Center for the Arts Presents Two Performances of ‘The Merchants of Bollywood’

Posted: October 18, 2010 at 1:02 am, Last Updated: October 15, 2010 at 3:01 pm

Photo by Theo O. Kroth

Called “the most exhilarating musical seen this year” by Britain’s Manchester Evening News, “The Merchants of Bollywood” is a nonstop whirl of color, music and dance.

The production comes to Mason’s Center for the Arts Concert Hall on Friday, Oct. 22, at 8 p.m. and Sunday, Oct. 24, at 7 p.m. in a newly added performance.

A sensation in Europe and Australia, this runaway hit is loosely based on the story of the Merchant family, renowned choreographers from the golden age of Indian cinema.

A clash between the generations ensues when a young woman breaks free of family tradition to create her own voice, finding love, heartbreak and independence along the way.

The story begins in the temple of Shiva in India’s Rajasthan deserts. Responsible for upholding the ancient dance traditions of his culture, Shantilal, the patriarch of the Merchant family, began his own traditional folk dancing school after years as a famed choreographer in India’s great film industry, Bollywood.

His granddaughter, Ayesha, leaves home against his wishes to become the reigning queen of choreography of Bollywood. While her grandfather believes that film should be a method to heal strife and change lives for the better, Ayesha feels that it should help people escape — and therein lies the conflict.

The damage among the relatives seems irreparable until Ayesha returns to make peace with her grandfather at the end of his life. This inspiring family musical and touching tale of reconciliation is filled with an exhilarating mixture of Western and Indian dance, scores of glittery costumes and jewelry and nonstop, high-octane music.

“The appeal of this production is its authenticity,” said producer Mark Brady, who credited the Academy Award-winning film “Slumdog Millionaire” for the recent popularity of Bollywood among North American audiences when interviewed for an article in The New York Times.

“The show has been created in the heart of Bollywood by a creative team consisting of the most credible minds working in the Hindi film industry today,” he said.

The team consists of the acclaimed choreographer Vaibhavi Merchant (on whom Ayesha is loosely based), writer and director Toby Gough, music composers Salim and Sulaiman Merchant (no relation to Vaibhavi Merchant) and actors and dancers from recent Bollywood hits.

This performance is family friendly, and tickets are half-price for youth through grade 12 when the child is accompanied by an adult. A discussion, free to ticket holders, begins 45 minutes prior to the performance on the Center’s Grand Tier. Pre-performance discussions are sponsored by the Friends of the Center for the Arts. HSBC is the sponsor for the Global View series.

Adult tickets are $48, $40 and $24. Charge by phone at 888-945-2468 or visit

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