moved beyond mere performance.

Raina, for instance, now calls Mantra his "real-life genie".

Alan Menken's Academy Award-winning soundtrack for the 1992 film Aladdin, is put to good use here too, but with an Indian touch, by Dhruv Ghanekar.

In order to create an authentic Broadway experience, Sharma was adamant that the music be instrumental and not digitally produced.

Ghanekar recorded with an orchestra to remake the famous songs, including Friend like Me and Arabian Nights.

Ghanekar describes the music as "an incredible mash-up of jazz and swing, orchestral film score influences with foot-tapping music and also a tip of the hat to a lot of classic Disney scores."

Aladdin was brought to India keeping in mind its universal appeal.

The narrative should appeal both to children looking for role models and adults nostalgic about a tale they grew up on.

Narayanan, for one, was moved to hear a young girl in the Mumbai audience holler, "Yes, Jasmine!" when the character tells off Jafar for being a terrible human being.

Jasmine in this production offered a strong female role model for at least one girl.

"There is an entire generation, including myself, that grew up reading The Arabian Nights. We all know about the Genie and the magic carpet."

Nostalgists, wide-eyed kids and simply those who love a good tale well told, take your seats.

Amrita Singh
Source: