Review: Frankie Goes to Bollywood hits HOME

Every Bollywood enthusiast has a story of how, when and why they fell in love with the industry. 

Even though there is a common cheese factor in production sometimes – the emotional depth, music, dance and production behind it all is why so many cultures appreciate Bollywood and why many British people love to get lost in the fantasy even though it is far from their cultural roots. 

A clear indication of this love for Bollywood was from the lively pre-show entertainment at the musical Frankie Goes to Bollywood at HOME, where Ria Meera Munshi, a multi-award winning dancer and TV choreographer, performed bhangra to a range of energetic Bollywood music – where the audience shortly joined in with the dancing whilst broadcasting the extravagant South Asian clothing they wore to the musical. 

Speaking of extravagant outfits – the outfits were all so beautiful and I knew if I had access to the wardrobe department I’d take them and never look back. 

From graceful long Gujarati skirts to chic Asian attire, everyone had a main character moment on stage – it’d be impossible not to with all the sequin ensembles that accompanied the clothes.

The musical itself strikes a perfect balance between glamour, humour and depth. 

It’s inspired by real stories of British women caught in Mumbai – which holds one of the largest centres of film production in the world. 

The musical stars Frankie (Laila Zaidi), a small-town Milton Keynes girl who wishes to pursue her late mother’s dream (Helen K Wint) of becoming a Bollywood star, having grown up with a love for the entertainment industry. 

The story begins with Frankie living a modest life with her best friend Goldy (Katie Stasi) and after Frankie is noticed by trainee director Prem (Navin Kundra), she takes a leap of faith and moves to India. 

Navin Kundra is a versatile talent – as a fan of his music I was shocked but delighted to see him in the cast list. 

With its well timed interval, the musical explored both the romanticised idea and harsh realities that actually lie beneath the surface of the Bollywood industry.

The Bollywood industry, like many other entertainment industries worldwide, has deeply rooted issues with misogyny and the musical touches on these issues with a high level of detail. 

It discusses the lack of representation for women in obtaining more complex roles and during the play, Frankie was shown getting objectified due to her young age and beauty. 

This is a reflection of how both misogyny and cultural bias affects the industry as younger women are considered more marketable and suitable in romantic plot lines, even though the men they’re acting with are accepted for being three times their age.

In the respectable words of Goldy (Katie Stasi): “You run around a tree with some fat guy old enough to be your dad.”

The humour throughout the musical covered a wide range of subjects – all relatable to those that are South Asian and easy to understand for those that aren’t. 

The title of the musical itself is a turn on the 80s British pop group Frankie Goes to Hollywood – I’m sure people were expecting the colonisation and broken mother tongue jokes. 

A woman sat next to me certainly appreciated the little details as she cackled when realising Frankie had a Union Jack purse in her possession – whilst living in India. 

Other issues in the musical included women being sexually exploited and harassed in exchange for roles: Frankie was inappropriately touched or mistreated by her older industry plant of a boyfriend – who never understood the rise to fame struggle.

The musical features a variety of dances and songs that depict Frankie’s highs and lows – some humorous and light, others sombre.

Honestly I think the fact that the majority of the backing dancers were dancing with heels added another level of admiration for the performance and also – it is not often that you hear a track about someone singing about their baldness or the art of stripping. 

The seamless transition between singing, acting and outfit changes were impressive to say the least and the stage setup that accompanied – vibrant and captivating. 

One of my favourite aspects of the musical was how it explores the identity crisis that Frankie encountered of being caught between two worlds and the feelings of not completely belonging to either culture – it is definitely a relatable message to people of colour who weren’t born and raised in their country of origin.

The celebration of women empowerment in the entertainment industry and highlighting the importance of brown sisterhood in this musical was heartwarming – and a message that will certainly stick with this brown girl for a long time.

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