— Production photo
I’ve never been to a real Indian wedding but if it’s anything like the Bollywood Wedding that South Asian Arts is staging at the PNE this summer, sign me up.
The nutty families are familiar to anyone who has ever experienced Jewish or Italian nuptials–or probably any other kind. The shy groom and aggressive, reluctant bride of this arranged marriage between families from different Indian regions and religions are a little more exotic. The customs and rituals are interesting–but “enough of the anthropology,” as one of the characters says.
What makes this theatrical wedding special fun, besides experiencing it outdoors in an urban park during our perfect weather, is the fabulous dancing. The upbeat Bollywood pop music, colourful costumes and gorgeous young dancers make this lighthearted, lightweight fluff a great entertainment option for the summer.
This is actually Bollywood Wedding 2, a return of the show that was a hit back in 2009. Written by Raakhi Kapur with Gurpreet Sian and Camyar Chai, it features a cast of 12–half of them experienced professionals–a large group of dancers and multi-instrumental musician Neelamjit Dhillon, plus lots of recorded music to which the dancers and actors lipsynch. Director Kathleen Duborg keeps the action and audience moving through the PNE’s pretty, green Italian Gardens. Sometimes you stand, sometimes sit on benches, and sometimes on saris spread out on the grass.
Our guide through the wedding is lively, chatty Nimet Kanji, who acts as MC, performs the ceremony and is dressed a little like a court jester. She explains the customs, translates Hindi lyrics for us (example: “I no make him roti so he eat an onion”), and introduces the families.
In case we thought one Indian marrying another in Canada was a simple affair, the groom’s mother (Nutan Thakur) explains some of the cultural politics involved when one family are Sikhs from the Punjab and the other Hindus from Gujarat. The North American equivalent, she tells us, would be something like Brad Pitt marrying Barbara Walters. The families connected only because the fathers, Mr. Singh (Bhavkhandan Singh Rakhra) and Mr. Patel (Parm Soor), were wrestlers back in India.
The groom, Hanuman (Munish Sharma), is no Brad Pitt, though his chosen bride, Sunayna (Almeera Jiwa), would like him to be. Hanuman is nervous and shy, despite the encouragement of sleazy cousin Bobby (Raahul Singh), who assures him that marriage is a great cover for screwing around. Keeping an eye on Bobby is Hanuman’s cute, wired, Canadianized little sister, Twinky (Trisha Blair).
The would-be bride feels conned. This isn’t the guy Sunayna thought she’d be marrying when she was brought here from India. Her ridiculously romantic brother Janak (Kallol Mitra) tries to convince her that marriage is the kind of Bollywood fantasy that his songs regularly trigger during the show. But she has a couple of ambiguous role models in her divorced sister Amisha (Leena Manro) and her hard-drinking German mother, Ingabord (Claire Lindsay).
The fact that the groom’s parents envision them “living with us forever” probably doesn’t reassure her. But whenever things get too tense, Grandmother (Balinder Johal) intercedes to lighten everyone up. And Star Wars will prove an unlikely facilitator of the happy ending.
If Shakespeare had written this, he might have called it Much Ado About Nothing Except the Dancing. About every five minutes a group of brightly dressed dancers emerges from over a hill or behind a tent to rock us to that infectious bhangra beat. Trisha Rampersad opens the show with an exquisite solo and I wish I could name the other wonderful dancers individually, some belonging to the Ghida troupe, others part of the Shiamak dance team.
It’s easy to see why a continent goes crazy for those Bollywood movies.
Bollywood Wedding is offering a special promotion for the rest of this week. Click the link: http://ticketleader.ca/events/bollywood-wedding Click on "Buy Tickets." Underneath the picture, enter the promo code Wedding in the box and the ticket price will be reduced to $20 plus service charges, which works out to $25.15, a savings of nearly $10.