Joining a mini-cottage industry that’s responsible for dozens of compilation albums, countless bad remixes and a reality show called K for Kishore is Jhumroo, Kingdom of Dreams’ new musical. Not only does it feature 19 of Kishore Kumar’s most overplayed hits, The Great Brown Yodel himself figures in the play. Jhumroo has been in the works a while, presumably so that the makers could get it just right. Unfortunately, it’s turned out just wrong.
Right from the opening scene, which launches us without preamble into a dance sequence set to “Om Shanti Om”, Jhumroo seems to be working on the assumption that the songs will do the play’s work for it. The plot – that flimsy device linking the musical numbers – concerns young Bholenath and his all-consuming passion for Kishore Kumar. His singing voice, though, is an unmusical bray. This changes when the spirit of Kishoreda, a singing aid from beyond the grave, enters him. Ignoring the fact that he’s coasting on borrowed glory (rather like Jhumroo itself), Bhole enters “India Super Singer” with a mind to woo his co-worker Meena (it’s her favourite TV show). That’s about it for storyline, though we’re subjected to running gags involving a South Indian boss out of central casting, a suspicious prima donna of a judge, and Thakur and Gabbar Singh from Sholay on a suspended tricycle.
Jhumroo will run alongside Zangoora, Kingdom of Dreams’ first musical, and audiences will most likely end up comparing the two. If this happens, it’ll be to Jhumroo’s disadvantage. Zangoora, though formulaic, worked because its leads were genuinely charismatic. Jhumroo’s stars try hard, but fall short. Gaurav Gera is pleasant as Bhole, but he doesn’t command the stage the way Hussain Kuwajerwala did. Shweta Gulati as Meena fares even worse; her character only exists as a reaction to whatever Bhole’s doing. Jhumroo’s choreography is the most inventive part of the show, but the sheer volume of musical numbers – each done with typical Kingdom of Dreams bombast – is exhausting. We love Kishore Kumar, but two and a half hours of songs we’ve heard all our life is too much of a good thing.
Of course, Zangoora didn’t seem like it had it in it to do 640 shows (and counting), so director Vikranth Pawar and his team could well be expecting another hit. However, unless divine intervention works on more than Bhole’s vocal chords, this is unlikely to happen. What’s sad is how one of Hindi cinema’s funniest, most irrepressible figures has become the subject of a play that lacks wit, verve and self-confidence (to the extent that it uses canned applause). “They’re stretching everything. I liked Zangoora better,” one of two kids sitting behind us during the interval said. The other agreed, adding, “I like their shoes.” We couldn’t agree more, though we’d also like to suggest that these particular shoes might have proved a bit too big to fill.
This review was published in Time Out Delhi.