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The Unforgettable Tour makes its Bollywood invasion
Bollywood movies from India are known for their over-the-top spectacle and unabashed theatricality combining music, comedy, drama, glamour -- all drenched in outrageous color.
So it's not surprising that the live show featuring stars of Bollywood cinema, presented Saturday night for 12,000 screaming fans at the L.A. Sports Arena, would be a wild 3 1/2 -hour kaleidoscopic festival, aptly called the Unforgettable Tour.
The tour, which stars some of India's most famous actors, pays tribute to their best-known roles: The actors perform live renditions of songs from their movies, accompanied by dancers, video footage and glittering light shows. L.A. was the first stop on an eagerly anticipated national tour aimed at the Bollywood faithful around the U.S.
"The people kind of treat them more as family," said Jai Walia, 23, who attended the weekend show here. For the Bollywood stars "to come to a show like this is very rare."
The host was Amitabh Bachchan, a fixture on the Bollywood acting scene since the '70s.
"He's like your Al Pacino or Robert De Niro," Walia said of Bachchan. But perhaps with a bit more energy: The 65-year-old Bachchan sang and danced with such force that crowds formed in the aisles to sing along throughout the night.
Bollywood produces more movies than any other national film industry, and actors in India are accorded the kind of treatment familiar to Hollywood stars, including celebrity tabloids -- Stardust, Film Fare and others -- that follow their every move. Bachchan's son, Abhishek Bachchan, and his wife, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, a former Miss World winner, are two of Bollywood's brightest lights and have a fervent fan base.
"They're like Brangelina," said audience member Niyati Jhaveri, a 22-year-old USC student from Gujarat, India.
The show followed two sold-out events in Toronto and Trinidad. Promoted by Mumbai-based Wizcraft International Entertainment, each one costs about $1 million to stage, according to the promoters.
"The first thing that hits you is just the euphoria," said Abhishek Bachchan, of his first world tour. "It's an outpouring of love from the audience -- it really explodes when actors come on stage."
Other stars included musicians Vishal & Shekhar, actress Preity Zinta and actor Ritesh Deshmukh. Also highlighting the U.S. tour is Madhuri Dixit, famous for her infectious dance moves.
During his first appearance, Abhishek Bachchan made a surprise entrance through the crowd, sporting sunglasses and a bejeweled jacket as he maneuvered through the screaming fans, surrounded by five security guards. He also performed romantic numbers with his wife onstage as teen girls in the audience howled with glee.
Toward the end of the show, his dad silenced the crowd as he bellowed monologues from some of his movies in his famed baritone, jumping from character to character (think Marlon Brando reading a scene from "A Streetcar Named Desire" followed by one from "The Godfather").
"He's the one person who's been a role model to pretty much the entire industry," Abhishek said during a press conference last Thursday.
Crowds cheered wildly when Dixit took the stage with dancing partner Aishwarya Rai Bachchan. They performed "Dola Re," a song from the movie "Devdas," dancing side by side in some of the most graceful traditional Indian-style moves of the evening.
The evolution of Bollywood dancing has come to include Western styles of dance, including hip-hop, folk and waltz, and those forms were woven into acts in the show by Shiamak Davar, one of India's leading choreographers.
"Our dance form is an amalgamation of everything," said Aishwarya Rai Bachchan. "That's what has existed in our cinema the whole time."
Next stop on the U.S. tour is San Francisco, followed by Houston; Atlantic City, N.J.; Chicago; and New York. Then the tour goes on to London, Holland and Germany.
Noted Aishwarya Rai Bachchan: "The audience is a lot more international -- the music is so universally embraced."