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Review: Taj Express, at Peacock Theatre

Despite Bollywood cliché, bad jokes and commercial razzle-dazzle, Taj Express is still a tremendous show

22 June, 2017 — By Howard Loxton

Bling and bangra in Taj Express. Photo: Quintessence Entertainment

MELODRAMATIC acting, unbelievable storylines, terrible jokes – that’s not critical comment but what is promised when Mikhail Sen as composer Shankar, introduces this show – and it delivers them, absolutely intentionally.

Forget plot, though there are actually two played in parallel. First the story of Shankar, who aspires to become the Mozart of Madras, and his struggle to score a Bollywood movie, then a stereotypical movie plot about Bollywood star Kareena (Tanvi Patil) and Arjun (Hiten Shah) who runs a dance school for street kids but is really a prince.

The Taj Express is the train they escape on for their journey to happiness.

Fortunately we only get the highlights of the story, a sequence of fast-moving dance numbers full of colour and bling, swivelling lighting and exhilarating energy.

There is a hint of classical Indian choreography, and an energetic mixture that ranges from bangra to hip-hop, occasionally romantically sensual, often blatantly sexy, and including some really bad jokes about the PM and Corbyn.

Tongue-in-cheek, it sets out to deliver Bollywood cliché, dazzling with bright colour and shimmering gold costumes. Its rhythms get the audience clapping along, its dancers are stunningly athletic. It uses music from popular Bollywood movies (including a couple of numbers by AR Rahman) and new compositions by Salim and Sulaiman Merchant and music director Abhijit Vaghani that feature guitar riffs from Chandan Raina, vibrant percussion from Prathamesh Kandalkar and Avadoot Phadke hauntingly beautiful on flute.

Unashamedly commercial razzle-dazzle, it sets out to be an audience pleaser and by sending itself up makes that formula work.

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