A photo of Sâmir Bhamra smiling at the camera, wearing a blue suit.

Interview with Bring on the Bollywood's Sâmir Bhamra

Published: Mon 3 Jul 2017

As Writer, Director and Costume Designer, you’ve got lots of roles in this production. Can you tell us a bit about your background?

My love affair with Bollywood started from birth. My mum was addicted to Hindi cinema. She was a seamstress and films would play in the background as she made amazing clothes!  My dad used to write poetry and told wonderful stories. Then, it was my school drama teachers who were really encouraging. I participated in school plays and amateur dramatic societies. Later I took classes in ballet, before I began Phizzical. 

What was the inspiration behind Bring on the Bollywood?

A few friends and I were having lunch discussing why there was an increase in attendees watching Bollywood films at the cinema. Many young British Asians don't speak the language yet their love for Bollywood meant these films were beating western movies in the charts. Indian cinema has also crossed over to attract western audiences.

Bollywood is synonymous with romance, so we conducted research into the love lives of young people to get insights into today’s dating scene. We also spoke to Bollywood dancers about how they juggled performances with their professional careers as doctors, architects etc. It was from here that we discovered our narrative.

We were interested in telling a story that might help our families to change and grow as traditional values often clash with modern thinking. Since a lot of media presents Asian parents stuck to old ideals, with young people battling them over new ideas, we decided to flip that in Bring on the Bollywood.

Previously you’ve created adaptations of Cymbeline and Romeo and Juliet, and Bring on the Bollywood plays with Shakespearean tropes. What is it about Shakespeare that lends itself to Bollywood as an art form?

Indian cinema started in 1913. Films at that time were either based on mythology or local adaptations of Shakespeare's classics. As cinema evolved, writers started to deconstruct Shakespeare's plays, borrowing structure, plot devices, themes and characters. By 1970's, Manmohan Desai had taken themes such as lost and found, family relationships and love tragedies to create some of our most iconic films.

The costumes in Bring on the Bollywood look spectacular. Can you give us any insight into the design process and the importance of costumes in Bollywood productions?

The most complex part of any Bollywood show is the costuming. You have to consider how the fabric and cut will flow in a dance to enhance the visual spectacle. I’ve tried hard to keep each costume different, incorporating regional styles with contemporary designs. Colour, embroidery and texture were crucial because I didn't want shop bought items, I wanted to create something that audiences would to want to own. 

Finally, we’d love to hear about the different dance styles featured in Bring on the Bollywood!

My definition of Bollywood dance is that it's a movement vocabulary from all over the world, enhanced by intense expression and emotion. With the show, my three choreographers - Subhash Viman, Leena Patel and Sonia Sabri - and I wanted audiences to experience modern India as well as the rich traditions of dance. As such the production features a gamut of styles, from contemporary Bollywood, to classical Kathak, commercial and folk styles, RnB and Pop moves, as well as waltzing. It's a feast for everyone.

Bring on the Bollywood continues to tour the UK. For more dates click here.

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