The Merchants of Bollywood: Peacock Theatre, London, 12 June 2011

Sunglasses not provided

Deepak Rawat and Carol Furtado wait patiently for her cousins to get lost so they can watch X-Factor in peace.

Crash bang wallop. With the volume whacked up to 11, the colour cranked up to 111 and the bling blasted up to 1,111,111 the senses take a battering watching The Merchants of Bollywood.

Based on the true story of Bollywood bigshot Vaibhavi Merchant and her stormy relationship with her grandfather, legendary Bollywood choreographer Shri Hiralal, The Merchants of Bollywood basically boils down to the tale of a classically trained dancer who just wants to disco – a sort of Indian Wayne Sleep if you will. Tradition or modernity (if you still consider disco as modern, of course)? Old India or new? The inevitable conclusion drawn is a mix of the two.

Choreographed by Vaibhavi Merchant herself there’s a barrage of superbly synchronised big numbers; too many sprinkles on the cupcakes at times but inescapably entertaining for all that. Some occasional intimacy would have been nice but I guess the kissless Bollywood factory doesn’t do it that way.

Interspersed with unexpectedly camp humour (including a whole awards section sponsored by Kama Sutra condoms) and some marvellously wooden acting, it’s left to Bipin Tanna’s dazzling parade of 1,200 costumes and the sheer energy of the magnificent Bollywood dancers to carry this show through to its floor-shaking finale. Exhausting to watch but quite unforgettable.

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