Merchants of Bollywood Take Dubai by Storm

DUBAI — Amid the build-up to the opening night of the ‘Merchants of Bollywood’ the cast, fresh off the plane from Mumbai, treated a select few to a brief preview of this magnificent show. Kitted out in the finest costumes hand-made in India and sparkling jewellery, three highly energetic numbers were performed by the entire cast, which gave more than an indication that this is a performance not to be missed.

By David Light

Published: Sat 23 Jan 2010, 12:38 AM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 2:35 PM

The Merchants of Bollywood is based on the true story of Ayesha Merchant, granddaughter of Shantilal Merchant, one of Bollywood’s most respected and lauded choreographers from the Hindi film industry’s golden era.

Ayesha was taught Indian classical dance by Shantilal in their home in Rajasthan and she had hopes to continue the family tradition. However, she is enticed by the romance of Bollywood and dreams of making her name in the film world. Going against her grandfather’s wishes, she abandons home for Mumbai where she became a great success in the film industry. But despite fame and fortune, the emotional pull of her ailing grandfather draws her home and into the arms of her childhood sweetheart Uday.

The stunning Carol Furtado plays Ayesha Merchant, whose journey the play charts. Her escapades allow the audience to explore all facets of the Indian film industry and in some instances provide a tongue-in-cheek look as well as a genuine homage to all types of Indian cinema.

From a mischievous nod to 1960s duets set in and around a field endowed with a single tree to the more modern high production value blockbusters, Merchants of Bollywood has it all. “The audience can expect a lot of drama, a lot of high-octane energy but overall it’s just great entertainment,” Carol told the Khaleej Times. She stated that Bollywood has become a brand in itself and people from every corner of the globe know what the films produced are about. It is this enduring family appeal that Carol believes will draw the crowd in to her character’s story.

“The play centres around the conflict between the older and new generations of entertainers,” Carol continued. “Both characters (Shantilal and Ayesha) are choreographers in their own right and have very different ideas about what dancing is all about.”

One of the highlights of the show according to Carol is that it parodies some of the clichéd material used in traditional Bollywood films to illustrate that the process has evolved and that the films can now be very complex. On whether this had the potential to upset she stated, “No we love to laugh at ourselves. The parody is so slapstick and so funny that I can’t help but laugh even though I am supposed to be serious at that point while the other guys are creating a laugh riot. This is also only a small part. The show overall is a huge spectacle and celebration of Bollywood in all its glory.”

Arif Zakaria, who plays the narrator and flamboyant film director Tony Bakshi, agreed with Carol that showing how things used to be is a great way to demonstrate the point at which the industry is at today. He stated, “The average person in India pays the equivalent of one dollar to go to see a movie. For that dollar they wish to be transported to another land so each film must accommodate that. Things are changing but I believe films should in essence stick to their roots so people get what they desire.”

“This show gives everything but people can expect a lot of dazzle, shine, shimmer and fun. It will reaffirm your love for Bollywood and through subtle messages will inspire you to go and celebrate life.” Atif’s character is also a tribute to old fashioned story-telling as the use of a narrator was quite common in older films. On what the audience should look forward to when coming to see the show both artists intoned that the energy of each number was such that no-one would be able to resist the play’s charm. From the delight for the senses that was the short preview one would have to agree. This is without doubt one of the best shows to reach Dubai and an invaluable experience for all musical lovers. Matinee and evening performances of Merchants of Bollywood continue today and tomorrow at the Palladium Media City. Tickets available at,, or at the Palladium box office. —

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