TORONTO (Reuters Life!) - The A-list of Bollywood is on a mission -- to take the glitz and glamour of Indian cinema to the rest of the world.
Opening in Toronto on Friday, the Unforgettable Tour is billed as the biggest live Bollywood performance outside the subcontinent, featuring Bollywood’s star couple, actress and former Miss World Aishwarya Rai and her husband, Abhishek Bachchan, father-in-law Amitabh Bachchan and a host of other Indian superstars.
The three-hour singing and dancing extravaganza is to be performed in 11 cities across North America, Europe and the Caribbean between now and August 29 with a cast of 150.
Actress Shilpa Shetty, known to British audiences for her controversial appearance on the reality TV show “Celebrity Big Brother,” is set to join the London leg of the tour.
Rai Bachchan, the most recognizable of the stars outside of India, acknowledged that Bollywood is starting to appeal to an international audience, but the tour’s goal was not to gain more Western fans.
“The fact that these shows are so welcomed with such enthusiasm and love by the audience in itself reiterates the reach of our cinema, of our film industry, and the way people embrace it,” she told a camera-flooded press conference.
While Bollywood produces more movies each year than Hollywood, often topping three hours and featuring extended musical numbers, most of its stars are unknown outside of Asia with Amitabh and Abhishek Bachchan household names in India, but struggling for international recognition.
Amitabh Bachchan, dressed in sunglasses, jeans and a black motorcycle jacket, said the tour’s purpose is to “just to be with the fans and spend some time with them...”
“If you set out once to one city, you need to go to all of them. There are fans all over the place,” said Bachchan, nicknamed “Big B” in India.
The Toronto production company, Ethnic Guru, said the time was right for a Bollywood global tour.
“It’s taken a long time, but the sophistication in the production value of Indian cinema is now omnipresent and at par with North American standards,” said Moe Jiwan, production manager of Ethnic Guru.
“It’s not so much a breakout into the North American market as it is the North American market sort of embracing this type of entertainment and therefore crossing over,” he said.
Toronto, where the Bachchans premiered the film “Guru” last year, is home to hundreds of thousands of Southeast Asians, some of whom criticized the tour’s ticket prices.
With tickets originally priced from approximately C$100 to C$300 ($99 to $298) a seat, the show has still not sold out its 10,000 seats.
“I believe that they are very fantabulous people and they are very good actors,” said 17-year-old Taseer Jannat, who works at a small grocery store in Little India.
“I know that they are big stars and they’re famous people but I can’t afford a ticket.”
Editing by Leslie Gevirtz