Mumbai High: The Musical is a made by Brian Hill and Century Films, the makers of groundbreaking documentary musicals such as Feltham Sings, Songbirds and Drinking For England.
It is a dizzying and unique musical extravaganza. Set in a school in Dharavi, Mumbai, the biggest slum in Asia, it combines observational footage of the children’s daily lives, with songs reflecting their hopes and dreams.
Fourteen year old Mary lives with her parents and two sisters on the pavement of a busy road. They have a rudimentary shelter and they all sleep on the floor, sometimes with rats running over them. Mary and the other characters have their dreams and ambitions and believe they can achieve them through education. They are clever, bright, motivated and they sing!
This is no ordinary documentary, this is the very first Bollywood style documentary musical. Mixed in with the traditional observational footage of the school are specially composed and choreographed song and dance numbers which the children (and teachers!) perform with incredible skill and charm. No film has ever been made like this, it’s a perfect way to capture the unbreakable optimism and exuberance of youth. But this is not a depressing examination of extreme poverty, it’s an uplifting celebration of human spirit and endeavour, and it sets out to tell a wider tale of India.
It’s been quite a journey and the film was premiered on BBC4 in September as part of their Indian Summer Season. The musical journey has taken me from India, where I had the joy of working with the children and teachers in the film as well as musicians based in Mumbai, to Sofia, Bulgaria recording a 28 piece string section as well as holding various recording sessions in London with some of the UK’s top Indian musicians.