Review by Manju Sampat
Thanks to Aadyam season 4, the Aditya Birla Group’s theatre initiative, Mumbai audiences got to see a fantastic, original musical production at NCPA’s JBT this weekend. #SingIndiaSing is India’s own ‘Hamilton’, the Broadway smash hit, but it also manages to go way beyond it, and that is no mean achievement!
#SingIndiaSing was conceptualised many years ago by theatre veterans Rahul daCunha and Bugs Bhargava, who have written the story line and the lyrics for all 28 of the original songs of this musical. However, it was only with Aadyam’s support that they could bring their superb musical show to life. The amazing Clinton Cerejo has composed the original musical score for the background music as well as for all the songs. It encompasses everything from hip hop to rock to rap to Bollywood item songs. Nadir Khan, the director of this musical, has taken the show to another level altogether with his innovative directorial style and inputs. Arghya Lahiri’s creative lighting design and Dipankar Dasgupta’s futuristic and versatile sets that integrate video graphics and colourful LED projections, add to the drama and grandeur of the production. Anand Tiwari has made the entertaining video interviews of the participants with Miss Malini, who plays herself, and when projected these also enhance the theatrical experience.
The musical is set in a singing show, a talent contest where only four singers who are picked from thousands of aspirants, are pitted against each other. It is a tough show where their personality is tested along with their singing. The show’s producers and judges are Channel, the media-savvy owner of the channel ‘Dhoom Dham TV’, Rocky Singh, a washed-up music composer and Dolly, ‘the queen of sleaze’, a show host and an ex-journalist who digs up dirt from the contestants’ past. There are cameras everywhere. And nothing from their past is a secret. It is a reality show with colourful musical numbers, extraordinary staging, and lots of comic fun. The four aspirants are Vishnu (a true blue rocker from Pune), Kitty who is a sexy bar dancer from Dharavi, Jazzy (whose real name is Jayashankar Iyer) as he combines Carnatic rhythms with Rap, and, Shweta whose face is covered, and is called the Masked Wonder!. The show also introduces the concept of ‘Hashtags’ – a personification of the internet world, the trolls that work as virtual lynch mobs. The Hashtags, played by a collective of four commentators appear only to sing lines that are essentially “live tweeting and trolling” and they also share their opinions on the ‘Sing India Sing’ contestants during the musical. Naquita DSouza, Abhishek Krishnan, Asif Ali Beg and Delraaz Bunshah play their Hashtag roles to perfection and they are all wonderful singers and dancers also. Joining the cast are a host of other very talented dancers.
The journey of these four young hopefuls is made even more unpredictable and exciting by audience reactions and the judges’ plan. Each evening the audience gets to vote for their choice of winner, and like in the ever popular TV show Kaun Banega Crorepati, there is a voting meter attached to their seat and they vote for the winner.
The combination of a singing contest, the scintillating dancing, and the all pervasive CCTVs, make this show a fine mix of Indian Idol meets Nach Baliye meets Big Boss!
Siddharth Basrur, as Vishnu, the rock star, is electrifying, and he totally nails it when he sings, ‘I’m a bad boy not a glam boy’ from Clinton Cerejo’s masterpiece song VOTE FOR ME, in which all four participants seek your vote. This is a cracker of a song that moves effortlessly between rock, Bollywood, Rap and R & B. Kamakshi Rai as Kitty has zing and pizazz in her voice as she sways to the tune of ‘I am a galli girl”, while Sarosh Nanavati, as Shweta, the ‘girl with a mask’ entrances the audience with her plea ‘to like her eyes, as there is nothing else to see’. Completing the song is the endearing Tavish Bhattacharya as Jazzy who says ‘I’m Jay Z, crazee, amazee, watch me as I rock this show’, and he sure does with his fantastic voice. He is great on his second song ‘what’s your Karma’ also. Sarosh Nanavaty has a very powerful voice and this was especially evident when she sang ‘Sister say No’. Kamakshi’s raunchy song ‘Kitty ki Kahani ‘ sung against a beautifully lit Mumbai night skyline, managed to surpass ‘Sheila ki Jawani ‘!
Uday Benegal as Channel is very convincing and still has it in him to belt out a wonderful rock song like ‘Ching Ching’. Brian Tellis as Rocky, one of the judges and Suchitra Pillai as Dolly another judge, both did justice to their roles which seemed tailor made for them, and they both sang beautifully as well. The choreography by Bertie D’Souza is quite scintillating and Rachna Panniker’s costumes are really colourful and creative. For an evening of sheer joy and entertainment, there is nothing to beat the spectacular musical #SingIndiaSing. Be sure you catch the next shows at St. Andrews auditorium, in November.