BWW Interview: THEATRE ARTISTS VISHAAL ASRANI And Jiji Subi On Bringing Fairytales On Theatre In India
Theatre artists Vishaal Asrani and Jiji Subi have been infusing a fresh breath in the theatre scene in India.
While Vishaal Asrani not only heads, VAIPA (Vishaal Asrani's Institute Of Performing Arts), a drama institute in India, he is also an examiner on the international panel of the Trinity College, London. Vishaal's impressive repertoire of work includes a huge selection of children's plays such as Santa Meets Cinderella, The Wizard of Oz, Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, The Sound of Music, Little Mermaid amongst many others. Jiji Subi who is an actor, director and writer heads the Vishaal Asrani Institute of Performing Arts along with Asrani. He has co-produced many Broadway style plays in India. The duo who are recently out with their newest offering -- Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs chat with BWW on Broadway style theatre in India and the need for the fairytales on stage.
Why did you think about bringing the fairytale to stage -- a story most of us may have heard or seen before
Vishaal: Both Jiji (my co-director) and I truly believe that Fairy tales are timeless. We just need to present them in a way that goes down well with the kids of today. In the past too we have done large scale versions of fairy tales such as THE LITLLE MERMAID, THE WIZARD OF OZ, BEUATY AND THE BEAST, SANTA MEETS CINDERELLA etc...
Jiji:Our version of the SNOW WHITE has many new characters, fabulous songs and dances and great costumes. Not to mention there many important life lessons that the children in the audience take home with them. Being teachers, we feel that the shows we do, must besides entertaining, also send a message out to the audience. After all what better way to learn than through ART.
The evil Queen in our story does not die, like in the original tale, in fact, she turns over a new leaf and is given a second chance. This is what we want the kids to learn and understand. It's never too late to say SORRY and turn around.
2. You say its a broadway style presentation. Tell us more about it
JIJI : The show is a 75 minute spectacular with singing, dancing, elaborate moving sets, led screens and visuals that have been specially designed for the show and has all that a Broadway style musical does. The talking mirror is the highlight of the show and has been created using the latest technology.
Vishaal: The whole feel of the show is larger than life and the audience is transported into the enchanted land of fairy tales once the show begins. The show has amazing choreography and the outstanding music is by BILL FRANCEOUR of the PIONEER DRAMA COMPANY USA.
3. Tell us more about your production company and what are the shows in the pipeline
Vishaal: Jiji and I are both primarily teachers. We have our own institute called VAIPA (Vishaal Asrani's Institute Of Performing arts) which has been training children in the field of Drama and theatre for 27 years now. We have also been international examiners on the board of THE TRINITY COLLEGE LONDON.
The students of our institute are trained, then shortlisted and after an audition process are then made to undergo an intensive workshop before they are put on the professional stage. Hence all our shows have professional adult actors and also students from the institute. This is our USP. Jiji and I, are a two man army. We do everything from sound recordings, to scripting, to designing the set, the led visuals, choreography and even making the costumes.
Jiji: We also have been collaborating with artistes from abroad and bringing wonderful shows to India. We brought down "Jonathan David Bass" -THE ILLUSIONIST from Las Vegas and New York last year and travelled all over the country with his unique show. We also brought down Tasha Leaper, who is the NO#1 Madonna tribute Artiste in the world from the UK for shows at THE ROYAL OPERA HOUSE (Mumbai) in March 2019.
We have two new family shows coming up this year, one in September and then another Christmas spectacular in December. We will be announcing them in the next couple of months.
4. Would you say that there is a rise of the musicals on Indian stage
Jiji:Of course there is. A lot of theatre companies are attempting musicals now and we are glad for it. This is a genre which is huge in the west and it is high time the we made it popular in India too.
However, we feel, that a musical is one of the toughest genres of theatre and needs to be tackled with finesse. The Indian audience, travels a lot and knows what quality theatre is.. Hence attention to every detail in a production like this is key.
Vishaal: Children today are more aware and savvy with the internet making this world a much smaller place, where everything is accessible at the click of a mouse. Kids today will not be satisfied with sub standard productions and hence the shows must be at par with what one sees abroad.
5. What theatre in India or abroad recently caught your eye
Vishaal: We travel to New York or London every summer to try and watch the latest shows. Last June, we watched HARRY POTTER AND THE CURSED CHILD in London and both of us were blown away at the theatrical spectacular that it is.
Jiji: We also watched the world premiere of TINA-THE MUSICAL based on the life of the iconic Tina Turner and, must say it has to be one of the finest productions on the WEST END in the last 10 years.