Reviews and Awards:
PNO note: The musical was Parminder's second outing with the Tamasha Theatre Company and was well received. It was also the first in which her performance in particular drew the attention of a panoply of theatre critics.
The production won the Barclays Theatre Award for best musical and the BBC Asia award for achievement in the arts.
The Observer, London (UK): November 15th 1998
Presented by the Asian theatre company, Tamasha, with Birmingham Repertory Theatre, 14 Songs may nod in the direction of the terrible British film, but the show is actually a transcription onto the stage of a hugely successful Indian movie, Hum Aapke Hain Koun. A tribute to Bollywood which is also a parody, it contains stereotypes and subtlety, melodrama and intimacy.
The plot pivots on match-making between two families. The action involves communication both by prayer and mobile phone. The result is soppy, ridiculous, fresh and touching. Kristine Landon-Smith's direction and Sue Mayes's design suggest heat and silken delicacy; they also make a joke of cramming tragedy and soupy romance into the tiny space of Hammersmith's Lyric Studio.
Under a balcony bordered by ornate gilt rails, a tiled patio is backed by white muslin curtains. These are thrust apart as crucial objects -- a peach coloured sofa, a Range Rover, a hospital bed -- shoot forward onto the stage. At piquant moments when lovers' eyes first meet or bad news is delivered music ripples, and the rose-pink sky darkens.
Two musical strands -- a sitar with Indian percussion, and Western strings -- are intertwined. Bare feet run up stairs to the accompaniment of little chimes. The patter of drums sounds like the beat of hearts. The stage is made gorgeous with saris of emeralds and golds and shocking pinks and quiet with mourning whites. As a frisky younger sister, Parminder Nagra gives a performance of cat-like charm.
by Susannah Clapp
Sunday Times, November 15th 1998. (pg. 20)
(Review of a performance at the Lyric Hammersmith Studio).
What a surprise this has turned out to be! It is an adaptation by Kristine Landon-Smith and Sudha Bhuchar of a hugely successful Bollywood movie - a genre I've never liked, from the little I know of it. I expected two and a half hours of agony.
The piece turns out to be an irresistibly charming and shamelessly enjoyable family play, part romance, part melodrama, part social comedy, part musical entertainment. It is both realistic and improbable: an Indian urban fairy tale of love, loss and loyalty. Landon-Smith and Bhuchar have created a mixture of a tongue-in-cheek homage and a loving send-up of a film tradition that is like a great gaudy family heirloom: you laugh at its gorgeous kitschy style, but you treasure it as part of yourself.
One thing you don't do is patronise it. This co-production by the Tamasha Theatre Company and the Birmingham Rep is all heart and humour. The all-Hindu cast play with the flair of a longstanding ensemble. The songs, with their brilliantly inane rhymes, are a delight. Shobu Kapoor plays a vulgar aunt, grasping as a shark; and Parminder Nagra is a deliciously skillful romantic comedienne. A treat.
By John Peter
The Guardian, Manchester; November 19th 1998
Here's a real curiosity: a stage adaptation of a popular Bollywood movie presented by the excellent Tamasha Theatre Company and Birmingham Rep with scarcely a hint of postmodern irony. The result, directed and choreographed by Kristine Landon-Smith, has a naive charm and melodic gaiety that puts most London musicals in the shade. But I still kept wondering who it was for. Homesick Asians or voyeuristic Westerners?. As one of the latter, I was intrigued by the similarity of the story - this one is adapted by Landon-Smith and Sudha Bhuchar from a hit called Hum Aapke Hain Koun - to popular 19th-century fiction, with the same reliance on coincidence, melodrama and romance.
Here, a middle-class marriage is arranged between the courtly Rajesh and the polite Pooja. But the real focus is on the sparky courtship between their respective brother and sister, Prem and Nisha. Disaster beckons when Pooja dies in a contrived accident and Nisha is elected to become Rajesh's second wife. Will she dutifully marry the wrong brother or follow her heart?
It would be easy to mock the story's artlessness: not least Nisha's failure to enquire about the identity of the groom. But the climax is no more preposterous than that in 'Four Weddings and a Funeral'. And the various cues for song - on the lines of `now that we are related, let's have some singing' - no more ridiculous than those in Hollywood movies from the forties. Indeed the numbers, mimed to English versions of Hindi lyrics, give the show its punch. The tunes are vastly catchier than anything in that other transposed movie, Piffle down the wind.
Sue Mayes's design, with its ornate balconies and sweeping staircases, creates a sense of opulence. Parminder Nagra plays Nisha with a bright-eyed mischief that implies a star in the making, and there is lively support from Shobu Kapoor as a match-making auntie who gets her fingers badly burned.
For me, the show was an exotic poppy: for others, it will be a tangible reminder of Indian pop culture. Either way, it should have a long life.
By Michael Billington