Sunday, August 17, 2008

The King of Bollywood in New York

There is no American equivalent to this spectacle, in which actors, joined by dozens of dancers, recreate musical numbers from popular movies. Here, all talents — acting, singing, dancing — are equal. Well, not always singing; in most Bollywood films, vocals are provided by playback singers while the stars on screen lip-sync...

Though the musicians remained onstage for Amitabh Bachchan’s first solo set, they were less consequential. His appearance was more an exercise in collective memory than a great performance. A star of stratospheric proportions, he was celebrated with hagiographical videos and voice-overs. (“Even the way he stands makes an impact.” “They aped his hairstyle.”) The younger Mr. Bachchan performed one of his father’s best-known routines, from “Don,” while images from that film flashed on a screen behind him.

With a silver goatee and short dark hair, the elder Mr. Bachchan cut an august figure. But he, too, was not immune to the pulls of legacy. Toward the end of the show, in a segment that was part spoken-word performance, part “Inside the Actors Studio,” he discussed his own parents with emotion. First, he recited a few lines of “Agneepath,” a poem by his father, Harivansh Rai Bachchan, which was, he said, “written to inspire the Indians.” (Friday was the 61st anniversary of Indian independence.)

Then he spoke about his mother, who died last year, and slipped into his character from the film “Deewaar,” who prays for his mother’s health. As Mr. Bachchan delivered the lines, his voice grew deep, mean and improbably raspy. And then, just as quickly as he had begun, he snapped back to normal and was greeted with the night’s most sincere standing ovation. On a night full of carefully choreographed moments, this blatant blast of acting also proved to be the truest.

-Movie Stars Take to the Stage, Giving ’Em the Old Bollywood Razzle-Dazzle

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