After the ‘Merchants of Bollywood’ the Merchant sisters bring another Bollywood extravaganza with the ‘Taj Express’. It’s all glitz, glamour and glitter, with high octane drama and zesty dance numbers. AR Rahman’s popular tracks and the use of a live band add a spicy mix of background scores.
The story line is light hearted and writer Toby Gough uses the time tested concept of a story within a story kept together by a narrator (‘Sutradhar’ from classical Indian theatre) with a penchant for parody. Deploying the Bollywood favourite ‘rags to riches’ plot it’s a story of Shankar (Mikhail Sen) -an aspiring music composer who dreams to follow in the footsteps of legendary Indian music composer- AR Rahman. Though he is a believer of originality , he is pushed into compromising his creative ideals by his boss the movie director (voice over by Denzil Smith). The subplot revolves around the making of the movie ‘Taj Express’ with Shankar as its music composer and the many travails of its heroine Kareena. It all comes together as a high energy musical- with foot tapping songs and dances and humorous comparisons from mainstream Bollywood and current politics from Corbyn to Trump. A musician from Shankar’s band Flash (Chandan Raina), playing the guitarist is the voice of a critique. He fills in loops by pointing out the run-of-the mill elements in Taj Express the film with witty asides. The script allows him to make a good rapport with the audience.
Vaibhavi Merchant’s choreography is a mix of movements from varied styles from hip hop to Salsa interspersed with semi classical Indian movements. It requires energetic dancers which the show has in plenty. Excluding some mellow numbers, the dancers are engaged in highly energetic dance sequences throughout. The male lead Arjun (Hiten Shah) lives up to the image of a Bollywood star with his handsome presence, fitness and effortless dancing. Kareena (Tanvi Patil,) his female counterpart complements as a perfect match of a Bollywood heroine.
The music is an anthology of AR Rahman’s work in Indian cinema starting with the popular ‘Jai Ho’ number from Slumdog Millionaire to the haunting songs from his Bollywood debut ‘Roja’. The flute played live by Avadooth Phadke brings in a soothing contrast to the otherwise frenetic beat.
Taj express is an entertainer with beats, thumps, splashes of colours and glittery sequins, disco lights and laugh-out-loud humour. You get to try a move of bhangra or breathe the yoga style, sway and dance to the rhythm till the end.
Reviewed by Protima Chatterjee