NPL Theatre are well known for tackling subjects that often don't get an outing in mainstream theatre; previous work has included the thorny issue of Scottish sectarianism. Here they give a voice to another often overlooked part of Scottish society, the Asian community.
What starts as a vibrant comedy about friendship and dreams soon takes a darker turn in this new work by Mani Sumal (Gurjit) and Uhmar Ahmed (Raza). In How to Make a Killing in Bollywood, two best friends quit their jobs in a takeaway restaurant and head to India to pursue their Bollywood fantasies.
Raza is an unemployed actor frustrated with life at the family restaurant. Tired of being cast as a corner shop worker, taxi driver or suicide bomber and still harbouring dreams of Bollywood stardom, he persuades the reluctant Gurjit to pack his bags and go to India. As they step off the plane Raza falls instantly in love with the place, while Gurjit bemoans the squalid surroundings, poverty, dirt and oppressive heat. As they begin to pursue their dreams events don't quite go to plan and their friendship is tested to its limits. Raza descends to the depths of despair, embroiled with a manipulative prostitute with a little black book of Bollywood contacts, whilst Gurjit gradually begins to see the beauty in the vast country and ultimately achieves the thing that Raza so desperately wants.
Punctuated with well-choreographed, vibrant Bollywood style dance numbers and staged on a minimal but effective set (a few wooden boxes, a telephone and a bead curtain), the story takes us from the Magic Grill takeaway to the teeming streets of Mumbai at cracking pace.
Both men ably manage their character's personality changes with aplomb; my only gripe would be with the melodramatic monologues used at points to drive the story. However, the actors get to the dramatic climax and deliver the final scene with power. Limited to an hour's running time, the storyline does take a swift leap from comedy to impending tragedy but it's entirely forgivable given the time constraints. There's insightful dialogue about the acting profession, ‘They don't see you as an actor who happens to be Asian, you'll always be an Asian actor’ and the racial prejudices between India and Pakistan. The inclusion of some classic Bollywood songs is also a nice touch.
All in all an excellent hour's entertainment and an insightful look into the lives of Asians in Scotland.