How to Make a Killing in Bollywood – at Northern Stage

Best friends Bollywood Bound
Fast, funny fun and just a little bit heartbreaking, How to Make a Killing in Bollywood is a new play which is about (among other things) the frustration of being an Asian actor rather than an actor who happens to be Asian.
HTMAKIB started life up in Scotland and has previously graced the Edinburgh Fringe. It reaches Newcastle as a partnership with our own Northumberland Theatre Company who have been making engaging professional theatre for many years.
The cast of just four, multi talented actors take us at a cracking pace through the story of Raza, an unemployed actor frustrated with life at the family restaurant. Tired of being cast as a corner shop worker, taxi driver or suicide bomber and with dreams of Bollywood stardom, he persuades his best friend who runs the take away, Gurjeet, to pack his bags and go with him to Mumbai. Raza gives himself  30 days to make it big in Bollywood.
Take off to Mumbai

The madness of Mumbai is well described, and, having travelled there myself earlier this year, I recognised the picture painted of the crowds, the smell and the noise, in particular the incessant honking of thousands of vehicles which I found pretty unbearable. Raza begins to pursue his dream but events don’t quite go to plan, and his friendship with Gurjeet is tested to its limits. Raza descends to the depths of despair, when, at his first audition the casting agent prefers Gurjeet over him and he gets the start in the business that Raza so desperately craves.

The fast food fandango!

The play has a great soundtrack. It includes everything from Bollywood Bangra to The Proclaimers, Massive Attack and You’re Just too Good to be True – you can’t go wrong with Andy Williams. Punctuated with vibrant Bollywood dancing which I also love, the cast are all also very good dancers with that infectious zing which makes you want to get up and join in with them. Indeed some of the audience did just that at the end of the show, which was quite jolly too. The very beautiful Storm-Skyler McClure who plays the prostitute Varsha (and other characters) who captures Raza’s heart, is also the talented choreographer.

Varsha tempts Raza

Despite a modest stage set (and presumably budget) the energy and ambition of this highly enjoyable piece, engages and entertains the audience in a big budget Bollywood style.
There are more emotional scenes and tragic consequences when Razas dreams are shattered, but it is the lightness and the humour which really brings this show to life. The Asian community in Scotland is a minority group (hence the Arts Council funding – I’ll say no more about that) but that is little to do with why this play works so well. It’s a very good story, presented by talented artists and in parts is extremely funny.

Fast furious and fun

Umar Ahmed is both the co writer, director and star of the tale and portrays the disaffected dreamer perfectly, although I preferred him with a big smile on his face giving it large with the Bollywood tunes. Some of the visual jokes also work very well. Razas ‘Iron Bru’ towel and Gurjeet’s Scottish flag underpants can’t fail to raise a chuckle. Adam Buksh is also a talented comic actor who plays a number of other characters, and we loved his portrayal of the human shower – I can’t think of another way to describe it! Manjot Sumal is the fourth member of the cast and also the writer. He convinces as the more sensible Gurjeet who is Raza’s best friend and protector and inadvertently seems to have all the luck that passes Raza by.
The set is simple but never feels lacking as it brought to life by the sheer energy and conviction of the performances. There are some excellent caricatures of Asian stereotypes as two of the cast play all the personalities the lead roles encounter, and all round the actors are inspiring.
Whether you like Bollywood or not this play is a great evening’s entertainment. Endearing and funny if you get the chance, pat the dog, screw the light bulb, and go and see it!