Festival preview: Bollywood Love Story
Director Sanjoy Roy discusses bringing his musical to two Edinburgh festivals, The Tattoo and The Mela
This article is from 2015.
One delights with its majestic surrounds and military pomp. The other with its bodacious jamboree of world dance and music. Together, they will help bring Bollywood glamour to Edinburgh’s festival scene, courtesy of hotly tipped musical, Bollywood Love Story. The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo will present a nightly five-minute ‘street version’, as part of the Tattoo’s wider ‘East Meets West’ theme, before the Edinburgh Mela showcases the whole kit and caboodle for the event’s grand finale, down in Leith.
Bollywood Love Story director and general bon vivant Sanjoy Roy is seldom a man to hide his enthusiasm, and he’s thrilled to be leaving his musical mark on not just one, but two of Edinburgh’s iconic festivals. ‘We’re always looking for new ways to collaborate, to tell and share our stories,’ explains Roy who, as part of production powerhouse Teamwork Arts, regularly brings Indian culture to audiences around the globe. ‘So when the opportunity came up to work with both of these great festivals, we were really happy.’
No stranger to the spotlight, Bollywood Love Story has enjoyed rave reviews ever since it first hit the stage four years ago. Its subsequent tour and 150 shows, in Egypt, Japan and China to name but three, suggests just how universal its appeal is. Roy’s hopeful that an Edinburgh audience will respond just as positively. ‘It’s been very successful, and had many different lives across the globe,’ he states. ‘It’s always exciting to think about who the next audience will be in each place, and how you can work with that.’
Whether as director, producer or writer on a project, Roy doesn’t dabble in half measures. When we speak, he’s in London in his capacity as producer of the Jaipur Literature Festival, which the Southbank Centre is hosting for the second year. Finding ways to contrast and compliment different worlds is what Roy does best, and it will be no different when he hits the capital this August. He’s always keen to push any cross-continent collaboration to its fullest, and is eager to inject some Scottish flavour into his Edinburgh festivals offering. In a rather lovely twist, Bollywood Love Story’s principal Indian cast will be joined by specially selected dancers from across Scotland.
‘Bollywood has such a colour, look and vigour, and the music is becoming more mainstream across the world so it’s good to encourage people to get involved with that. I want to make the audience smile, and to bring something that makes people happy. It’s about creating something wonderful.’ The story, Roy says, is ‘pretty straightforward. It’s a familiar tale. Boy meets girl, girl loses boy, there’s a villain in there, and then there’s a happy, joyous ending. I like to tell universal stories. It doesn’t matter where you are or what your culture is, that story is familiar. Then it becomes how you create the spectacle beyond the story.’
While Roy’s not giving too much away at this stage about how it will look, vibrant colours, fabulous costumes, show-stopping tunes, and slick choreography are all guaranteed. ‘Bollywood is often about what happens when cultures meet, and that’s what it’s about here. It’s going to be colourful, dramatic and fun, and feel and look like a celebration of what Bollywood can be.’
As part of the Tattoo line-up, Bollywood Love Story will be shown in front of a 220,000-strong live audience, 66,000 of whom will be Edinburgh’s foreign guests. The Tattoo show will additionally reach well over 100 million viewers around the world when it’s broadcast on the small screen. Then, of course, there is the Mela audience on top of that: it’s a range and reach that appeals to Roy.
‘It’s exciting and about creating something bold, yes, but also something that feels a little nostalgic. There’s so much bad stuff going on in the world, so it’s nice to create a fairytale that feels and seems very far away from the reality that people live in today. A reminder that life can also be about celebration.’
In the week I speak to Roy, auditions are soon to be underway for the Scottish contingent that will join the show. Twelve professional dancers will accompany more than 40 Scottish-based dancers for the performance. ‘It’s a process,’ says Roy. ‘First the auditions themselves and then training all the dancers. But it’s wonderful to be able to use local dancers as part of the whole spectacle. It’s all part of the collaboration and relationships we want to build.’
Beyond the training, the separate venues (the Tattoo on the Esplanade by Edinburgh Castle and the Mela in the city’s more modish area of Leith) bring their own set of challenges. ‘We’ll have the shorter street version for the Tattoo, and then the longer version for the Mela. I think we’ll bring some madness [to the Tattoo]. A sense of other. Right now it’s a wonderful work-in-progress. With the Tattoo, so many different parts of the world turn up to soak up the tradition of it, but it’s also about experiencing the castle and the spectacle. We have to do our storytelling there in five or so minutes, so it’s about getting the imagery and story right in that time, complete with big bangs and bells. It’s a judgement call of what to leave in and what to take out in order to stay faithful to the story we want to present.’
Across at the Mela, festival director Chris Purnell has voiced his enthusiasm for providing a platform in which to celebrate the ‘Bollywood phenomenon’ and ‘celebrate each other’s cultures.’ Roy couldn’t agree more. ‘Bollywood is incredibly popular within the Asian community, but it has a wider following as well. We hope to put on something spectacular in Edinburgh which hopefully everyone will enjoy.’
Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, Edinburgh Castle, 0131 225 1188, 7–29 Aug, Mon Fri, 9pm; Sat, 7.30pm, £25–£120; Bollywood Love Story, Edinburgh Mela, Leith Links, 0131 226 0008, Sun 30 Aug, £4–£5 (free for under 13s).