Toronto Star Features Bharati, an Indian Spectacle by way of Tel Aviv

February 7, 2013

Bharati, the song-and-dance extravaganza playing at the Sony Centre this weekend is all thanks to an Israeli TV commercial. As the Star reports, Israeli Gashash Deshe credits a TV commercial broadcast in Israel  as the seed that blossomed into an international hit stage show celebrating the rich and diverse culture of India.

“I remember this catchy tune,” recalls Deshe to the Star. The Bollywood-style music piqued Deshe’s curiosity about the country he knew little about.

According to the Star:

“Deshe, son of one of Israel’s most successful entertainment producers, had decided to put aside an academic career as an expert in international copyright law and launch a show of his own. The more he learned about India, the more Deshe was convinced he’d found his subject.

“It’s such a vast and diverse culture,” says Deshe, “and there was no mega-show that truly reflected that.” Nor, as Bharati’s producer is proud to point out, one featuring live orchestra and performers grounded in India’s classical dance and music traditions.

Deshe undertook what he calls “a private one-year PhD on India” during which he saw a film version of Bengali writer Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay’s celebrated 1917 novel Devdas.

Chattopadhyay’s story was one of impossible romance, of love doomed by the divide of caste. “It had a big impact on me,” says Deshe.

Although there’s nothing tragic in the fairly thin romantic plot that holds Bharati together, you can see how Devdas, with its depiction of family expectations and class divide, could feed Deshe’s interest in the way ancient tradition and modernity rub up against each other, not always comfortably, in today’s India.

“It’s still a country of extremes, from hi-tech to farmers still working the land with oxen,” explains Deshe.

It is this dimension of Bharati, its cheerfully unapologetic representation of a culture in constant, confusing and invigorating flux, that gives the show its zest and broad appeal.”

Bharati is on at the Sony Centre Feb. 9 and 10.


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