Khaleej Times, Dubai

Theatrical junction

17 February 2010
After showcasing their tribute to “Bollywood in the 70s” in India, Sohaila Kapur and her crew are quite excited to bring their production, Mahim Junction, to Dubai.

City Times caught up with the playwright-turned-director and her actors as they prepare to ‘wow’ local audiences

THERE WAS A time, when Sohaila Kapur’s sole claim to fame was being Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Shekhar Kapur’s sister. But the uber successful premiere of her play Mahim Junction at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2002 changed all that – now she is hailed as the creator of a critically acclaimed and equally lucrative theatrical production.
Post touring with the show in parts of Europe and Delhi and Hyderabad in India, the playwright-turned-director has finally decided to brings her musical to the city; “This will mark our first time in the Middle East,” noted Kapur, from her residence in Delhi, when we caught up with her over the phone.
“The reason we decided to bring Mahim Junction to Dubai is because of the extremely large expatriate population living there. The first generation of Indians there mostly grew up watching Hindi films in the 70s. And since the play is a tribute to Bollywood in the 70s, it’s the perfect place to present the show.”
The director further claimed that the production is also intended to start up a dialogue on the subject of putting Indian film of this generation on stage.
“Therefore it is part of a whole new genre of theatre. Our story is simple: we’ve got the standard hero, heroine and villain. But essentially it pays tribute to the values that existed in old Mumbai and Bollywood; that of communal harmony and an egalitarian society.”
The feature tells the tale of a young couple – a Hindu girl and a Muslim boy – residing in the slums of Mumbai on the platform of well-known railway station Mahim Junction.
The duo want to get married, however, their elders want nothing more than to discourage this inter-communal union with the covert reason being the classic, ‘he’s just too poor for our daughter’ argument.
“What makes it different is the fact that it is an affectionate spoof of vintage Bollywood. When I sat down to write this play in Canada, I was low because I was away from my husband. I thought about my happiest moments, and the Hindi movies I watched while growing up immediately came to mind. They were fantasy films that helped you escape. That was what inspired Mahim Junction.”
So if you fancy a night of theatre and are a patron of classic Indian cinema from the 70s decade, then head down to DUCTAC this weekend for a fantasy-filled, musical extravaganza.

Do a little jig at

the theatre
Mahim Junction contains multiple, but brief, song-and-dance sequences. Most of them are medleys of old songs from Hindi movies and are orchestrated by renowned Bollywood choreographer Vikram Samsung, who runs his very own dance classes in Delhi.

Lending brotherly support

Attending the red carpet event of Mahim Junction’s Dubai premiere will be Sohaila Kapur’s sibling – the director of the Oscar-nominated Elizabeth - Shekhar Kapur. On the show’s opening night VIP ticket holders will enjoy a pre-show reception in DUCTAC’s Gallery of Light, where they will have the opportunity to meet and greet the evening’s guest of honour.
Hide, a ‘sleazy villain’ is on his way…
No story is ever complete without the injection of a nefarious, underhanded scheme hatched by a despicable, villainous personality. In Mahim Junction this task falls into the capable hands of theatre actor Neeraj Yadav.
“I play the sleazy villain you generally got to see in Hindi movies in the 70s. And like in those days, the real structure comes into the story with his entrance. His character is such that he strongly believes in the concept of the casting couch and uses his power and money to lure women into his bed,” elucidated Yadav over the phone.
The actor joined director Sohaila Kapur’s production in early 2009 and has been working with the crew ever since. So far he has toured with the show to different cities in India, but this weekend will be his first performance out of the country.
“It’s been great – it’s a hilarious play and audiences respond with uncontrollable laughter, cheering, whistling and even dancing. We’re hoping to get the same sort of reaction from people in Dubai.”
At the time, Yadav was occupied with making last-minute preparations before getting on an early morning flight to the city.
“Things are a little hectic right now, because we’re hoping we don’t forget any costumes or props. As soon as we land there, we’ll drop our bags at the hotel, head down to the auditorium, set up and start rehearsing. After all, we want to justify being invited to perform in Dubai.”
Lastly, Yadav explained that his future plans were to remain in Delhi whilst working with as many theatrical productions as possible - moving to Mumbai city is currently just not a part of his plans.
The making of a hero
Actor Rachit Behl had to work rather hard to perfect his role in Mahim Junction – he had to have the trademark attitude that made the heroes in the 70s likeable and had to work on imitating their dance styles flawlessly.
“But the hardest thing to do were to get the gestures just right. Back in the 70s the heroes were larger than life and so were their talks, walks and hand gestures. So getting my actions to be as loud as theirs used to be took a lot of hard work.”
The actor plays a typical slum-dweller who is in love with a girl and will do anything to end up with her. Unfortunately for this honest fellow, him being Muslim proves a deterrent to his union with the Hindu girl.
“Things are not necessarily as bad as they used to be back then. Times and people have changed. Communal problems still exist but not on the same level. Mahim Junction explores that,” continued Behl.
The artist has been part of the production since last year and has toured with it in Delhi and Hyderabad.
“We are a little nervous about bringing the performance to Dubai. Of course we’re also excited, but, very honestly, we don’t know how the audiences there will react because we’re unaware of the theatre scene there. We’re hoping they enjoy seeing the story unfold on stage as much as those in other places have.”
What: Musical Mahim Junction
When: 8pm, Thursday to Saturday, February 18 to 20
Where: Centrepoint Theatre, DUCTAC, Level 2, Mall of the Emirates
Tickets: VIP with access to special red carpet screening – Dhs500
Normal – Dhs150
For further information, please contact 04 - 3414777