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Soapsuds And Bollywood

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This is probably a first for daytime soaps on American TV - a full-blown Bollywood musical fantasy! NBC's Passions, which is a sizzling drama set in a small New England town, is watched by 2 million people across the United States. In a recent episode, Ethan and Gwen want to get away from the scheming Theresa, so Ethan asks for a transfer to the India office and Gwen imagines the possibilities in a Bollywood dream scene.

Why India and why now? Says producer Richard Schilling, "The idea really came from our head writer Jim Riley. I think with the popularity of Bollywood, the explosion and the number of films they do a year - and the color of it, the beauty of it - I think it seemed like the right time to Jim. Our composer John Henry immersed himself into the Bollywood music scene, went to a bunch of movies, listened to a bunch of albums and came up with a great song."

Schilling hired Los Angeles dance teacher Nukul Dev Mahajan, who runs a Bollywood dance studio and consulted on the costumes and choreographed the piece. All the costumes were designed here and made in India in record time. The episode has a big splashy production number with 40 dancers and 20 extras - feels like a cast of thousands - and after a spirited dance concert (a la Devdas?) between the two women, the lovers end up riding into the sunset on horseback.

"It's all very Bollywood and we were excited to bring it to American television," says Schilling. "I think it will be a great education for a lot of people in the country who may have heard about Bollywood, but didn't really know what it looked like. We have tried to be as authentic as we could to the form and still have fun with it in the daytime sort of way."

So will Gwen and Ethan really go to India in the upcoming episodes? Schilling is not about to divulge any plot secrets. Sphinx-like, he says, "Well, stay tuned and watch!

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Odds & Ends | Magazine | February 2006

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