March 11, 2018
It’s unusual to be in the theatre on a Sunday night. Most are usually dark. Minus pre-publicity, I also had no idea what to expect from Spirit of India, a one-off event, but by the time I arrived at Birmingham’s Hippodrome it was already packed and buzzing with punters and performers both. As soon as this multi-extravaganza got under way I could see why.
Presented by Shiamak Davar, an icon in Indian entertainment, Spirit of India was an all-singing, an all-dancing non-stop feast up of performances springing from community groups all over Britain. In a world where sometimes all the news seems sad and depressing, it’s nice to come across an event that is a pure celebration just of being alive. And that could have been the brief for this marvellous evening set up to mark seventy years since the establishment of the independence of the Indian state after partition.
From tiny tots to seasoned professionals, the evening was a series of non-stop dance created by diverse community groups to celebrate the very essence of India in all its spirituality, its mythology, its history and perhaps most spectacularly its many flamboyant festivals. If the first half of the evening was pure carnival in atmosphere, the second half, with its cast of hundreds, was pure Bollywood, a faultlessly lavish and slickly showbiz extravaganza on a simply massive scale.
This marvellous evening also demonstrated how at ease the Indian legacy is with modern Britain, its performers and audience alike the descendants of those who lived under British Rule and suffered the horrors of drastic partition. Despite two disastrous world wars we still hear so much about international conflict, but this wonderfully inclusive evening showed just how far Britain has come since its colonialist days and how at home in modern Britain are the descendants of those who lived under British rule, most of the performers and audience born here themselves and happy to call it home. Yet as this high-octane evening showed, they have also not forgotten the stupendous heritage and rich ancient culture of their country of origin and still feel a profound nostalgia and reverence for it. That’s important too.
Spirit of India: a truly lovely celebration of colour, spectacle and sheer joie de vivre. Pure entertainment with real live people from all over Britain, all with a strong heart.