Wizcraft's 4th musical 'Balle Balle' is modern Bollywood’s biggest original Blockbuster- Viraf Sarkari
After the unprecedented success of musicals like Zangoora and Jhumroo, Wizcraft’s fourth and latest production Balle Balle, an aptly named energetic rendition of a Punjabi wedding, is ready to lift its curtains on 9 November 2017 in Mumbai. Ahead Viraf Sarkari, co-founder Wizcraft reveals some spoilers at the heels of its launch.
Q. Wizcraft is amongst the largest full-service event agencies in India. When and why did the idea of producing musicals come to you?
The idea of doing a musical came to me almost like 14-15 years ago when we went to New York and saw some Broadway shows. Went to Paris Moulin Rouge and Las Vegas and saw some shows there too. I remember thinking that India has such a rich and vibrant culture with over 5000 years of history and today the whole world is dancing to the tunes of Bollywood, so why not stage a production that provides holistic family entertainment. Bollywood is our entertainment medium and I wondered why nobody has actually thought about doing a live entertainment show that stays in a location for some time and also travels the world. This is how the idea first came.
Q. You have produced smash-hit musicals like Zangoora, Jhumroo and Jaan-E-Jigar. What according to you has been the main reason for their success?
When we did Zangoora nothing like it existed therefore we created a show that was in the fantasy space with a large-scale production. I put all my experiences producing and directing live events into Zangoora, Jhumroo, Jaan-E-Jigar and now Balle Balle. By the grace of God they have all been very successful. Zangoora has been running for 7 years, with a run of over 2300 shows, Jhumroo has been running for over 4 years with a run over 1500 shows and Jaan-E-Jigar we launched just last year in Dubai Parks and Resorts. So we have 3 successful shows running currently.
Q. Musicals are a symphony of art and theatre at its best. Where does India currently stand in this picture?
The theater industry in India is very small but is a highly talented and passionate industry. People who are into the theater business are into it more for hobby and passion including actors, technicians etc. The production budgets are very small and therefore very few people would take up theater as a profession. We have actually changed that paradigm. We have hired actors, dancer, crew and cast and trained them and given them full-time employment.
Also theatre is mainly seen as a weekend activity. There are plays on Saturdays- Sundays only. Nobody has ventured out into 7 days a week kind of a running model. We have transformed this by following a Broadway, Westend model by staging eight shows in a week. This way we are trying to professionalize the theater industry and the consumer response has been extremely encouraging.
Q. Tell us about Wizcraft's latest musical Balle-Balle?
The thought of Balle Balle has been with me for 7 to 8 years. I had wanted to do it but remained busy with other projects and musicals, so it’s finally happening now. I always wanted to do a wedding musical and more so a Punjabi wedding because my one part of the family is Punjabi, they are a fun lot, they really know how to live life like we Parsi’s do and I think there is a lot of fun in everything they do. Indian weddings are all about song, dance, color and culture and in a way we are actually showcasing our Indian culture through Balle Balle.
I have added a spice of comic elements into the story, characters and everything.
I think everyone around the world would love to go to an Indian wedding musical and ‘Balle Balle’ will serve that need.
Q. When will the musical go on tour and which cities will it visit?
Initially we are keeping this musical in India, in Mumbai we kickoff on 9 November at Bal Gandharva Rang Mandir and then subsequently we will start travelling with shows all over India and the world. We would be accepting bookings from April 2018 onwards and are going to travel the world to places like United Kingdom, Europe, USA, Singapore, Hong Kong, China, Australia, Middle East and Thailand.
Q. While Delhi has Kingdom of Dreams, there is a palpable lack of good infrastructure for musicals in the country. How do you cope with this challenge?
Yes, this is an extremely challenging situation for all producers and directors. When theatres are being built production needs are rarely factored in. Seems like no one wants to understand or plan what kind of space and infrastructure we need behind the stage and on stage. You have got great audience seats, great lobby everything looks great from outside but on stage and behind the stage there is a pure lack of infrastructure.
I am glad I had the opportunity to plan and design theatres at Kingdom of Dreams. I also helped Dubai Parks and Resort in designing the theater then we staged Jaan-E-Jigar. Our shows are large-scale productions and because of that these shows require theatres that can be compatible to the creative ideas that you want in your shows. When we were making Balle Balle we are producing it as a touring show so from the beginning we have not thought Balle Balle as a fitted show so we are high on content, high on script, high on concept and high on music. It’s the first musical where 24 of our actors are singing live in chorus. Balle Balle is a Broadway style musical and we have scaled the production down to fit the theater that we have.
Q. What is the most difficult part about producing a musical?
There are a lot of elements that go into the making of a musical, the first thing is that you need a very good story idea then a great script. Casting is most important and the most difficult thing. There is a quadruple threat in the casting industry because the actor who you have to select has to look the character, should be able to sing, act and dance and getting all this four talents all together into one person as a performer is very difficult to find; we have auditioned thousands of people to select 24 actors for Balle Balle. We have taken fresh aspiring actors and they have been rigorously trained by us for 8 months in fitness, singing, dancing and drama so it important to have the right cast with correct attitude.
Q. How do you procure and nurture the best talent?
We conduct auditions. We advertise and call for entries from aspiring actors and dancers who post their photos videos on our website. Then we shortlist actors and call them for auditions. We conduct auditions in 7 - 8 cities and then we select and compile all the audition data together. Then we organize workshops with the shortlisted actors for approx. 4 days and then we conduct the last audition after the workshop to see who is performing the best and select the finest from there.
Q. Please give us a teaser of Balle-Balle in your own words.
Balle Balle is a Bollywood Musical Comedy. It is a hilarious heartfelt and revolves around the chaos of love, arranged marriages and weddings. It is modern Bollywood’s biggest original Blockbuster and a glorious addition to the world of family-friendly musicals. Bursting with color, invention and spectacle, Balle Balle flits between comic zip and dramatic grit as it immerses the audience immediately into the days’ long affair that is the decadent, colorful process of Indian weddings. This captivating revue has exquisitely worked-out its lavish physical details with the brightest talents enacting the bumbling romances of multiple star-crossed lovers in an exuberant mix of iconic Bollywood songs, sumptuous costumes, breathtaking visual sets and sizzling choreography.
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