In my attempt to get to know Bangkok a bit more I took myself to the Thailand Cultural Centre to see Taj Express- The Musical, which was part of Bangkok’s 16th International Festival of Dance and Music.
From Asok BTS take the MRT to Thailand Cultural Centre and then it’s a short motorbike taxi ride to the centre itself. One of the centre’s entrances is tucked away down a little soi- I am not sure I would have found it if I had walked.
There was a covered walkway leading to the main hall with a mini-mart at the end, and a bar set up where you could buy alcohol- at not too pricey drinks- 180 baht for a glass of wine. I sat watching the crowds arrive with my wine, feeling like a proper theatre goer. In the foyer, where everyone had gathered before the show, were huge paintings at either end, and a resident piano player who was entertaining the smartly dressed crowd. It all felt rather grown up.
Back to the Taj Express. I have had a secret passion for Bollywood for a while now but I have never been to a show until now- the proverbial Bollywood virgin. Straight from Mumbai, the Taj Express was electrifying- a pure kaleidoscope of colour, music and fantastic dancing and energy. Being the optimistic person that I am, I actually wrote that BEFORE I saw the show and I am happy to report that I was not disappointed. My expectations were more than met. I loved it and I was so glad I went.
In a nutshell the story goes something like this- a girl born in London but from Indian descent is a high-flying journalist and her phone and laptop are her life. She goes to India to write about a love story, never expecting that she would be in the leading role. She gets to Mumbai and her phone is stolen and this guy chases the thief and returns her phone. They arrange to meet and realise that they are attracted to each other. The guy tells her to stop the relationship with her phone and live a little- so she throws her phone away and they travel to her hometown where she learns that her father has died. She was told by one of the villagers that her father had travelled all over India to try and find her. He never realised she was in London and in the end he died thinking that his daughter had passed away. After a very moving scene where she and the boy scatter her father’s ashes in the Ganges, they get married and are together forever at last.
At the back of the stage was a huge movie screen and images of Mumbai were shown to give you the impression that they, and you, were actually there. In the scene where the girl’s phone gets stolen the thief runs away with the boy hot on his heels- they run off the stage and the movie screen showed a video of a guy running through the streets of Mumbai with said boy chasing him. When they run back onto the stage the movie screen went off. In the scene where they are scattering her father’s ashes, they kneel in front of the screen with a moving image of the water and floating candles. Apparently, this is the first time in Bollywood musical history that the producers have mixed music, dance and film on stage. And I thought it really worked.
Then the whole place went black for about 10 seconds. It felt like it was a lot longer. I am sure everyone starting thinking that it was a technical fault because I could hear and feel people getting restless-myself included. 10 seconds is actually a long time when you are sat in darkness not knowing what is happening. But I think it was supposed to represent death. I thought it was a nice touch and probably achieved the reaction that the producers were looking for.
The dancing was A-M-A-Z-I-N-G- a combination of classical and sexy routines. It was so energetic. The costumes were colourful and imaginative, and the music made my heart almost beat out of my chest. I sat there in awe throughout the whole performance. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to take photographs once the show started but the experience has been etched into my mind forever.
I cannot tell you enough how exciting it is to go and see a Bollywood show. If you have been you will know what I am talking about. And if you haven’t- well, I thoroughly recommend you go and experience a magical two hours. I can’t wait to go again.