For those who have watched Baz Luhrmann’s hit musical Moulin Rouge (2001), the adaption of the same by Michael Muthu and the Boardwalkers would have required a little more rouge. For, Luhrmann had introduced us to the famous cabaret Moulin Rouge of the 1900s in Paris, with a huge party where women, dressed in eye-blinding colours, danced wildly, and men, overcome with an uncontrollable madness, drank like whales. On Saturday, while we expected to crash this sinful celebration at the Sir Mutha Venkatasubba Rao Concert Hall, the Moulin Rouge that we saw, though was beautiful, but wasn’t wild and mad enough.
The play began with Christian (Gokul Anand), a love-wrecked writer, narrating the flashback of how he lands in Paris with the dream of being a writer among the members of the then Bohemian revolution, and ends up falling in love with Satine (Aishvarrya Suresh), the star courtesan of Moulin Rouge. Christian becomes part of a theatre group, which plans to sell the play to Harold Zidler (Sarvesh Sridhar), owner of the Moulin Rouge. Hence they visit the cabaret, with the plan to narrate the story to Satine, who could then convince Harold. Satine, who was supposed to spend that particular night with the Duke (Yohan Chako), mistakes Christian to be him, and takes him to the chambers to seduce him.
At this point, the crowd sat upright, and parents distracted their kids with small talk. Aishvarrya did a good job of growling like a ‘wild temptress’ and seducing Christian to come to her. It is only a while before the Duke appeared, and a slew of funny acts ensued, with Satine trying to cover up her blunder.
The play shuttled between the carefree lover Christian of the past, and the melancholic writer of the present, after Satine’s life is taken away by an unforgiving illness. The chemistry between the two is built up with melodious numbers like Rhythm of the Night by DeBarge, the movie’s theme song Come What May and Elton John’s ballad Your Song — all sung by the actors themselves. But, over the course of two-and-a-half hours, almost like a reflection of Satine’s failing health, the crowd thinned, and one spotted several empty chairs by the end of the play.
However, one has to give it up for the elaborate stage set up, which had actors magically appearing and disappearing inside the many doors arranged on stage. A whole new floor was created, with one side housing members of the live band, and the other, used to enact scenes that occurred parallely. If there was something that we wished extended, it was the brief dance sequence by choreographer Anusha Swamy, who conveyed the dark life of a prostitute through her intoxicating tango. At this point Ooh la la may have been too mild a compliment.