by LAUREN CODLING
An Indian act will be debuting a traditional art form in an extravagant circus show in central London this month.
Mallakhamb India! will be performing at the La Soirée theatrical performance event at the newly refurbished Aldwych Theatre, in the West End.
Performers Rajesh Amrale, 32, and Rajesh Rao, 33, will be showcasing the traditional art form of mallakhamb, initially invented to practise wrestling, which combines acrobatics, martial arts and yoga.
The pair have known each other for more than two decades and told Eastern Eye they are “proud” to represent their country on such a stage.
“It’s so great to see the reaction of people who have not seen mallakhamb performed before,” Rao said. “We hope to represent India in a very traditional way and make sure we show the audience a representation of our country’s culture.”
The performance is a whirlwind of infectious energy – the two artists balance themselves at awedropping angles, using every part of their body, with an accompanying soundtrack of Bollywood music.
The act was discovered by the creative producer of La Soirée, Brett Haylock. The Australian initially came across a viral video of the pair performing in India and sought to find a way of contacting them.
Haylock, who had no previous knowledge of mallakhamb, said within a few weeks he had located where the footage came from and eventually contacted Amrale over Facebook.
However, it took five years for the act to finally make it to the La Soirée platform, which is noted for its wild (and sometimes raunchy) acts.
“We threw around dates and they didn’t really work, but there was no particular rush – it was just in the back of my mind,” Haylock explained. “The right vehicle for us had to prepare itself and London is an ideal platform on which to present that act – the UK has a strong Indian association.”
Amrale and Rao have been performing mallakhamb since they were children: Rao from the age of six and Amrale from when he was 11.
“My father encouraged me to practise a traditional sport,” Rao recalled. “[Amrale] and I went to the same school and that was how we got involved. There were lots of people from our school doing it.”
When they were younger, the duo would practise six hours a day, but as adults, they admit it is “difficult” to spend so much time on mallakhamb.
“Now we are grown up, we have other duties,” Amrale said. “I teach mallakhamb back in India and [Rao] works as a choreographer. We are both very busy, but we are both so interested in making sure we can promote mallakhamb.”
Mallakhamb India! is the opening act of the show – a “significant, trust-worthy” decision, Haylock said.
“There is a little pressure,” Amrale laughed. “It’s a big responsibility. We just hope the audience understand the different emotions throughout the performance and they send us back that same energy.”
La Soirée, which is in its 14th year, features a variety of international acts, but this is the first time an Indian act has performed at the popular event.
Haylock explained it was “beautiful” to see the cultural differences behind the scenes.
“When you come to see the show, what you feel is there is a real family,” he said. “We cast this show as much backstage as we do onstage. It needs to gel. It is a genuine ensemble – people look after each other and watch each other’s acts and give each other tips.”
Amrale agreed that it was “great” to meet other international artists.
“Meeting the other amazing acts just makes you want to compete with them to make your own act better,” he laughed.
La Soirée will be at the Aldwych Theatre until February 3, 2018.