Bollywood comes to East London
Next week sees the opening of a filmtastic new play that is set to get the audience dancing in the aisles of the Theatre Royal Stratford. Wah! Wah! Girls originally opened at the Sadler’s Wells earlier this year and tells the heartwarming tale of a local dance group, who’s wildest dreams are about to come true. Set in East London in 2012, it’s got all the masala ingredients you’d expect including love, laughs and villains. Inspired by the Mujra dancers, who for generations have entertained the rich and powerful in India with their spellbinding performances of dance and song, Wah! Wah! Girls celebrates both the ancient form of Mujra dance and new styles and includes some classic movie music such as Cholike Peechekya-Hai from Khalnayak (1993), Dil Cheez Hya-Hai from Umrao Jaan (1981) and Maar Daala from the film Devdas (2002). Parminder Kaur caught up with one of show’s stars Japjit Kaur to find out what it’s like starring in such magical, musical production.
Congratulations on being cast in Wah! Wah! Girls, how has it been so far?
It’s been fantastic! I have loved every minute of the production. I am usually involved with the music side of things but in Wah! Wah! I’ve been acting, singing and dancing and it’s been amazing.
We hear you even took it onto breakfast television! Tell us more!
What an experience! We were on This Morning and met Phil and Holly on set and supermodel Elle Macpherson just happened to be there too. Wah! Wah! Girls deals with issues around women, hierarchy and oppression which are not confined to the Asian culture so for us it’s important to get the show mainstream exposure as much as it is to appeal to the Asians. We’ve found that audiences of all backgrounds have been able to connect to our characters and this is great because it shows that the human spirit is universal irrespective of culture.
How did you get involved with the play?
The creatives of the show were looking for a Hindi singer so I was called to audition. I initially thought I was being seen as a singer-songwriter but after my audition the director Emma Rice said she’d like me to play a character. I was delighted! My role is quite ethereal. I play ‘Devi’, an angel who is present throughout the show and weaves in and out of the story whilst also narrating it.
Wow! So you became an actress over night. That must have been fun?
Definitely! I’m very fond of acting and had been involved in various acting projects. I believe we have every emotion inside us but there are only a handful that we go to by default. Acting has allowed me to is explore those emotions that I don't naturally go to, whilst breaking out of my own habits.
You were the Music Director of the original Olivier Award Winning play Rafta Rafta. How did you feel when you heard it was being made into a feature film All In Good Time?
I was delighted. Rafta Rafta was my first play so that was really special in itself. Adapting the play for the film was an interesting process because some things that worked for the play didn't necessarily work for the film and vice versa.
What was it like working on the music score for the film?
It was great fun. Even the smallest piece of music has to evoke exactly the right kind of emotion to serve the scene so the level of detail that goes into composing even a 10 second cue is phenomenal. It was great working with Niraj Chag the composer, who has also created the music for Wah! Wah! He can hear details that are inaudible to most ears. Writing and recording Shu Bu Bu Bu was great as I got to play around with the 70’s Bollywood cabaret style of music.
I have just finished working on The BBC Space project called Sita O Sita which will be releasing soon. I also recently worked as a vocal coach on the new RSC production of Much Ado About Nothing. Svara Kanti has been touring again this year so I've been very busy travelling, rehearsing, and performing and that will continue for the rest of the year.
The Wah! Wah! Girls is showing at The Theatre Royal in Stratford from September 6th to 29th. For more information visit www.stratfordeast.com or call the box office 020 8534 0310.