Talented high school students and professional dancers shared the stage at the Cary Arts Center on Friday, Nov. 16th, for a thoroughly delightful Bollywood version of a high school musical. Produced by Aakriti Kathak Academy and OORJA Productions and sponsored by local Cary companies, Rangeela Revisited | Bollywood Broadway Show | Teen Romantic Comedy raised funds for the Kiran agency, which provides services for South Asian victims of domestic violence. The show, which played to a packed theater, was the perfect antidote to a dreary week of old rainy days, bringing smiles to the audience’s faces, both young and old.
Billed as a family-friendly show, the performance opens with two high school students who emcee the show, introducing the people behind the scenes before the play starts and returning to introduce all of the actors and dancers at the show’s conclusion. They introduce the play — a traditional boy-meets-girl, boy-loses-girl, boy-and-girl-fall-in-love story — and set the scene for the main characters to take over the stage.
During a rousing group dance, best friends Armaan (Yatish Yerramola) and Randy (Vishaal Chaganti) are introduced; and right away, it’s obvious that these boys not only dance like professionals but can act! Their style blends the Bollywood dance moves with some that mimic beat boys or street dancers — active, energetic, and full of attitude.
Yerramola immediately established himself as a teen full of himself, self-confident and bigger-than-life. He’s definitely one to watch and could easily step off the stage and onto the screen. Though he’s the most fun as the cocky, clueless teen, his character arc reveals an inner doubt in himself that all teens experience at least once before they settle into adult life.
Chaganti as Randy offers the perfect foil to Yerramola’s bad boy, but he doesn’t blend into the background. Instead, Chaganti is the wise friend who backs up Yerramola, teaching him that sometimes what’s right in front of you is what you should grasp and hold tight.
The girls who explore their own shift from adolescence to young women also undergo a transformation throughout the play. Shivani (Eecha Shakthy) has a crush on Armaan/Yerramola and requests the help of her friend Monica (Neha Ramkumar) in setting up a meeting for the four of them, then disappearing with Randy to give her a chance to talk to Armaan alone. Naturally, the meeting turns into a disaster. Armaan is clueless and Shivani, who takes Monica’s offer to help her become glamorous, is left high and dry.
Through a series of misadventures, Shivani continues to pursue Armaan, and he doesn’t realize she’s interested until it’s too late — but it’s not the story that’s the star here. It’s the dancing and the four major characters, who appear to relax into their roles as the play unfolds.
Shakthy is an exceptional Bollywood dancer who truly shines when she dances alone or with a group. She’s light, full of personality, sharp, and precise in her movements. Because the dance style is such a mash-up of other styles (i.e., traditional Indian folk dance, mixed with Western style dancing, such as hip-hop, Cabaret, or disco), dancers need to be comfortable in all, and Shakthy smoothly moves from the energetic squats and jumps to high-flying lifts and booty-shaking hip-hop. She’s just as engaging an actress as she is a dancer, employing an exaggerated teenage drawl when trying to control her temper with Armaan.
Shivani’s best friend Monica (played by Neha Ramkumar) gets less time on stage than the other three, but her moments are comic (especially the scene where the girls mimic a cell phone conversation) and understanding. She knows Shivani and Armaan belong together, but no matter what she does, they fail to meet the mark. Monica/Ramkumar’s exasperation, expressed in hand gestures and head bobs, is a perfect foil to her head-in-the-clouds friend, and one wants to see Monica find her happiness, as well.
Throughout the play, the lead actors become part of a larger group of dancers, joining a bevy of children for a cute fantasy dance or moving through a swiftly twirling troupe of adult women with incredible skill.
One of the moments the audience liked best was a sensual duet by choreographers Kriti Rakesh and Alekh Jha (who also directed the show). Set against a video screen image of rolling dunes, the couple shared their considerable skills in a beautiful dance dressed in traditional clothes.
All in all, the cast numbered close to 50, ranging in age from approximately 6 to 60+ (the hilarious Dad, Ramesh Kalagnanam stole the show whenever he was on stage), put on a professional and absolutely wonderful performance.
Watch for more OORJA Productions in the Morrisville/Cary area throughout the coming year.
SECOND OPINION: Nov. 17th Cary, NC The Falcon News Feed (Green Hope High School) preview Uma Bhat: http://falconnewsfeed.com/16399/student-life/entertainment/lights-camera-bollywood-on-broadway-esha-shakethy-acts-in-remake-of-rangeela.
RANGEELA REVISITED: | Bollywood Broadway Show | Teen Romantic Comedy (Aakriti Kathak Academy and OORJA Productions, Nov. 16 at the Cary Arts Center in Cary, NC).
VIDEO PREVIEWS: https://www.facebook.com/alekh.jha.3/videos/2384935438234607/ and https://www.facebook.com/oorjaproductions/videos/283527049036005/.
Aakriti Kathak Academy: http://aakritikathakacademy.weebly.com/ and https://www.facebook.com/aakritikathakacademy/.
OORJA Productions: http://www.naachmasala.net/oorja/ and https://www.facebook.com/oorjaproductions/.
VENUE: https://www.townofcary.org/recreation-enjoyment/facilities/cary-arts-center and https://www.facebook.com/pages/Cary-Arts-Center/235735853122351.
[RUN HAS CONCLUDED.]
Dawn Reno Langley is the award-winning author of The Mourning Parade, as well as other novels, children’s books, nonfiction books, essays, short stories, poems, and articles. She is the creator of The Writer’s Hand Journals and runs workshops on using journals in every walk of life. A Fulbright Scholar, she holds the MFA in Fiction from Vermont College of Fine Arts in Montpelier, VT, and the PhD in Interdisciplinary Studies from Union Institute and University. She lives in Durham with her dog, Izzy. To read all of Dawn Langley’s Triangle Review reviews online at Triangle Arts and Entertainment, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/author/dawn-reno-langle/.