Shakalaka Baby!


With the prolific Indian film industry both the inspiration and the setting for the show, Bombay Dreams is a feast for the senses. Produced by Andrew Lloyd Webber, and with music by phenomenal Indian composer A R Rahman, the show brought Bollywood to the West End.

It tells the story of Akaash, a young slum dweller, who dreams of becoming a huge movie star, and of his fateful encounter with beautiful Priya, the daughter of one of Bollywood’s greatest film directors. Can he achieve his dream of stardom or will this come at a price? Will Akaash and Priya’s love survive? And will they find, like in all the best Bollywood movies, their happy ending?

Featuring a script by Meera Syal with lyrics by Don Black, the original London production of Bombay Dreams opened on June 16th 2002 and ran for two highly successful years at the Apollo Victoria Theatre.

“Rahman’s wonderfully fresh, exciting and sometimes yearningly romantic score.”


“The energy and melodies linger – making Bollywood in the West End seem like destiny.”


“You can’t help being seduced by its energetic charm.”


“The musical is a lavish spectacle.”


“Spectacular epic, a musical fairytale.”


“Bombay Dreams is a spectacular tribute to Bollywood.”


“With AR Rahman’s kickin’ music it’s a great night out.”


“Bravo for Bollywood. But how about a rousing cheer for Andrew Lloyd Webber.”


Andrew Lloyd Webber's Bombay Dream...

The Inspiration
Shekhar Kapur
A R Rahman
The Inspiration

I was cooking lunch when a song lured me away from the stoves.

I have been fascinated by what Westerners call, to most Indian film-makers’ indignation, Bollywood, for several years. It all began thus. About a decade ago on Saturday mornings, Channel 4 showed a selection of popular Hindi movies in a series which was called Movie Mahal. On one such Saturday one of these films was playing on my kitchen TV. I was cooking lunch when a song lured me away from the stoves.

Three lines of gorgeous girls were dancing for a few seated blokes with turbans whilst one girl moved demurely and sang in an abnormally high chest voice. Very good this song was too. Unfortunately I forgot to write down the name of the movie. To this day I haven’t traced it. Increasingly I became interested in contemporary popular Indian music and the direction it was taking. Talvin Singh, in particular, struck me as introducing complex rhythms to a Western audience in a way that was accessible and totally couched in the sounds of today.

Shekhar Kapur

A couple of years later I was introduced at lunch to the film Director Shekhar Kapur. Shekhar is best known for his Indian movie Bandit Queen and the drama Elizabeth starring Cate Blanchett as Good Queen Bess. Partly out of small talk, partly out of genuine curiosity I asked him about Bollywood. He told me that dozens of movie musicals were made in India in any one year.

I was fascinated. How could I not be when he told me that on any one night in Britain more Asians will see a musical on the screen than will a London audience see one on the stage. So I mentioned the unknown song. Shekhar volunteered to find it. He sent me a couple of videos that he compiled of dozens of Bollywood’s greatest hits. I took the videos on holiday and chucked them on in the background whilst the kids were playing in the garden.

I never found that song but I discovered something else. One in every five songs evinced a melody of pure gorgeousness. I would hear a complex rhythm or a level of musical invention on a single “drone” note that had me realise that I could be listening to something that I had always hoped would happen, the revitalisation of popular melody from somewhere far removed from Western Europe and America

20 years ago I predicted that this would come about through the inevitable collapse of the Soviet Union. I argued that the land that had produced Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninov, Prokofiev, Shostakovich et al would produce modern versions of these great melodists again the moment the tin lid was removed from their society. I argued that once young people from Eastern Europe could freely produce their own music the West would get the musical shot in the arm that it so badly needed as its pop atrophied in a lard of “grooves”, high tech production and manufactured boy and girl bands. I was wrong. What emerged as a consequence of the Soviet Union’s collapse succeeded in lowering the tone of the Eurovision Song Contest still further.

A R Rahman

After a couple of days, the music of one in every five Bollywood songs was hitting not just me but anyone who heard the stuff. There had to be a common denominator. This was their Composer, A R Rahman. One look on the net revealed that he was a phenomenon in Asia, where he’s known as the Asian Mozart. Rahman was born in 1966. His father was Hindi and a musician. Rahman himself converted to Islam as a result of a family tragedy. That is when he took his name. His scores have been composed for some of India’s most successful films including Dil Se andLagaan, which was nominated for Best Foreign Film in the 2002 Oscars. With album sales of over 100 million, his albums have sold more than Britney Spears and Madonna combined. Soon my house was full of them. His awards in his homeland would cause the strongest mantelpiece to groan.

I called Shekhar Kapur and asked if he could arrange that I meet him. Thus I found myself in Bombay and mobbed in the midst of a vast press conference organised by Shekhar to proclaim my interest in Rahman’s music. When I asked him if he would consider writing a stage musical, he was intrigued, if more than a little bemused. Once he had said yes he came to London. The second day that he was in town I walked with him the hundred yards from my office near the Ivy to the Palace Theatre. I swear he signed 10 autographs en route. By the time we left the theatre the bush telegraph had seemingly caused most of the Asian head waiters of Soho to be awaiting him outside the stage door.

That was two years ago. Since then it has become my obsession to bring this melodic genius to the West End musical stage. I am proud to be introducing a composer to the West End who has this quote on his website “if a music artiste wants to blossom into a fully-fledged person, it’s not enough if he only knows classical music or if he’s well versed only in ragas and techniques. He should be interested in life and philosophy. In his personal life there should be, at least in some corner of his heart, a tinge of lingering sorrow”.

Creative Team

Don Black
A R Rahman
Meera Syal
Don Black

Don Black Head ShotDon Black received two Tony Awards for best book and lyrics of a musical for his work (with Christopher Hampton) on Sunset Boulevard, which marked his third collaboration with Andrew Lloyd Webber. They first joined forces to write the song cycle Tell Me On A Sunday which developed to form the basis of the stage show Song and Dance, They were reunited again for Aspects of Love. He also wrote the lyrics for the Andrew Lloyd Webber produced Bombay Dreams.

Awards include an Oscar for his song Born Free, five Academy Award nominations, two Tony Awards and three Tony nominations, six Ivor Novello Awards, a Golden Globe and many platinum and gold discs. He has written a quintet of James Bond theme songs: Thunderball, Diamonds Are Forever, The Man With The Golden Gun, Surrender from Tomorrow Never Dies and The World Is Not Enough. Among his many popular songs are two U.S. number ones - Ben for Michael Jackson and To Sir With Love for Lulu. He was inducted in the Songwriters Hall  of Fame in 2008 and recently honoured in London with a BMI Icon award. Don also received the Order of the British Empire in the Queens honours list.

Don's latest musical is Mrs Henderson Presents currently on at The Noel Coward Theatre. Don is also a regular broadcaster and has his own show on Radio Two

A R Rahman

A R RahmanA. R. Rahman is an Indian composer, singer-songwriter, music producer, musician, multi-instrumentalist and philanthropist.

He has won two Academy Awards, two Grammy Awards, a BAFTA Award, a Golden Globe, four National Film Awards, fifteen Filmfare Awards and thirteen Filmfare Awards South in addition to numerous other awards and nominations.

His extensive body of work for film and the stage earned him the nickname "the Mozart of Madras" and several Tamil commentators and fans have coined him the nickname Isai Puyal (English: Music Storm). In 2009, Time placed Rahman in its list of World's Most Influential People.

Working in India's various film industries, international cinema and theatre, Rahman is one of the world's all-time top selling recording artists. In a notable career spanning two decades, Rahman has garnered particular acclaim for redefining contemporary Indian film music and thus contributing to the success of several films.

Rahman has been involved in several projects aside from film. Vande Mataram, an album of his original compositions released on India's 50th anniversary of independence in 1997, enjoyed great commercial success.

In 1999, Rahman partnered with choreographers Shobana and Prabhu Deva and a Tamil cinema dancing troupe to perform with Michael Jackson in Munich, Germany at his "Michael Jackson and Friends" concert. In 2002, he composed the music for his maiden stage production, Bombay Dreams, commissioned by musical theatre composer Andrew Lloyd Webber. Finnish folk music band Varttina collaborated with Rahman to write the music for The Lord of the Rings theatre production and in 2004, Rahman composed the piece "Raga's Dance" for Vanessa-Mae's album Choreography performed by Mae and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.

Rahman is currently one of the highest paid composers of the motion picture industry. He is a notable humanitarian and philanthropist, donating and raising money for beneficial causes and supporting charities.

Meera Syal

Meera SyalMeera is known for her work across television, film and on stage. Meera’s stage credits include Behind The Beautiful Forevers (National Theatre); If You Don't Let Us Dream, We Won't Let You Sleep (Royal Court Theatre); Much Ado About Nothing (Royal Shakespeare Company); The Killing Of Sister George (Arts Theatre); Shirley Valentine (Menier Chocolate Factory/Trafalgar Studios); Rafta, Rafta (National Theatre);Bombay Dreams (Apollo Victoria); The Vagina Monologues (Old Vic, West End and Madison Square Gardens New York); The Great Celestial Cow (Royal Court Upstairs and tour); Minor Complications (Royal Court Upstairs); True Dare Kiss (Royal Court Upstairs); Byrthrite (Royal Court Upstairs); School For Scandal(Bristol Old Vic); My Girl (Theatre Royal, Stratford East); Blood Wedding (Half Moon and Tour); Peer Gynt(National Theatre) and The Oppressed Minorities Big Fun Show (Edinburgh Festival and Shaw Theatre).

In addition to her work on stage, Meera’s film credits include A Nice Arrangement, Absolutely Anything, All In Good Time, You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger, Desert Flower, Mad, Sad & Bad, Jhoom Barabar Jhoom, Scoop, Anita and Me, Beautiful Thing, International Reactions, Sammi and Rosie Get Laid and It's Not Unusual

Meera’s television credits include The Boy In The Dress, Goodness Gracious Me, Broadchurch, Psychobitches, The Job Lot, The Brink, The Kumars, Crackanory, Silk, Family Tree, Hunted, The Jury, Little Crackers, Beautiful People, Jekyll, The Amazing Mrs Pritchard, The Secretary Who Stole £4 Million, Life Isn't All Ha Ha Hee Hee, The Kumars, Goodness Gracious Me, Band Of Gold, Deadly Crack, Absolutely Fabulous, Sean's Show, JO Brands THROUGH THE CAKEHOLE, My Sister Wife, Kinsey, A Little Princess, Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, The Real Mccoy, Flight, Crossing the Floor and Holding On

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