Bollywood comes to Bradford with musical and film

Bollywood dancer

From the Byham Theater in Pittsburgh and Lincoln Center in New York, Bollywood Boulevard: A Journey through Hindi Cinema will arrive at Pitt-Bradford March 24.


            Commissioned by Lincoln Center Out of Doors, the stage musical made its debut in summer 2017.


            The show at Pitt-Bradford will take place at 7:30 p.m. in the Bromeley Family Theater in Blaisdell Hall. Tickets are $22 for the public and $10 for students. Pitt-Bradford students pay $5.


            A cast of 18 dancers and nine musicians combine with digital backdrops and a short film to capture the evolution of Bollywood - the center of the Hindi language film industry - from black and white films of the '30s to the over-the-top colorful musicals it is known for today.


            After the show opened at Lincoln Center, Brown Girl Magazine said, “In a seamless flow of non-stop entertainment, the visually stunning and immersive production brilliantly told the history of Hindi cinema to an audience of more than 4,000 people.”


            To set the mood, Pitt-Bradford will show the 2007 Bollywood romantic comedy “Jab We Met” (English - “When We Met”), about a suicidal businessman whose life changes after he meets a carefree girl on a train. The family-friendly movie and Bollywood blockbuster will be shown at 6:30 p.m. March 20 in the Bromeley Family Theater. The film is in Hindi with English subtitles. It is free.


            Bollywood has a following at Pitt-Bradford. Rekha Gajanan has taught a popular class in contemporary Hindi cinema in both the fall and spring semesters at Pitt-Bradford since 2014. She will give a short talk about Bollywood before the film.


            Gajanan said that her class is popular with Pitt-Bradford students because it is different from the kinds of movies they are used to seeing come out of the American film industry in Hollywood.


            The term Bollywood combines the name of India's central moviemaking city, Bombay (now known as Mumbai), with Hollywood, and Indian cinema reflects many of the aspects of Hollywood's golden era.


            As in the Hollywood of the 1950s and '60s, the musical is king, and the goal is to entertain.


            “There are lots of stories of rich boys and poor girls or other mismatched lovers,” she said. The tradition of arranged marriage is a common device for these stories to use, as is the case in “Jab We Met.”


            The female lead is typically a fair-skinned ingénue, never older than her mid-20s, and Bollywood studios are always looking for and developing their next queen. Male leads, Gajanan noted, can last into their 60s, dancing alongside their much-younger co-stars.


            The movies are long - frequently lasting more than three hours - and usually feature elaborate dance numbers with colorful costumes and many dancers as well as romantic duets and G-rated pecks on the cheek.


            Although movies are in Hindi, the most widely spoken and easily understood language in India, Bollywood films also usually include characters or elements of the many religions and ethnic groups in India to appeal to the widest possible audience.


            Bollywood movies are popular throughout many parts of the world, including the Middle East, Australia, New Zealand and the United States, where some urban and suburban multiplexes reserve a theater for the latest from Mumbai, according to Gajanan.


            To purchase tickets for the live musical “Bollywood Boulevard,” contact the Bromeley Family Theater Box Office at (814)362-5113. Tickets are not necessary for the March 20 movie.