I had the great pleasure of watching Bharati on their Diwali opening night at the Sony Centre in Toronto last night. To say I was excited to see this show would be a gross understatement. I grew up addicted to Bollywood movies and obsessed with Indian dance. So please keep that in mind while reading this review.
First of all, I have to say the Sony Centre really knows how to set the mood. Guests were greeted by beautifully adorned hostesses, who looked like Bollywood actresses themselves. There were vendors selling Indian costumes, jewellery, snacks and even a henna artist drawing beautiful patterns on guests’ hands who were already in the Diwali spirit.
The show itself is more an experience than a show. A brightly coloured, opulent, musical fantasy you can get lost in. Everything about this show screams decadence; from the costumes, to the 20 plus dancers onstage at all times, to the set and the props. There wasn’t a single detail overlooked. The lighting to me felt like a character in itself, very dramatic in its changes and moods.
Bharati, which means Indian, really does take us on a journey across the country. This is not easy in a country with 28 states, 22 languages and dance styles that are just as diverse, but they did a spectacular job. There are songs, costumes and dances that did justice to each region. It’s overindulgence at its finest. That’s what India is all about, or at least a big part of it.
The narrator, Rahul Vohra, steals the show every time he appears on stage. He is the only voice in this story and he walks us through the show with charm, wit and humour. I really like that they made the show relatable to the Toronto audience by adding in little jokes about The Leafs, rush-hour traffic and Indians who live in Brampton.
The lead, Bharati, played by Bhavna Pani, is amazing. The way she moves is mesmerizing and you can feel her passion and energy with every sway of her hips. Her lover, the male lead, however seems lacklustre in comparison. My show partner, Saira, and I couldn’t help but think that he definitely wasn’t the best dancer in the group. Given that there is no dialogue we thought this was quite unfortunate.
The set is gorgeous and so very extravagant. There is a lot going on with silk screens, projectors, musicians, vocalists, dancers and even acrobats. It’s done so well that we didn’t even realize when the set changes took place.
Saira, also thoroughly enjoyed the show. It was the live music and vocals that really blew her away. She said it was impossible to believe that the songs weren’t pre-recorded tracks from the films. I even caught her singing along a few times.
It felt like I was on the set of Devdas -that’s the most visually majestic Hindi movie I can think of in recent times – and I really didn’t want to leave. Lucky me, I got my wish at the end of the show when the audience was taught a basic dance move, and the festivities went on a few minutes longer. I was really surprised that every single person was on their feet, I have never seen anything like this before.
I would say this is the Indian version of a feel good musical like Mamma Mia! It’s one of those shows where you’re really just going to want to get up and dance, or at least wiggle around in your seat, and if you’re like me and know all the words to the songs, you can’t help but sing along.
A word of caution though, this show may not be for everyone. The story is a very simple, boy-meets-girl and it’s love at first sight, sort of idea. The singing and dancing is constant during the two hour run. There is little to no dialogue in the entire piece but I can assure you there is never a dull moment. For me, I loved it, and wish I could see it again, but I saw four people leave during the intermission.
Show runs October 27-29 and November 3-5 at 8pm • October 29-30 and November 5-6 at 2pm
Tickets range from $39 – $109 (plus applicable fees and taxes)
Tickets can be purchased by calling 1-855-872-SONY (7669) or online at www.sonycentre.ca
Photo credit to Christophe Mourthé. In photo the cast of BHARATI.