Direct from Broadway: Beauty and the Beast is coming to India

  • Sarit Ray, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
  • Updated: Sep 18, 2015 13:12 IST
Disney's animated Beauty and the Beast released in 1991

We’re meeting Siddharth Roy Kapur, MD, Disney India, at his office in Andheri (E). Just a couple of days back, the man was on stage, making an announcement that could change the idea of live entertainment in the city.

A full-fledged Indian production of the Broadway musical Beauty and the Beast in Mumbai (followed by Delhi) isn’t something you hear of every day.

Siddharth Roy Kapoor

Siddharth Roy Kapur, MD, Disney India.

We ask him for details:

Why Beauty and the Beast?
It’s a simple, easy-to-follow story about love and redemption, about what you are versus what you’d like to be. Also, the film (which released in 1991) has a global resonance.

Does an ‘Indian adaptation’ mean princes turn into rajkumars?
No, the script stays unchanged. It’s the same music, too, but recreated by musicians here. We’ve reimagined the scale of the show, and I daresay it’s larger than it is on Broadway. We’re thinking 2,500 people per show (in Mumbai and Delhi), so that’s bigger than the audience there (1,500 people).

Isn’t an English show elitist, when our biggest film industry is in Hindi?
We debated that. English is the first, or second, language for a lot of people in our cities. And since it’s an iconic Broadway show, we decided to bring it here in English. With movies, you’re trying to reach millions; with theatre, you’re trying to reach thousands. So I don’t think that the language will be an issue. We can, of course, do local languages later.

Will the NSCI in Worli be the permanent venue for the musical?
The NSCI is a great venue for now. Hopefully, in three to five years, there will be other venues. But it won’t be a resident show, the way Broadway shows are, and play every day at the same place for years. That culture in India is going to take years.

A constant complaint in Mumbai is the lack of venues. Do you think we could eventually get a dedicated neighbourhood, like Broadway, or the West End in London?
Something that big will need a strong initiative by the local government, and it will only come with the success of theatre and live entertainment. If it does happen, my guess is, it will be in south Mumbai, which has open spaces.

Broadway, over the years, has produced mainstream Hollywood talent, and movie actors have come to do Broadway. Do you think the same might happen here?
I’m sure the exchange will happen. The kind of talent we saw during auditions is staggering. We got around 8,000 entries, did around 1,000 auditions, and narrowed down to 18 principal cast, and a 100-strong overall cast. Since we’re involved in TV and the movie business, it will be great for us to use this as a funnel, from where the talent goes to other industries.

If Disney is investing in niche, live entertainment, why doesn’t it also invest in international-quality animated cinema?
To be candid, we’re used to watching animation for free, on television. So, at the movies, we’d rather spend Rs200 to see Salman Khan instead. Inside Out did well here; but in terms of the market here versus the west, I think it’ll be a decade before animation can catch up with live action.

If there are takers for musicals, surely there are takers for Disneyland India. It takes a lot of time and money, research to determine viability, land acquisition… So, in the distant future, it will happen. But there are no immediate plans.

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