Saturday, November 29, 2008

Bombay Jazz

'invented by the devil for the torture of saints'

In the Motherland it premiered under the title Jazz. That was last year. In Amsterdam it was dubbed Bombay Jazz. And I went to see it two days ago. The play - which is more than a musical - pays hommage to Indian jazz musicians from Goa who ended up playing a vital part in creating Hindi film music. They needed to, because the pay was much better than what they earned doing gigs at for instance the Taj Mahal Palace. Yes, the same prestigious hotel that was under attack two days ago, as Mumbai fell prey to fierce terrorist attacks.

Confession coming up: I am not really a lover of theatre, nor of jazz. So why then go to this stage production? For starters, because the Dutch organiser Marijke de Vos is a friend of mine. In fact, she made it possible for me to interview Naseeruddin Shah last year. The other reason for going is because I was mesmerised by the magic title Bombay Jazz. For what it's worth, I am so glad I went.

What is Bombay Jazz about? The following synopsis was taken from their own promotional leaflet:

There's jazz, there's rock n roll.
There's sax, there's violins.
Slipping in slivers of Dixieland stomp,
Portuguese Fados, Ellingtonesque doodles,
cha cha cha, Mozart and Bach themes.
There's Mumbai, Bombay, India.
There's egos, failed futures, alcoholism.
There's love, passion, bounced cheques.
There's show-biz, razzmatazz.
And some of the biggest names
in popular culture from C Ramachander to
Laxmikant Pyarelal to Shankar Jaikishen to RD Burman.

In layman terms, the play is about a jazz music teacher and his student. In a smoky, raw voice the teacher tells his student about yesteryear's jazz and how he and his jazz mates from Goa bastardized their love by taking up regular jobs in Hindi cinema in Bombay, simply to make a living. Althought the lines are witty, the subtext is definitely melancholic.

Since I am no expert on either theater or jazz, I decided to leave the glowing reviews to others

“The play weaves the past into the present with gravelly-voiced Bugs Bhargava Krishna embodying the bitter-sweet stories of the musicians, actors on video playing their friends, fellow-musicians and wives, and Rhys Dsouza, grandson of Sebastian Dsouza, showing us what the saxophone can do.”- Shanta Gokhale, MUMBAI MIRROR"

Bugs Bhargava Krishna has you bewitched, bothered and bewildered and having hit the right note never goes off it... [He] delivers a performance that would make ‘em say, he’s got chops."- Pragya Tiwari, MUMBAI MIRROR

"A play so scathing and mercilessly funny in its indictment of Bollywood.Ramu’s script – with its iambic rhythms and cunning rhymes – is well exploited by Bugs Bhargava Krishna. His sense of timing and exuberant delivery brings to mind the frenzied, swinging beats of classic Jazz… Heaps of intelligent humour call for a memorable theatre experience. "- Ankit Soni,

BTW, Marijke did tell me they are considering to organise a tour. Wah wah.

Photo credits: promotional picture from Stagesmith Productions.