Phizzical founder on the importance of new ACE funding and the art of Bollywood
Phizzical is a small, funded company currently touring a large-scale South Asian musical. Before reaching The Lowry in Salford we had been hit by Covid. Our determination not to cancel performances has played a major role in reactivating audiences to return to theaters after Covid. Like others, we were eagerly awaiting the outcome of the NPO announcements. There had been delays – as an industry, we knew changes were afoot.
In a miraculous moment, Phizzical, a company I founded nearly twenty years ago, learned that we would be one of 276 new organizations joining ACE’s nationwide portfolio of 990 organizations. This news will provide us with a stable pathway to achieve our goal of reaching and interacting with communities too often overlooked and creating entertaining work informed by their stories, which connects with our communities.
We recognize that we must be courageous and authentic, as well as open to the promise of change. We must support the possibility of working in new ways, delivering quality work and new partnerships, while encouraging diversity of talent and increasing engagement.
At Phizzical, we’ve always strived to make work that sparkles. The “cal” in our name refers to the South Asian word “kal” which means both yesterday and tomorrow. Influenced by our stories, we are telling tomorrow’s stories today.
We develop the hidden artistic talent of our communities by diversifying the national pool of professional artists. We use Bollywood art forms as a vehicle to tell the stories of our communities in entertaining, engaging and quality work that tours nationally, be it Shakespeare Cymbeline set in Bombay and Dubai, examining Hindu-Muslim relations; an immersive visual and performance art installation, Ticket 2 Bollywood, for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Cultural Olympiad; the national musical tour Bring the Bollywoodor the first iteration of Stardustaddressing South Asian cultural values and philosophy through a Bollywood musical about gay marriage.
Our current project and the 50th project of Bollywood retro musical Phizzical Bombay Superstaris made for our parents and grandparents, using songs from Bollywood movies by the legendary actor, Amitabh Bachchanwhose films have instilled hope in newly migrating SA families, integrating divergent communities across caste, religion and class.
Our successful stint at The Lowry has seen South Asian audiences return repeatedly, bringing with them new audiences, sharing with us the need for our work:
“Productions like this are so important for us to connect with what our parents loved and passed down to us.”
For many British-born South Asians and working-class immigrants, 1960s Bollywood cinema was a way of life. These stories have given us a value system beyond mythological texts or cinematic reinterpretations of Shakespeare’s plays. The stars and their characters were role models for our parents. Their talks challenged the imperialist morals left over from post-independence Britain, with some of the leading heroines paving the way for progressive attitudes towards equality for South Asian women.
“Phizzical deserves praise for speaking out against sexism…advocating for women’s rights and girl power.”
Phizzical enables a better understanding of South Asian communities. The recent tension in Leicester demonstrated what I, a mixed South Asian, have said for over three decades: ‘We are not all the same, but one thing that unites us is a good song and dance of Bollywood – the nostalgia that Bombay Superstar evoked”.
Within Arts Council England’s richer and more varied portfolio, Phizzical will help spark creativity and support the next generation of visionary artists. We want to work with partners to commission, co-produce and program works that question and engage and be part of an evolving culture to transform access to the arts. What we hope is that there are partner organizations able to join us on this vital journey.
Bombay Superstar is at MAST until November 19
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