When in Delhi, do as the Delhiites do — follow the odd-even, quips Genie in the Broadway-style musical adaptation of the classic Disney tale of “Aladdin”.
In telling the romantic and magical story of Aladdin, Jasmine and Genie, this “desi” musical makes subtle, but comedic statements, leaving the audience not just enraptured by the beauty of the stage production, but also making them laugh out loud about life’s simple realities. The Delhiite swipe was at Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s odd-even scheme for private vehicles in the city.
A part English-part Hindi musical, the story — as in Disney’s original 1992 animated fantasy film – “Aladdin” shows how a street urchin, described as a “diamond in the rough”, manages to get hold of a magic lamp, from which emerges a genie who helps him woo Princess Jasmine.
It is only when the Genie appears in the Indian musical that you hear dialogues in Hindi.
“Which language are you talking in?” Aladdin asks the Genie.
Genie has a ready reply as he apes an accent in a viral online video: “Hindi nahi aati (you don’t know Hindi)? You, South Delhi types, Bhaiyyaji.”
When Aladdin asks him: “You stay in this ‘chirag’ (the magic lamp)?”, Genie says, “No, I stay in Karol Bagh.”
Genie, essayed brilliantly by the multi-talented actor Mantra, in the hope of freedom, once wonders: “I will also get freedom. I will also do a 9 to 5 job. I will also get stuck in the Noida-Gurgaon traffic. Wow.”
At another point, when Genie finds out that his new-found “Aaka” is named Aladdin, he comments: “You could have kept some normal name. What is this Aladdin? You could have called yourself Ricky, Mickey, Shonald, Donald.”
Aladdin promptly says: “Nahi, nahi bhai, Donald nahi. Iss duniya mein is waqt ek hi Donald bahut hai (No no, only one Donald is enough in this world right now)”, in a jibe at US President Donald Trump.
The musical also points its barbs at liquor baron Vijay Mallya, who is absconding after a bank fraud case.
“Maal-liya (taking the loot) aur Vijay gaya (Vijay has gone),” says the Genie.
On being prodded by Aladdin about what he meant, Genie said: “Matlab kuch logon ko samajh aa gaya (Some people have understood it).”
“Aladdin” also makes a statement or two about women and their freedom of choice.
Princess Jasmine, troubled by her father’s constant agony over how she keeps turning down suitors for marriage, wonders what’s wrong about a girl not being married. And a character comments: “Talk about being in a fairytale.”
And when Genie tells Aladdin that, well, he is a genie, he gets to hear: “Genies are a myth… Like happy marriages.”
It is these moments that elicit laughter and contemplation in a show which also holds the audience’s attention with its colourful costumes, multiple sets, props and performances — and also makes you realise why everyone in the country’s entertainment industry keeps saying “India’s got talent”.
Siddharth Menon as Aladdin, Kira Narayanan as Jasmine, Vikrant Chaturvedi as Jafar, Dhruv Lohumi as Lago and Deven Khote as Sultan, as well as the immediate supporting cast, make a mark as they sing, act and dance live for a two-hour show in a format that is new to the live entertainment scene in India.
Disney earlier brought a “Beauty & The Beast” adaptation, which was better in production values and perhaps larger in scale than “Aladdin”. But all in all, these experiences are leaving the audience asking for more.
“Aladdin”, produced by BookMyShow and directed by Shruti Sharma, is playing at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium here till July 15