We went to Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Covent Garden office to meet her.
You are best known as a choreographer of Bollywood movies, rather than stage shows. Was Bombay Dreams a first for you? “Yes, it was! It was a very exciting offer, but Andrew had decided that he needed an Indian technician to be involved in the creative process, and I enjoyed the challenge — other than Bombay Dreams, my professional work has been entirely in cinema. ”
The Bollywood film industry is huge. What about theatre? “In India theatre is really a very small-scale affair, almost a case of amateur dramatics in that actors tend to have other jobs in addition to their theatre work. There’s some theatre, of course, but nothing like the range or scale you find in England. Culturally and commercially, film is so much more important.”
How different was it working on a stage musical rather than a film one?“It differed in two fundamental ways. First, I was working with another choreographer — Anthony Van Laast. Normally, I wouldn’t let anyone else anywhere near my work! The other major change was all the health and safety issues surrounding British theatre. In Indian films we can get dancers to do anything — including dancing on the top of moving trains without safety harnesses or whatever. This gives the flexibility to make some amazing dance routines, but in the theatre you have to be much more careful of your dancers!” How did you find the experience of working with another choreographer?“Very enjoyable! There was no time for trial and error, so we both had to be very good at our job. Luckily, Anthony and I got on very well in any case, but we respected each other’s work — he watched all my movies before we started together — and we knew that we each needed the other’s expertise for the dance side of the show to work.”
Can you give an example of this collaboration? “Well, a major factor was that in film you can shoot the dancers from various angles, so movement that wouldn’t necessarily look all that exciting if it was simply shot by a camera set straight in front of the dancers, can be made to look good through camera shots from above or the side, and by cutting the various shots together when you edit the film. This obviously isn’t an option open to you when dealing with the stage — the dancers may move but the audience doesn’t, so Anthony’s experience of how to make things look good on stage, what will or won’t work in a theatre, was essential.”
Will you be working in the theatre again? “I’m not ruling it out, but my first love is cinema, and I’m currently directing a film — not just choreographing it. So that’s an exciting new step — and it means I’m completely in charge of my work!”
Bombay Dreams is playing at the Apollo Victoria.