Monica Mehta
May 07, 2004 AT 04:00 AM EDT

During the most vigorous sequence in A.R. Rahman’s new musical Bombay Dreams, a catchy number called ”Shakalaka Baby,” the extravagantly costumed ensemble dances inside an actual, ceiling-high fountain. At the height of this frenetically entertaining scene, the rising star drops his leading lady on her bum. It’s a defining moment in Dreams — a tug-of-war between embracing the Bollywood archetype (women cavorting in wet saris!) and mocking its corniness. And who better to translate India’s outrageously successful film industry for the West than the equally grandiose Lloyd Webber, who created this over-the-top confection. The dosa-thin plot follows Akaash (the energetic Manu Narayan) a slum-dwelling hottie, who heads to Bollywood to save his ghetto from demolition. He then must make the inevitable choice between family, fame, and fortune — a challenge personified in the object of his affection, idealistic filmmaker Priya (Anisha Nagarajan). The love story is implausible and the characters are caricatures (the fullest role is a eunuch named Sweetie, played by talented newcomer Sriram Ganesan), yet as in the best Bollywood films, there is magic galore — in the explosive song-and-dance numbers, infectious score, dazzling costumes, and sumptuous sets. Dreams may be from another world, but it’s also a good old-fashioned Broadway musical.

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