The story of Love Times Seven begins in the dusty black and white 1940s with a couple of star-crossed lovers (Arpita Mukherjee and the play's co-writer Sharath Parvathavani). The pair are crossed in love again and again every decade, in period appropriate ways, until we reach the present where they are united in the grand finale. The earlier decades are marked by an earnest tone, appropriate to the socially aware tone of the films, but by the time it gets to the go-go 1980s, both the cast and audience are having a blast and enjoying the campiness of it all, cheering as "Jimmy" shakes his booty to "Disco Dancer."
Arpita and Sharath clearly know their filmi history and the script skillfully glides along the major themes of each decade, with perhaps the exception of the 1960s and the 2000s. The 1960s piece felt too tied to the iconic but hardly prototypical Padosan while the 2000s seemed distracted - but then trying to rope a single theme out of the decade that opened with epic period piece Lagaan and ended with the modern college fable of 3 Idiots might be too much to ask of anyone. The real fun of the Love Times Seven homage to Bollywood is in the details: the overwrought "Hai Bhagwan" from the 1940s, the booze-swilling capitalist fat cats of the 1950s complaining about the poor, the Laxmi Chhaiya shimmy in the 1960s, an ominous bracelet in the 1970s, the fantastic 1980s hip thrusts, and, of course, the endless wedding songs from the 1990s.
Just like in a Bollywood film, the hero and heroine took center stage for much of the show but we were also treated to a variety of scene stealing villains, vixens, comedians, and parental figures. Among the audience favorites were the spot-on 1970s era mob boss named Teja-saab (Sagar Kiran Patel), who delighted this reviewer with his navel plunging red smoking jacket and villainous smirk, the 1980s policewallah (Amish Singh), whose dialogue delivery got more laughs than almost anything else that night, and the jealous 'other woman' (Sheena Luke) from the 1990s segment. There was even a Helen-inspired item number, featuring the voluptuous assistant director (Chandani Chandekar).
Among the other treats in Love Times Seven were the delicious costumes and choreography, all period specific. From the glittering black and white sari Arpita wears in the 1950s piece to the silver lamé jumpsuit Sharath dons as "Jimmy" in the 1980s, everyone looked amazing. The choreography was also fantastic, I already mentioned the incredible Laxmi Chhaiya shimmy from the 1960s piece but the 1990s segment deserves mention for all the dancers that needed to be moved around stage for those big family numbers.
For a Bollywood lover, Love Times Seven is a real treat. There is something magical about being in the theater with the lights dimmed and classic scenes being played out before your eyes. If you are a film buff here in Washington, DC and have the time this upcoming weekend, please go and check it out!
Check the Love Times Seven website for tickets and other information.