Bollywood's fascination with Michael Jackson has found it's way into choreographed dance numbers, outfits and songs. But Anita Majumdar's latest play, Oy! Just Beat It! marries the two in a theatrical production that finds more similiarities between MJ and Indian cinema than just pelvic thrusts and crotch grabs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It's the end of 1989, and Kabira (Anita Majumdar) and Phillipe (Leon Aureus) are up late waiting to record a song for Rajshri Productions' soon-to-be released film about, what else?, love. What follows in the one-hour musical comedy is the story of how these two aspiring singers deal with the subtle and at times, not-so-subtle, discrimination they receive based on their skintone. And of course, there's a little bit of MJ & Bollywood in the mix.

Following the success of Fish Eyes and The Misfit, Anita Majumdar writes another play that brings together social issues, comedy, and Bollywood music and dance. Oy! Just Beat It! is part of a larger work, Aisha n' Ben (staged in Vancouver last year), and the complete play with both acts will be staged sometime during the 2010-2011 season. And while the hour-long piece does feel like a fragment of something larger, the antics of Kabira and the more sombre Phillipe as almost-playback singers in Bollywood's cut-throat music industry, more than make up for the couple of lapses in flow during the play. Moreover, you get a taste of what the larger production will feel like, replete with funny one-liners, strong chemistry between the two leads, and song and dance.

And what a voice! Those who have seen Anita's work in the past will be pleasantly surprised to hear her melodic voice as she sings versions of "Choli Ke Peche" and other Bollywood tracks inspired by the works of Michael Jackson.

The underscoring theme of the play is of shadism, which Anita describes as discrimination based on skintone, or a preference for fair skin. In her playwright's note, she poignantly discusses the race politics surrounding discrimination based on skin shade, and her experiences growing up as a child, and now as an actress, in a lighter world. The play itself leaves you wondering about the rest of the story: what happens to each character after that night in the recording studio? Does Kabira get married and leave India for whiter shores? Does Phillipe travel to the Phillipines to reconnect with his darker roots? Do they hook-up?

For just $11, Oy! Just Beat It! is the perfect way to get out of the Toronto heat for an hour, enjoy some MJ-inspired song and dance, and most of all, support local, talented artists.

 

Oy! Just Beat It! is at the Tarragon Theatre in Toronto until Sunday, July 11, 2010. For more information, visit www.oybeat.wordpress.com, or for tickets, visit www.fringetoronto.com.

 

Story By: Manjot Bains | Photographs Courtesy Anita Majumdar