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The Magic Lamp

Wednesday, May 09, 2018
By Deepa Gahlot

Whether it’s entertainment, fashion or food, Indians add their own masala tadka to it. So why would Disney’s Aladdin be spared?

The big, splashy Broadway musical is transported to India with the script (book by Chad Beguelin) and music (Alan Menken) intact, but the desi touches are dotted throughout, from the way the dances are choreographed (Berwin Ravi D’Souza, Shampa Gopikrishna), to Genie speaking in Hindi and even singing the famous Friend Like Me with Hindi lyrics.

After the success of Beauty And the Beast in its Indian version, the Disney Theatrical Group entrusted the production of Aladdin to producers BookMyShow and young director Shruti Sharma.

The plot is familiar to every kid—the poor Aladdin finds a magic lamp, from which emerges a Genie who grants him three wishes. In the meantime, Aladdin has fallen for Princess Jasmine, and she with him. The only obstacle in the way is the evil Jafar, who wants to marry her and usurp the kingdom of her father.

So, the fictional kingdom of Agrabah is recreated on a Mumbai stage (a bit cramped, but then there are limitations in India), where Aladdin (Siddharth Menon/Taaruk Raina) frolics around in the bazaar with his friends. In the palace, Princess Jasmine (Kira) keeps rejecting suitors, much to her father’s (Deven Khote) dismay, because she wants to marry for love, not a wealth or a title. In true Bollywood style, she goes to the marketplace with her friends in disguise, runs into Aladdin, who offers a glimpse of excitement and freedom.

When Aladdin is sent by Jafar (Vikrant Chaturvedi), and his sidekick Iago (to fetch the magic lamp, he rubs it and Genie (Mantra—the scene stealer) emerges, and not just helps Aladdin, but also lifts the production several notches when it is in danger of getting just a bit dull.

On the plus side, the sets (kitschy but not unforgivably so), the smoke and magic and tech wizardry (the combined efforts of Varsha Jain, Roosevelt D’Souza, Alexander Allams). On the minus, the accents of actors going all over the place, the less than satisfactory singing and the most popular song, A Whole New World, ruined by unimaginative staging—in near darkness (to hide the carpet flying wirework!) with some random graphic on the screen behind. Kids undoubtedly enjoy the production a lot more, and it is aimed at them. For the accompanying adults are Genie’s wisecracks to chuckle over. But what Aladdin proves (as Beauty And The Beast and the homegrown Mughal-e-Azam did before it), is that there is ample talent in India, and an audience willing to pay premium prices for live entertainment. There’s a whole new world out there!

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