Monday 10 June 2013

The BBC Brings Bizet to Bollywood Via Bradford

Last night the city of Bradford was turned into a film set for Bollywood Carmen Live. BBC Three's Bollywood adaptation of Bizet's opera was broadcast live from the centre of Bradford.

It featured well-known faces including Meera Syal, Preeya Khalidas and Abhay Deol. Honey Kalaria did the choreography and taught the 3,000 members of the audience a dance routine. It was an ambitious project and it was nice to see something Bollywood inspired on the TV.

Music is a significant part in opera and Bollywood films. However Bollywood Carmen Live was let down by the music and the songs. Kuljit Bhamra had arranged the music and I was looking forward to Bizet's score fused with Desi beats. Instead there was a mix of contemporary English pop songs, overplayed Bollywood tunes and the desecration of some Bollywood classics.

Songs by Rihanna, Adele and Kesha were used in the retelling of Carmen. Why were they in the show when they have no connection to  Bollywood or Bizet? The title song from Khabi Khabie and Hari Krishna Hari Ram were given English lyrics and the whole effect was cringe worthy. Chammak Challo, Panjabi MC's Mundiya To Bach Ke and the Pussycat Doll's version of Jai Ho were also used. These songs are good, but they are old,  use western vocalists and arguably are not typical Bollywood songs. Mundiya is over 10 years old - it's as if the last decade of bhangra never happened. 

There was one stand out song in the show. Why This Kolaveri Di was mashed up with Crazy by Gnarls Barkley. It had a dubstep theme and some brilliant choreography from So You Think You Can Dance winner Matt Flint.

Bollywood Carmen Live celebrated the British Asian community - so why didn't  producers, singers and musicians in the community get involved? There are numerous up and coming talented people who could have made some  great original songs or even remixed the old ones.

One of the songs in show was by Bradford's own RDB in collaboration with MoFolactic and was more original than the others. Their bhangra track worked in themes from Bizet's score. However, the track was in the opening scene and the actors talked over it so we will have to wait a week to hear it properly until it is released on iTunes.

Perhaps the producers wanted to make the show accessible to non-Asian audience members and so used English songs and English lyrics. I think subtitles over Hindi songs would have been more authentic and catered for those who do not speak any Indian languages. Why did Bollywood have to be dumbed down to be inclusive? This was a Bollywood opera, not an English pop concert.

Bollywood Carmen Live was an amazing project. It's disappointing that the music was terrible. Bollywood is regularly accused of plagiarism and being unoriginal. I did not think the BBC would commit the same crimes as Bollywood when it tried to recreate its magic.

Bollywood Carmen Live is available to watch on the BBC iplayer.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Absolutely awfu. Made me cringe so much. Terrible acting. 'Carmen'-Preeya whatever I found very deluded, Meera syal just embarrassing....absolutely awful the whole thing, can't believe so much money was spent on it and nobody from the producers, directors to crew could see how appauling it was. No way is this a tribute to the artistic and tasteful Bollywood movies of the past. Plesae don't let this happen again (!)