Arts Etc: Melodrama - Go on, You Know You Love It Really ; Steven Pimlott Directed `Hamlet' for the RSC and `la Boheme' at the Coliseum. He Tells Brian Logan Why Bollywood Musical `Bombay Dreams' Is the Perfect Next Move
Logan, Brian, The Independent (London, England)
A few years ago, a glut of articles in fashionable magazines told us that we were obsessed with Bollywood. Hindi movies were besieging the UK box office. The Royal Opera announced a Bollywood version of Puccini's Turandot. The theatre company Tamasha toured their delightful Fourteen Songs, Two Weddings and a Funeral. Now, eager for a hit after the failure of the Ben Elton-scripted The Beautiful Game, along lumbers Andrew Lloyd Webber to produce Bombay Dreams, a musical by Bollywood composer A R Rahman, which opens this week.
Steven Pimlott is the man charged with making a success of this multi- million pound concern. Until recently an associate director at the RSC, Pimlott, aged "nearly 50", has a pedigree in musical theatre, especially when children's entertainers are involved - he directed both Joseph, with Jason Donovan, and Dr Doolittle, with Philip Schofield.
It represents a considerable gamble for Pimlott and Lloyd Webber who are seeking to revitalise the flagging UK musical theatre scene. Rahman has never composed for the stage. Meera Syal has written a script from scratch, says Pimlott, "which is a very rare thing to happen". (The political situation in India is also casting a pall over the show's preview period).
But Rahman, says the director, "is a melodic genius, and I don't use the word `genius' very often. In India, people say he's their Mozart, and it's sort of true." Pimlott accepted the commission from long-time Rahman fan Lloyd Webber because he was "enormously fascinated" to investigate the culture of Hindi cinema. And to work on a brand new stage show. "I've done plenty of revivals," he says. "But you have a chance to be involved creatively when you're in from the start."
He's at pains to point out that Bombay Dreams is no kitsch Bollywood pastiche. On the contrary, Pimlott is enthusiastic about what he calls the "full-bloodedness" of Indian movies. "These stories have no inhibitions about melodrama and about the use of song and dance, whereas the English tend to think `isn't this a trifle over the top?'
"We think of melodrama pejoratively. I think that's our loss. I've been brought up directing opera and Shakespeare, so I don't find epic storytelling alien in any way."
It's not an association many would make. Classical theatre directors who stage musicals tend, in Britain at least, to be accused of dumbing down for …
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Publication information: Article title: Arts Etc: Melodrama - Go on, You Know You Love It Really ; Steven Pimlott Directed `Hamlet' for the RSC and `la Boheme' at the Coliseum. He Tells Brian Logan Why Bollywood Musical `Bombay Dreams' Is the Perfect Next Move. Contributors: Logan, Brian - Author. Newspaper title: The Independent (London, England). Publication date: June 16, 2002. Page number: 8. © 2009 The Independent - London. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.