Debate rolls over & over in dirt
Cracks stare at coalition
Home truths blacked out
Bride Pak asks: who’s groom
Hundred eyes watch for enemy in the dark
Kashmir recce for PM’s visit
BJP gears up for Raisina Hill contest
Delhi fumes at ‘interference’ on Gujarat
Lloyd Webber rests Bombay Dreams on McCartney Rahman
Calcutta Weather

New Delhi, April 30: 

Sonia target in reply to Gujarat attack

The debate on one of the most traumatic events since Independence was reduced to the dirtiest in parliamentary history with veteran politicians spending more than 13 hours calling each other names and, at one point, discussing the propriety of chewing gum in the House.

Leader of Opposition Sonia Gandhi bore the brunt of the attack from the ruling coalition members who labelled her variously as “childish” and a “murti chor” (idol thief).

Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee came in for an equally sharp criticism from the Opposition but it did not degenerate into a personal assault.

The marathon debate,which started at noon and went on until the wee hours of Wednesday, did not see the NDA offer anything substantive in its defence or the way in which the Gujarat government handled the Godhra carnage and its violent aftermath.

Instead, NDA convener and defence minister George Fernandes at one point wondered whether this was “the first time when pregnant women were killed and unborn foetuses pulled out of their wombs”.

Vajpayee, who had not started his speech till 1 am, is scheduled to announce a package to rehabilitate the riot victims of Gujarat.

The discussion on the Opposition-sponsored motion on Gujarat took place under the shadow of resignations from the Union Cabinet, a speculated split in a NDA constituent, last-minute uncertainty of how certain key allies like the TDP would vote and blistering attacks from the Opposition as well as some of the allies on Modi.

A day after coal minister Ram Vilas Paswan resigned, minister of state for external affairs Omar Abdullah, too, offered to quit on the Gujarat issue. Abdullah conveyed his decision verbally to the Prime Minister. Official sources said Vajpayee would accept his resignation shortly.

The Janata Dal (United) seemed divided on the question of opposing the motion. Two of its members — Devendra Prasad Yadav, who is also the leader of the parliamentary party, and Sashi Kumar — did not attend a meeting called by Dal(U) leader and Union minister Sharad Yadav this morning. A whip was issued at the meeting, asking members to be present in the House and vote with the NDA. Another MP, Dinesh Yadav, too, was reportedly unhappy with the party’s decision not to support the motion.

In the House, members traded charges, political and personal. The tone of the offensive and counter-offensive was so bitter that after one such bout of rancour, the deputy Speaker was forced to call an emergency meeting of the leaders to find ways and means of controlling the members.

The target of the ruling coalition’s attack was Sonia Gandhi. Fernandes charged her with provoking her members. Uma Bharti said Sonia was showing “childish behaviour” in the House by chewing gum.

Samata Party MP Prabhunath Singh went several steps ahead and called her a “murti chor” (idol thief). He alleged that the leader of the Opposition had stolen antiques which were smuggled to foreign countries. Quoting from a “chargesheet” drawn up by Janata Party leader Subramanian Swamy, Singh demanded a CBI probe into Sonia’s alleged theft and her arrest.

The question of whether chewing gum was proper or not was raised by Fernandes. Uma Bharti picked up from where Fernandes left off.

Initiating the debate, Samajwadi Party’s Mulayam Singh Yadav likened Vajpayee to Nero.


New Delhi, April 30: 
The BJP’s hopes of repeating the anti-terror law coup in the Gujarat debate were dashed today with allies like the Telugu Desam Party and the Trinamul Congress demanding the resignation of Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi.

While Trinamul came around and agreed to vote against the Opposition-sponsored motion, the Desam kept the government guessing till the last.

Although the BJP managed to shore up its numbers by getting the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) on its side, it lost the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) which had backed the anti-terror law that a joint sitting of Parliament passed in March, when the ruling coalition had stood as one.

A bigger blow was the loss of two ministers, Ram Vilas Paswan yesterday and Omar Abdullah, who disclosed today that he has put in his papers as minister of state for external affairs.

Numerically, the loss of Paswan’s four MPs and the abstention by five from Abdullah’s National Conference did not mean much, but BJP strategists admitted that the NDA coalition had begun to crack.

The Gujarat censure motion brought back the secularism versus Hindutva polemics on the Lok Sabha centrestage in a way that Ayodhya and terrorism did not. This was because while the BJP always wriggled out of Ayodhya debates by offering an assurance to abide by the court’s verdict and maintain status quo on the “disputed” land, on Gujarat, it put up a no-holds barred defence of Modi.

The stand sharpened the battlelines between the BJP and the Opposition and put the former’s so-called secular allies in a spot. The message from the BJP and the RSS to the coalition government was clear: the BJP could no longer be expected to keep its Hindutva forces on a leash in the interest of the alliance.

The first casualties of the return to aggressive Hindutva were only Paswan and Abdullah, but the symbolism as well as the political cynicism in their departure did not escape the BJP’s attention. Paswan was wooed by the party because of his standing as a Dalit leader, while the National Conference’s induction into the NDA was meant to give the much-needed “secular and pro-Muslim” coat the BJP needed in the post-Ayodhya era.

Paswan could be jettisoned as the BJP has found a more useful Dalit ally in the BSP. But the BSP alliance came with a price: it made the state BJP leadership unhappy and has clouded the prospects of leaders with “promise”, like Rajnath Singh.

The BJP’s assessment is that other allies may stick by it as long as power and regional compulsions make it imperative. But it is an “uneasy” equation and with the first signs of wear-and-tear showing, it is unsure how long the coalition will hold.


New Delhi, April 30: 
The television went on the blink on the debate in the Lok Sabha today in an unusual departure from the practice of live telecast of proceedings in the House that have come to be accepted as a matter of course over the last few years.

Members of Parliament and visitors in the galleries agreed that today’s debate has seen some of the bitterest criticism of any government by any Opposition in recent years. For instance, most agreed that Chandra Shekhar’s speech will rank among the finest by a senior politician. Yet, viewers across the country and abroad were denied the benefit of watching the proceedings live.

Doordarshan and Prasar Bharati officials washed their hands of the matter. “The decision on live telecast and television coverage of Parliament is a decision taken not by us but by the Parliament secretariat.”

Parliamentary affairs Pramod Mahajan had earlier said that the question of telecast “does not arise”. The ostensible reason given is that the Parliament secretariat had concluded the debate would raise controversial issues that might inflame passions.

“It was known that many critics of the government will use words like ‘pogrom’, ‘gangrape’ and ‘genocide’ and will quote from the many reports of NGOs and human rights organisations,” Parliament sources said, justifying the decision.

There are other political reasons, too. And they are a measure of how much the Vajpayee-administration — that has never failed to capitalise by performing for the television right since his 13-day government — is on the defensive.

First, the cracks in the NDA would show. Even if the TDP was not voting with the Opposition, it was clear that it would severely criticise the Centre. Yerran Naidu did just that.

Second, a live telecast would also be on television sets overseas, sending more “wrong” signals at a time when European governments have frowned on the carnage in Gujarat. The House today had visitors from several European embassies.

Third, doubts on Vajpayee’s ability to retain his flamboyance as an orator have been growing.


Lahore, April 30: 
Through a national referendum General Pervez Musharraf has ensured that he will continue as the President of Pakistan for five more years. There being no other contestant in the field, the people who turned up at the more than 1,60,000 polling booths today were largely those who supported his continuation in office. Very few turned up to vote against him.

If the people of Lahore missed a contest, they also missed the colourful slogans that go with keenly fought elections. The Lahoris once enjoyed hard-hitting slogans against the two Sharif brothers and their father — “Do ganje aur Abbaji. In se bachao Allahji (God save us from the two bald brothers, Nawaz and Shahbaz, and their father)” or nasty ditties in favour of Benazir Bhutto such as — “Lucchi si, lafangi si, Ganje ton changi si (So what if she was loutish and hoodlum-like, she was better than the bald one, Nawaz Sharif)”.

In this referendum, they have had to make do with Chalo haath mein haath, Musharraf ke saath (Let’s go hand in hand with Musharraf), Mulk aapka; mustaqbil aapka; faisala bhi aapka (The nation is yours, the future is yours and so must the decision be yours) or with sycophantic slogans such as Yaaron da yaar Musharraf. Diladaaron da dildaar Musharraf. Choron nu maar Musharraf (A prince among friends, a large-hearted man, Musharraf; Go get the thieves, Musharraf).

Looking at the Mall spilling over with colourful banners in favour of Musharraf, a wag remarked: “The Mall Road looks like a bride. Aaj Pakistan ki shaadi hai (Today is Pakistan’s wedding).”

But it was not clear who was the groom — the army or democracy?

Not all those who voted for Musharraf were throwing their weight behind a military dictatorship. Most of those who supported Musharraf, and to whom this reporter talked, claimed that theirs was a personal vote for him or a vote against politicians.

At the Quaid-e-Azam Library, a young man said: “I am not supporting Musharraf by voting ‘Yes’. I want him to stop Nawaz Sharif and Benazir.” Another said he supported Musharaf’s handling of Afghanistan and the US.

At Satto Katla, a suburban village of Lahore, the village elders smoking their hukka said: “He is a good man. We have voted for him from our heart. If the politicians had Pakistan’s interests uppermost in their mind, why would they run away to foreign countries?”

Dr Jamshed Dinshaw, voting at a polling booth set up at a petrol pump in Lahore’s posh Gulberg area said: “Musharraf should be given a chance as our political leaders have failed us. But my only fear is if the Army also fails us, who will we turn to?”

The largest crowd of voters was surprisingly at the Anjuman Girls High School, Gwalmandi — Nawaz Sharif’s erstwhile constituency.

The local restaurant owners of Gwalmandi’s Food Street had organised cold drinks and refreshments for the voters. But weren’t they Nawaz Sharif’s supporters earlier? “Yes. But today we think that Musharraf is better for our future. But we will watch him and keenly see in which direction he moves from tomorrow,” said Khwaja Shakeel, a local big-wig.

The political parties supporting the referendum said that they were voting for a movement towards democracy. Mian Mohammad Azhar, president of the Pakistan Muslim League (Quaid-e-Azam), said: “We think that if we oppose the referendum now, the general election in October could be in jeopardy. We must realise that democracy has been interrupted by the failure of politicians. To re-establish democracy we need to re-establish parliament.”

Mian Muhammad Munir, a former member of the National Assembly, also from PML(Q), said: “Musharraf has opened a door which leads to democracy and we have chosen to walk through it. Those who oppose him should also point out which other roads leads to democracy from where we are.”

Mian Azhar voted for Musharraf in the glare of TV lights in Santnagar, a part of his constituency. His supporters proclaimed him the future Prime Minister and emphasised his popularity among them (Teri nazar, meri nazar. Mian Azhar, Mian Azhar).

At a roadside tent put up by the Pakistan Awami Tehreeq, also supporting the referendum, Iftikar Ahmed Qilcha claimed over a loudspeaker: “General Sahib is no longer a fauji (armyman). He is in civvies. A vote for him is not a vote for the army.” A passer-by shook his head and remarked: “This man is not Qilcha. He is a Qulcha (a soft bread).”

Some ordinary voters had more hesitation about their decision than the political parties supporting the general. A housewife at a polling booth said: “I have voted ‘Yes’ but with some reservation. Musharraf is the lesser evil.” However, a young bank executive, who voted against him, said: “He was a servant of the State. What business did he have overthrowing an elected government and creating a discontinuity? He wants us to give him time so that his policies can be implemented properly. Why isn’t such time given to the elected governments?”

At the Punjab Board of Revenue Office building, Tariq, clearly a cynic among believers said: “What kind of an election is this where even if I vote ‘No’, I know the answer is going to be ‘Yes’ and where there is no voters’ list. I will vote ‘Yes’ here because this is where I work. Then I will go outside and vote ‘No’ as many times as I like.”


Ahmedabad, April 30: 
When night drops, Farzanabano and Shardaben wake up. For another long vigil that will end only when the first rays of dawn slant across the city.

The two women, who belong to two “warring communities”, live across the “border” — a word often used to denote the dividing line between Hindu and Muslim localities in the city.

Both have forgotten how to sleep at night. So they “bang” their utensils to alert their men.

In riot-ravaged Ahmedabad, people, especially in “vulnerable” localities, have reset their body clock to cope with the “looming threat” of attack. A good sleep is a luxury and residents — young and not so young — have to keep awake by turns to guard their homes from marauding mobs.

They have also stacked up stones — to hurl at the “enemy” — a primitive form of defence that residents of Gujarat’s financial capital have mastered to protect themselves in the 21st century.

Shardaben, 55, reacts angrily when asked why she keeps awake. “What if we are attacked? How can we sleep when we know that they can attack us any time?” she bristles. “At least I can bang steel utensils to alert our men.”

In curfew-bound Juhapura, Farzanabano has stayed awake night after night ever since the communal violence exploded on Gujarat. She sleeps during the day. “We are surrounded by Hindu localities. The situation is such that we cannot sleep at night. Our boys also stay awake,” she says.

It’s the same in adjoining Guptanagar, a Hindu locality. “Both the communities in Juhapura throw stones and burst fire-crackers,” says Farzanabano, while a tape recorder blares “Maro, kato”.

It’s midnight but everybody is awake in Thakurwas, near Dilli Darwaja. “In the last two months we have been attacked innumerable times. They (Muslims) come, throw stones and open fire. So we have to keep night vigil. You never know when they will attack you. We have to be alert, specially at night,” says Nathubhai Thakor, a resident.

Behind the Madhavpur grain market, men huddle in groups, chatting, drinking tea, some even playing cards. Almost an equal number of women are awake, boosting the youths.

A group of youths posted near the “Pak border” keep watch on the enemy. “If there is a mob coming towards our area, the group alerts us by banging utensils. Within minutes, hundreds of people gather to confront the mob coming from the other side,” says Nathubhai.

Nathubhai has banged his utensils so many times that not a single one is in proper shape. He points to a pile of stones. “They come in handy when there is a mob surging towards us,” he says.

Women, too, have pitched in when it came to hurling stones – they are the link, passing on the missiles and keeping up a steady supply to their men. Sometimes, crude bombs have also come from other friendly localities.

Till recently, in Vejapur’s Shrijanand Society, every family was asked to send a member to keep vigil. There were two shifts. One group kept awake from 10.30 pm to 2.30 am. After that, the second group took over. While some stationed themselves on terraces, others roamed the area.

The system is still being followed in Someshwarnagar, adjoining Juhapura, where one member from each family has to stay awake all night.

A visit to Shahpur and Madhavpur reveals that night vigil is one of the survival tactics that residents, who no longer trust their neighbours who practise a different faith, have learnt.


Srinagar, April 30: 
A.S. Daulat, the man in charge of Kashmir affairs in the Prime Minister’s Office, left the valley today after a weeklong stay here.

Highly placed sources said the former chief of the Research and Analysis Wing — India’s external intelligence agency — explored the possibility of a meeting between Atal Bihari Vajpayee and some senior separatist leaders when the Prime Minister visits the state next month.

Speculation heightened when two senior leaders of the All-Parties Hurriyat Conference, former chairman Mirwaiz Omar Farooq and Moulvi Abbas Ansari, flew to Srinagar with Daulat last week.

Sources said a senior Hurriyat leader was seen closeted with him in a local high security hotel. However, the chairman of the separatist conglomerate, Prof. Abdul Gani Bhat, denied that any Hurriyat leader met the PMO official in Kashmir.

“I think he was on a private visit to Kashmir and not on an official mission. I did not meet him and I think no one from the Hurriyat met him here during his stay. But yes, Mirwaiz and Moulvi Abbas Ansari travelled to Srinagar in the same plane,” Bhat said. The Hurriyat, he added, would soon discuss the forthcoming visit of the Prime Minister to Kashmir.

Vajpayee had expressed his desire to meet political leaders of all shades of opinion during his Kashmir visit to ensure maximum participation in the forthcoming elections. The Prime Minister has promised to hold free and fair elections in the state. The Assembly polls are scheduled to be held in the last week of September.

Sources said Daulat met some former militant leaders, traders and office-bearers of various unions here.

Kashmir watchers, however, say the recent controversy over Vajpayee’s statements about Muslims could “seriously jeopardise” his possible interaction with separatist leaders. “The tempers are hot over the sudden change of views by Vajpayee, who was seen here as a moderate leader in the BJP,” said one.

“The Hurriyat will soon discuss the Prime Minister’s forthcoming visit in the backdrop of Gujarat, his recent statements on Muslims as well as the atrocities being committed on innocents,” Bhat said.

“The developments in Gujarat have definitely adversely affected the attitude of Kashmiris in regard to Vajpayee being a visionary. That is gone with the wind.”

New chief secretary

Inderjit Singh Malhi today took over as chief secretary of Jammu and Kashmir from Ashok Jaitly, reports PTI. A 1966 batch IAS officer of the state cadre, Malhi was financial commissioner (industries and commerce).


New Delhi, April 30: 
Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee is in favour of evolving a consensus on the next President, official sources said.

But the task could be easier said than done, they admitted, because the government’s feedback is that both the Congress and the Left want another term for K.R. Narayanan, who will demit office on July 25, while the BJP is opposed to the idea.

“We are not at all in favour of another term for Narayanan at Raisina Hill. Once bitten, twice shy. Besides, after Rajendra Prasad, no other President has got a second term,” said well-placed BJP sources.

Official sources said the BJP’s own choice is P.C. Alexander, a former Congressman who is the Maharashtra Governor. “He is a strong candidate for both the President and the Vice-President’s post,” they said, but added that their information was that he was not Sonia Gandhi’s choice.

“Our feedback is she has been convinced by some Congressmen that if Alexander becomes President, it would undermine her chances of becoming the Prime Minister because you cannot have two Christians in the country’s highest offices,” they claimed.

If the government is unable to reach a consensus and the Congress is insistent on Narayanan, a contest is inevitable. The sources maintained that if the NDA sticks together, it has a good chance of pushing through its own candidate. In that case, as a concession to the Opposition, they said, the Congress might be allowed to have its nominee as the Vice-President.

Vajpayee, sources said, will be “applying his mind” on the issue of Narayanan’s successor immediately after the budget session ends on May 17.

According to the tentative calendar for the presidential poll, the notification will be issued on June 9, while June 23 is the date for filing nominations. Scrutiny will be done on June 24 while June 26 is the tentative date for withdrawing nominations.

The election will take place on July 14 and counting on July 17. The new President will take oath on July 25.

Official sources ruled out two names that were in circulation: Farooq Abdullah and the BJP’s L.M. Singhvi. “In this situation, to swallow Farooq would be very difficult,” they said. Singhvi was dismissed as a “non-serious” candidate.

“There are too many claimants with the same background as him — a lawyer with a stint in a high commission,” they said.

The sources added that NDA allies like the Telugu Desam Party may not be allowed to have their say given the recent acrimony between the Desam and the BJP over Gujarat.

The Desam, it seems, was keen on either Vice-President Krishan Kant or Andhra Pradesh Governor C. Rangarajan for the top post.

If a contest is forced, BJP sources said, the chances of fielding a nominee from the party cannot be ruled out. While no names were given, they said “social” considerations would not be a yardstick.

“There is no question of having a Dalit or an OBC to send a political signal,” they said.


New Delhi, April 30: 
The European Union’s bid to soften its blow on India regarding developments in Gujarat appears to have been ignored by South Block.

The ministry of external affairs has again made it clear that foreign missions have no business meddling in the country’s “internal affairs”.

It also flatly denied receiving a demarche from the western bloc on the sectarian violence.

On Friday, the EU had given a demarche, officially stating its position on developments in the riot-ravaged state to Dilip Lahiri, India’s ambassador in Madrid. Spain holds the current presidency of the 15-member European bloc.

Indications here suggest that the demarche, unlike what had been reported in sections of the media and speculated in political circles, did not directly criticise the Vajpayee government, though it expressed concern over the continuing violence.

But Delhi is unimpressed by the EU’s attempt, the mild words or the soft tenor of the demarche notwithstanding.

Foreign minister of Denmark Per Stig Moller, who called on his Indian counterpart Jaswant Singh and Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, was clearly told that India would not encourage any public statement on the violence by visiting dignitaries. Moller, whose country takes over the EU presidency from Spain this July, said he understood Delhi’s sentiments. He refused to meet the Indian media after his talks with the two leaders.

The government’s anger on the EU position was later articulated by the foreign office. “There is no room for a demarche that seeks to play to the public gallery,” foreign ministry spokesperson Nirupama Rao said, referring to the European bloc’s claim that it has officially expressed concern over Gujarat to the Indian government.

“We expect foreign countries to show respect for the democratic debate that is taking place internally and not become part of it,” she added.

That the controversy was far from over became evident when Lahiri, who was reported to have received the EU demarche, was summoned to South Block to brief the Indian leadership over what happened on Friday.

Rao claimed that Lahiri, at his own initiative, met the political director for Asia and it was at this meeting that the situation in Gujarat and other issues were discussed.

“We are surprised at the EU’s insistence on making this an issue of public controversy,” she said and added that the Indian ambassador has already conveyed to the Spanish foreign office Delhi’s views on their “so-called demarche”.

“We do not consider there is room for any demarche to us on Gujarat by the EU that seeks to play to the public gallery,” Rao said. She said there was “no indication to suggest that the discussion between the Indian ambassador and the Spanish officials on Gujarat was a demarche”.

She pointed out that a demarche was a representation one government makes to another to highlight issues pertaining to bilateral or international relations.


London, April 30: 
Andrew Lloyd Webber is depending on A.R. Rahman to ensure that his much anticipated Bombay Dreams, which opens in London’s West End in June is a “huge hit” — which he believes it will be.

“It’s going to be massive,” said Lord Lloyd-Webber, who is producing the Ł4.5 million budget musical. “By the end of the first week it will be flying.”

In a lunch meeting today with Indian journalists, Lloyd Webber spoke warming of his admiration for Rahman, who has written the music for Bombay Dreams.

“Rahman’s work is accessible,” he said, over choice salmon and wines from his private cellar. “In my opinion he is writing as good tunes as Paul McCartney did 30 years ago. Rahman is writing that of sort quality of melody. They will have an appeal in the West.”

He said: “He is in a league of his own. As a composer, he interests me. He is an extraordinary melodist and he has his own very particular kind of style and tone of voice. You can tell a Rahman melody a mile away. He has some western influences but he has masses of stuff which no western musician would ever be able to do.”

Although Lloyd Webber has been inspired by Indian cinema and has recently enjoyed Dil Se, Lagaan and Monsoon Wedding, on one point he had parted company with Bollywood — the length of his musical.

To laughter from his guests, he emphasised: “The first act will be an hour and 10 minutes. And the second will be 55 minutes. I am sorry I am not having it as long as a Hindi movie.”

He felt he was breaking new ground with Bombay Dreams. “ It’s a great joy to be doing it. It’s something different. I like breaking new ground. If musical theatre does not break new ground and be just revivals, it does not interest me any more. I find it much more exciting doing a completely original musical. Introducing a new composer here is what we need. The fact there is someone coming in from another place I find thrilling.”

About his hopes, he was frank. “We are in completely uncharted water. Of the bookings so far I would say about 30 per cent of them are Asian.”

He outlined the musical’s plus points. “It is a very, very good score. It’s got a wonderful story. It’s very funny in places. It’s very moving, too. At the end of the day, musicals always come down to one thing. Is the story any good? Are the songs any good? In my opinion both are first rate.”

Would it travel, though?

His reply was: “If it works in London, we definitely will take it to Broadway. There is a lot of interest already. And Bombay? That would be interesting. There are not many theatres where you could do it. The only one stage which I have seen — and the theatre is too small — is the Opera in Bombay. I have looked at that. If it works very well here and if it does go to America, it would be lovely to take it to India.”

He explained differences with the Bollywood way of doing things. “A lot of the Bollywood stars don’t really sing. You could not have the whole thing on track (mimed). It’s got to be live. It has to be properly sung. We have two kids (Preeya Kalidas and Raza Jaffrey) who are really marvellous. They really can do it. They are good actors, too. For young people who have not done musical theatre before they are the most assured artistes I have ever had. They’re highly bright kids.”

As producer, his role had been crucial. “I have to take the decisions about how it is going to be cast, how it is going to be presented, what creative team to put together, who would be best to do the English lyrics, who would be the best person to direct it, who is the best person to choreograph it. I have had quite an input into how the whole thing is structured.”

And he was honest about the advance bookings, which now stood at a modest Ł7,00,000 — enough for only three weeks.

“They are not brilliant. We are at the moment the also-ran because shows like Chitty Chitty Bang Bang are old shows and everybody knows what they are going to hear. We will depend entirely on how it goes when we get an audience. Either it is a good musical or it’s not. It can’t survive on the basis of whether there is anything else going on or not. It has to break through to a mainstream theatre audience. Americans are not aware all this is going on in London and we need them.”

A five-year run would represent great success for Bombay Dreams. “I don’t think there will again be a time when you get musicals that run as long as Cats or Phantom. It was a funny one off time. Five years used to be a fantastic run for a musical. I could never have predicted that Starlight Express which is in the same theatre (as Bombay Dreams) would run for 18 years.”




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