'Mumbai more open to laughing out loud'

Performers of the first-ever Indian instalment of 'Beauty And The Beast' discuss the enormity of the project and the need to aggressively promote theatre in the country

One OF the longest running Broadway musicals, Beauty And The Beast made its stage debut in India last October with some of the best musical theatre performers in the country bringing alive Disney's classic French fairytale alive. As the new season of the musical is round the corner, some of the main characters, Meher Mistry (Belle), Edwin Joseph (Beast), Hitesh Malukani and Bugs Bhargava met the hitlist team recently to share their experiences of rehearsing on gigantic sets, promotion of drama in India and theatre as a career option.

Excerpts from the conversation:

A glimpse of Beauty And The Beast
A glimpse of Beauty And The Beast

hitlist: How has the experience of introducing the musical to India been?
Edwin: The concept is something new for the Indian populace. It's like a movie unfolding on stage.

hitlist: The tickets were pretty expensive!
Edwin: When it's a Broadway, the upper range of ticket cost is $250-300.
Meher: But if you want to see something of this scale, it's worth it. A lot of work and resources have been put into it.
Bugs: I know people are nervous about spending money in theatres, but for this show, they have come many times and brought more people with them.

hitlist: How is the Mumbai audience different from that in other places?
Edwin: The audience in Mumbai likes to go with the flow. They
are more open to laughing out loud, not being able to hold it (the laughter) anymore and clapping loud.
Hitesh: But we also had a show in Delhi which outnumbered every other show. So you cannot pick an audience like that. Now, as a theatre actor, you can think of it as a career option now.

hitlist: Do you think more such shows should be made so that the theatre industry grows manifold?
Bugs: The joy of theatre is that it is different each time. It can be minimalist yet moving or it can be gigantic and overwhelming.
Meher: A lot of young production houses are seeing that people are willing to spend money and that is a positive sign.
Hitesh: But more than that, drama can happen anywhere. You don't need resources. All you need is a performer and an audience.
Edwin: One can get more from theatre than films or TV because you are in there and it's happening in front of you.

hitlist: Not many schools encourage drama classes. Do you think the theatre fraternity should also take efforts to create interest in drama among kids?
Bugs: It will take collective effort.
Edwin: It's a larger policy issue for any kind of arts. Anything but ICSE and CBSE is unimportant.
Hitesh: Arts is shot down because other subjects are considered more important. But efforts are being taken. Prithvi does children special shows.

hitlist: But isn't the scope limited?
Bugs: That's true of every field. In films, only one out of hundred can become a Shah Rukh Khan.

Q. How many times have you all thought of giving up?
Bugs, Hitesh and Meher: Never.
Edwin: All the time, but not for more than two minutes. Every time I get stuck, I feel jaded.
Meher: I understand it's a scary space to be in since it is not financially viable. But it pushes you to give more to get more.

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