Rahul daCunha: ‘Sing India Sing’ questions how far we are prepared to push for success

On the rare chance that you’re looking for a nice and slow, smell-the-daisies kind of musical, kindly excuse. Sing India Sing is more the kind of theatrical experience to leave your heart properly thumping, entertaining you even as it leaves you thinking… An amusing millennial take on theatre, Sing India Sing is India’s first original musical production dealing with our current fascination with making it big at all costs. Set amidst the scenario of a talent contest where only four singers who are picked from thousands of aspirants, are pitted against each other, it’s a no-holds-barred battle of both talent and personality. With auditoriums packing in the crowds, it’s time to catch up with adman and playwright Rahul daCunha, who shares credit for the story and script with Bugs Bhargava Krishna.

Creator of India’s first original musical… is it a vindication of all that went into creating Sing India Sing?
It feels amazing, especially because Bugs Bhargava and I spent so long writing it, that when we were able to get the funds and cast and crew to mount it, that was a feeling of great relief. Some crucial things came into play — one was the great Clinton Cerejo agreeing to compose the music. The second was Aadyam coming on board, then Brian Tellis showing interest and then Kumarmangalam Birla’s passion for theatre. And then Nadir Khan became our director…and he just switched on the brilliance that became the final show. And the greatest joy comes from the audiences loving it, because with any original piece of work there is no reference point…

Rahul daCunha: ‘Sing India Sing’ questions how far we are prepared to push for success

Sing India Sing makes some searing comments on our society today. Do you feel we live in times of extreme competition and obsession with success?
Yes, it also asks the question, what is our limit? How far are we prepared to push for success…what is our limit? Lines
are blurred now between ethics and non-ethics.

Can you take us through some of the challenges you encountered as a playwright?
The biggest challenge was the fact that Bugs and I took the call that we would tell the entire story through song. No dialogue at all. So it became vital that every song had to take the plot forward — also personally I am a playwright, writing lyrics was a challenge, fulfilling but a challenge.

Watching the play take on a life of its own, has it stayed true to your original vision for it?
Yes, Nadir Khan is a true magician…he really internalised the essence of our vision and took it forward superbly.

What was the experience like of collaborating with Bugs Bhargava on its writing? What are the pros and cons of writing together?
It was a magical union. At one point, Nadir said, that we were two people but one mind, that’s how fluid the lyrics were. Didn’t seem like two people were writing. The two of us have no ego. That’s the beauty. Sing India Sing is the first of many musical partnerships between us. In fact, we are writing one slated for late 2020.

Which is your favourite character in the play?
Honestly, I love all of them. I’m happy that we managed to create a real modern villain in the character of Channel. I have a special place in my heart for the Hashtags, (the four personifications of tweets)

Going back to your childhood, what was your first experience of the theatre? When did the magic really hit you?
I think watching Jesus Christ Superstar in 1980 in London on the WestEnd was life-changing. Of course, the plays of Alyque and Pearl Padamsee in the 1970s were great too.

What is your reading of theatre today in India? Anything in particular that excites/ worries you?
I would say that our Indian theatre, especially in English, is always evolving. Sponsors and audiences alike are prepared to pay out and shell out for big scale productions. Aladdin, Mughal-e-Azam, Beauty and the Beast and us have all found success on the big stage. Aadyam has been a wonderful game changer for our theatre. The experimental theatre, especially at Prithvi, will always be fine, I am worried for the fate for the mid-scale play.

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