Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I would be moving to a foreign country to live, let alone a country in the Middle East. Over the 2009 Christmas and New Year’s holidays, my husband Roger and I discussed what we wanted the next part of our life to be like. He thought that before retiring, he would like to do one more airport project but only if he could find something very interesting. I half-jokingly agreed that would be fine but could he try for an exotic location? As usual, Roger came through and soon we were headed to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. This blog is a recap of our "leap-of- faith" wanderings around the Middle East and beyond. We joyfully share these expat experiences.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Bollywood Dinner Theatre … Only in Dubai!

The lights go down.

Center stage a beautiful Indian woman exquisitely dressed in a seductive sparkling ghagra (skirt) and choli (top) strikes a melodramatic pose.

The heavy bass beat of loud rhythmic music pounds out of the speakers just above our heads.

In the background a gushing waterfall with two suspended TV screens shows flashy dance scenes from Bollywood movies that the on stage performers pantomime.

The exotic dancer gyrates to the rhythm and lip syncs the song. The show is ON!

This is The Moghul Room – The Bollywood Dinner Theatre in Dubai!

It is an article in The National that alerts me to Moghul Room. When Roger laughingly declines the suggestion that we go check it out, I go to plan B.

Which of my friends are eager for an adventure?

Well, that didn’t take long – I quickly conjure up an eclectic group of 11 American friends. Eclectic? Yes, everything from an OBGYN, to a yoga instructor,to a host of American Women’s Association (AWA) executives and more! All I asked them to bring is an appreciation for a new experience and sense of humor. This is either going to be very entertaining or painful. None of us have much experience with Bollywood.

“I never knew Bollywood dinner theatre could make me laugh, gasp, frown and then smile all in the same minute, “observes my new friend Amber.

Upon arriving at Al Nasr Leisureland (vintage 1979) we are directed to a building in the back of the lot. There are many Indian men standing around the grounds rather curious as to this group of well-dressed Caucasian women who suddenly emerge from a fleet of taxis invading their territory. Followed by piercing stares, we proceed through a worn doorway and are directed to the back and up the narrow stairs which are festooned with Bollywood posters and colorful flags. Rather feels likes an exclusive hideaway.
“I knew from the moment we left the cab this Texas girl was a long way from home and having yet another “hilarious out of the box” experience in Dubai,” remarks travel agent Karen.
The show is a series of musical numbers replicating famous dance routines from Bollywood films.
Srinivas Mysore opens the cabaret style show singing beautiful romantic sounding ballads – I think! As everything is in Hindu and none of us can understand a word.
Wendy, Rajah, Katie, Vivek, Jani & Sherry

Gorgeous, “buff” Vivek Varma is completely believable impersonating Bollywood “heart throb” Salman Khan.  
Salman Khan
Sporting a seductive pencil mustache and dressed in aviator sunglasses and tight fitting costumes – a police officer uniform, tight sleeveless black t-shirt, very tight short-shorts, and a glittery biker jacket - he does a great macho strut as he gyrates and lip syncs the Bollywood hits all to the delight of our group – practically the only women in the audience.
The lead woman performer is Shaan (which is also the title of the blockbuster movie produced and directed by Ramesh Sippy).  Dressed in beautiful Indian garb she performs a variety of Bollywood dance specials ranging from old classical mujaras to new filmy item numbers. She is backed by two Malaysian looking dancers who try to keep up with her and do a lot of hair swinging.
A second female performer dresses in rather kinky clothes sometimes playing the male role while singing with the lead performer. I am somewhat confused by her number where she dresses as a little girl and plays suggestively with a large stuffed bear while brandishing a badminton racket. I think this act may be a bit x-rated – but then again maybe not!
Fitness instructor Carmen really appreciates the talents of the dancer, “The female star is great using her stunning smile, flashy costumes and suggestive dance movements - she has the audience eating out of her hand!” 
Karen, Kalpana Iyer, Carmen
Upon arriving we are graciously greeted by the manager, a former Miss India and Bollywood star (Raja Hindustani - 1996), Kalpana Iyer elegantly dress in a black and grey sari. She assures me that our every need and wish will be taken care of by the staff. She has reserved one of the best tables in the house for our party of 11. However, the only disappointment of the evening is the emphatic directive that NO photos of the performers are permitted.
Katie & Chef Vivaj Singh
Chef Vijay Singh has a merry band of waiters who take great care to artfully present his masterfully prepared dishes that smell so yummy. The diner buffet contains assorted salads, tandoori, biryaini, pulaorice, patathas, various rotis and a selection of desserts.  Wonderfully, the servers all delight in having their photos taken. 

“How can 11 fabulous women go anywhere and not have fun! The humor of the evening made for lots of laughter, the hard working staff made for excellent service and the delicious Indian food made for a great meal.” exclaims my Fort Lauderdale friend Wendy.

As depicted in the banners and photographs decorating the room, the show is a tribute to the Sippy family who has an illustrious history within the Indian film industry. Rajah Sippy, a member of this talented family, is the owner and producer of The Moghul House. This successful Indian entrepreneur is also a former Bollywood star (Awara Baap -1985) and producer (Shehzaade - 1989).

“This is definitely an experience I never through I’d have. It is so funny in such a great campy way – so bad it is good!” declares Rachel.
The final four in our party leaves around 12:30pm. Too bad! You could feel the pace of the show picking up and the audience of mainly Indian men really getting into the revelry.  
“What a hoot! A bonus of moving to Dubai was the exposure to so much Indian culture. At work I see many Indian patients and my kids have many Indian classmates so we have experienced lots of Indian culture but this one tops them all!” says Dr. Jennifer.
The show is performed seven nights a week from 9:30pm to 3:30am with no intermission. It must be just exhausting for the performers.
Fellow blogger Jani remarks, “Loved it!  Although a tad (a BIG tad) hokey for us Americans, it certainly captures the spirit of the people of India!  It's a must-do (at least once) for people living in Dubai!”  

If you are interested in going call Raj and make a reservation – The Moghul Room. The later in the evening you go the better. It is located in Al Nasr Leisureland just opposite the emergency entrance for the American Hospital in Oud Metha.
Leisureland is a family oriented sports and entertainment centre that opened in 1979. It boasts a bowling alley (that serves beer), an arcade and an ice skating rink. Hmmm . . could be another outing!     
Veteran Dubai resident Theresa sums up the evening, “After 10 years in Dubai it is still great to be able to have a new experience!! And one that I will remember with lots of laughs!!”
Postscripts . . .
The “Bollywood Beauties”. . . I love girlfriends who are up for new experiences. Thanks for joining me on this adventure - Karen Whiteside, Professional Travel Agent; Theresa Dommett, AWA President; Dr. Jennifer Kasirsky, OBGYN Well Care Hospital, Diane Dolan, Food Connoisseur;  Sherry Bohlen, Owner of Oh So Chic Handbags;  JaniDiedam, Blogger/Photographer; AmberPergande, Yoga Instructor;  Rachel Schure, AWA 2013 Gala Chair; Wendy Mervis, Owner of In Transit Emergency Specialist and Carmen Clark, Fitness Instructor.

Kalpana Iyer, Bollywood star!
 Bollywood Film . . . Bollywood films are musical featuring elaborate catchy song-and-dance numbers woven into the script.  The film’s plot, songs and dance are very melodramatic depicting  star-crossed lovers, love triangles, corrupt politicians, conniving villains, comedy and dare-devil thrills, all mixed up in a three-hour-long extravaganza. Most films have heroes who are able to fight off villains all by themselves. The music is many times sung by popular music artists and then lip synced by the actors and dancers, many who cannot hold a tune. 

Kalpana Iyer in Chor Police (1983)


  1. It all sounds like so much excitement and fun. When you talk about an out of the box experience you really mean it.

  2. Wow, Katie. What fun. I've lived in Dubai 11 years & I've never heard of the Moghul Room. There are just layers & layers to this city. Really great write-up & photos. Thanks for sharing.

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