Indian weddings are ubiquitous for any summer, but with Bollywood Wedding, producers Raakhi Sinha and Gurpreet Sian take all the family drama, the dancing, the singing, and the weird auntyjis to the PNE Italian Gardens.
The interactive show was voted as “The Best Outdoor Theatre Event” in 2009, with its six shows selling out in just a few hours, and it’s back with a bang with its original cast in tow.
If there’s one theatre event you check out this summer, make sure it’s Bollywood Wedding, there’s no other show out there with same amount of laughs and bawdiness. Right from the opening dance numbers by the Shiamak Davar Dance Troupe, the play has you hooked with the hilarious MC (Nimet Kanji) poking fun at the audience and the families involved in the central love story. There’s Hanuman (Munish Sharma), the Punjabi nerd and Naina (Almeera Jiwa), the Gujarati bombshell, who are having an arranged marriage – so expect lots of culture clash and zingers thrown around about butter chicken and puris!
Bollywood Wedding is an innovative and roaming show that makes brilliant use of the various ceremonies like the engagement, jaago (traditional Punjabi dance), mehndi, dandiya (traditional Gujurati dance), and wedding to guide the audience around the gardens. It is a risky proposition to stage, but the production values were simple, with the hill becoming the dandiya stage or the mandap in the centre of the gardens. It just works together seamlessly. While the audience participation aspect may make some run for cover, it’s more of a pantomime style with the MC asking the audience to clap along and repeat words, with a bit of dancing too.
Each vignette is staged wonderfully, with the banter between the families keeping you in splits throughout, especially Naina’s parents Mr Patel (Parm Sood) and his German wife Inga. The wedding situations are instantly recognizable, such as the drama and creepy cousins lurking around, which the writers gleaned from their experience as part of a wedding dance troupe. They have fun with the stereotypes and hot-button issues – arranged marriage, divorce, sex, interracial couples – but each of these issues is undercut with a one-liner that keeps the material from getting too cheesy and heavy-handed . The serious moments between Hanu and Naina’s more viable sister Amisha (Leena Manro) are quite cute but slightly uneven, but you cannot fault them too much as the rest of the show sparkles with energy and gusto.
The actors are admirable in their efforts and keep the show moving from place to place without any hiccups. Particularly, Manro and Trisha Blair, playing Hanu’s precocious younger sister Twinky, and Kallol Mitra, as Naina’s love-struck brother, steal their scenes with their quirky touches.
Written by Raakhi Sinha and Gurpreet Sian with Camyar Chai, and directed by Kathleen Duborg based on previous direction by Camyar Chai, Bollywood Wedding is one of the most original and quirky plays out there in Vancouver, as it sends out all the wedding clichés with aplomb and makes sure the audience is part of the celebrations too. Go with an open mind, and be prepared in case the actors drag you onto the dancefloor at the end of the show to conclude the reception!
Bollywood Wedding is produced by South Asian Arts, and runs July 24 – 28, 2013 at 8:00 p.m., plus 2:00 p.m. matinees on Saturdays & Sundays (July 27, 28). At the Italian Gardens at the Pacific National Exhibition, Hastings Park, Vancouver | Tickets are $35 adults, $20 seniors/children (12 & under) plus taxes | ticketleader.ca
Story By: Rumnique Nannar | Photography: Tim Matheson