| The Queen greets the Bombay Dreams cast after the show. (AP/PTI)
London, Nov. 1: The Queen last night attended a special charity performance in London of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s hit musical, Bombay Dreams, after which she went on stage and met cast members, including Raj Ghatak, a young Bengali who plays Sweetie, a Hijra.
Ghatak, who wears a sari for his role, said to laughter from fellow members of the cast: “Your Majesty, I don’t know whether to bow or to curtsy.”
Some have characterised the encounter as one Queen meeting another but Ghatak said he was not quite sure if Her Majesty either understood or appreciated his little joke.
“It’s certainly a very interesting role,” she murmured before passing on to others.
The packed performance was to raise money for the Red Cross of which the Queen is the patron. A spokeswoman for the charity that said £50,000 raised last night would be ploughed into Red Cross work in Gujarat.
Ghatak said he had met the Queen once before when she had come to his public school, Epsom College, Surrey, where she is also the patron.
He disclosed that the Queen is to be followed for Friday night’s performance by England football captain David Beckham and his pop singer wife, Victoria. Their countryside residence has been dubbed “Beckingham Palace” by the tabloid press.
A.R. Rahman, who has written the music for Bombay Dreams, said: “The show was very good last night, an almost perfect show, everyone sang in tune. I missed the Queen once in Chennai when she had come there but I was in London. It was a real honour to meet her. But I can’t remember a thing she said.”
The only cast member to be imported from Bollywood is Dalip Tahil, who plays Madan Kumar Kumar, a filmmaker in jail for tax evasion. He said: “She looks very much smaller in real life. But then movies make you look bigger. I think she really enjoyed the show.”
This was also confirmed by Buckingham Palace, whose spokeswoman issued a terse statement: “The Queen met cast members. She enjoyed the show.”
To Tahil, the Queen remarked: “There are some intriguing parts in this musical.”
One of the big success stories of Bombay Dreams is Ayesha Dharker, who plays the buxom Bollywood actress Rani in the musical (Cherie Blair had asked Dharker whether her assets were all her own).
“We were all looking forward to the Queen’s visit and we were quite nervous before the show,” said Dharker. “It actually turned out to be a great show. Normally the Queen comes on stage after the curtain comes down but last night the curtain was left up so the audience could see everything.”
Dharker continued: “She met Preeya Kalidas and Raza Jaffrey (the female and male leads). It was remarkable how softly she spoke.”
Dharker explained that “because the bright spotlights are on me all the time, I can’t easily make out individuals in the audience of 2,000”.
“But we tried to see where she was sitting. And in the Chhaiyya Chhaiyya scene, when the train goes round on the stage, it was funny how easy it was to recognise her, sitting in the middle of the dress circle. We took bets on what colour she would wear. I said ‘blue’ — and, you know what, she wore blue. She comes across as not real in the sense there is a magic about her. There is also a bit of glamour.”