Bring on the new stage star – Nisha Aaliya

Rohit Gokani and Nisha Aaliya
Rohit Gokani and Nisha Aaliya

NEWCOMER Nisha Aaliya has been delighting audiences with a starring turn in Bring On The Bollywood, but the way she landed the lead role in the colourful stage musical was like a life-changing moment straight from a Hindi movie. She accidentally came to the attention of director Samir Bhamra while assisting choreographer Leena Patel during the Bring On The Bollywood auditions and was asked to put herself forward for the lead role.

Nisha was given just 20 minutes to learn a dialogue and a Hindi song before auditioning and then was cast as Dr Katrina Pawar in a national tour of the Bollywood musical. The talented actress rose to the challenge and has been delighting stage fans with her colourful performance. Eastern Eye caught up with Nisha to talk about Bring On The Bollywood, acting, confidence, romance, following your dreams and more.

You have previously participated in beauty pageants and worked as a model, were you always confident growing up?

Confidence is something that you work on through experience over the years, like a skill. Growing up I was definitely not the “confident one”. I believe in investing time and effort into finding what makes you feel great, whether that is sport, art, music or anything else. Coming from a performance background – mainly dance related – helped build my stage confidence and presence. Taking part in Miss England 2016 helped me understand why pageants exist and what their mission is, as well as how women of today can put themselves forward to be ambassadors of the great work they do for the country. So in terms of confidence, I believe my knack for taking on challenges is what has helped build self-confidence.

How did you feel when you were unexpectedly given the lead role in Bring On The Bollywood?

It definitely felt unreal at the time when I got offered the role. I had to get someone to pinch me! I grew up watching Bollywood; from dancing in my room dressing up in the cute matching lenghas with my little sister, to taking Bollywood dance classes when I started university. Bollywood has always been a part of my life and I am constantly drawn to it in some form or another. I am forever thankful to Samir Bhamra for the incredible opportunity he has given me.

It’s your first major stage acting project, did you feel like you were being thrown in at the deep end?

Deep end is an understatement, if that’s even possible. In life generally, I enjoy working under pressure and landing myself in situations where I have no option but to learn how to swim in the ocean. There’s a great power in tapping into something you feel is almost impossible and making it work because you have to. I have learned so much in the last few weeks and keep learning as every new day presents itself. I call each a fulfilling day.

How have you been able to rise to the challenge so successfully?

Thank you. Having the right people around you is very important; this is in a nutshell family, friends, supporters and the team working with you. I have been blessed to have my external environment amazingly positive with encouraging people who won’t let me fall or think that it’s not possible and I am grateful for that. It’s also a strong mental game too. So being prepared to look past any shortcomings and displaying fearlessness and believing that it is ok to make mistakes and not be perfect from the get-go, and then go for the best that you can do. With every moment you invest in telling yourself you can do it. Then actually doing the work makes all the difference.

Nisha Aaliya and Anthony Sahota

Tell us about the story and character you play.

The story is based around Dr Katrina Pawar’s visit to India for her younger brother’s wedding. On this journey she meets an unexpected suitor, which leads to a classic Bollywood love triangle scenario or as the show calls it, a samosa. There are a few interesting stories that tangle into one as the show goes on, but I can’t say any more. The character I play is Dr Katrina Pawar who has spent the last 14 years in London and is a free-spirited, unapologetically confident modern-day woman. And she’s a Bollywood lover (kind of like myself).

How did it feel being on stage for the first time?

I have performed on numerous stages previously as a dancer so it was a similar feeling being in character at all times, whatever you may be playing at the time. For me what was different this time round was the singing aspect. I had never sung before on stage, so to hear myself sing live on stage was something.

What has the audience response been like?

The audience have been amazing. I think that’s what makes every performance that much more enjoyable. We have had incredible crowds in cities including Coventry, Ipswich, London (Kingston) and Doncaster. It’s beautiful speaking with them post-show and listening to which parts they loved most and what they found funny (although we can hear constant bursts of laughter throughout the play). When
I see how much the audience has enjoyed the show and how much they love Bollywood, it really lights a spark in my heart.

Nisha Aaliya, Robby Khela and Anthony Sahota in Bring on the Bollywood

What is your favourite moment in the play?

I have far too many favourite moments in the play. If I must pick one, I’d say Satyam Shivam Sundaram, which is a piece choreographed by Sonia Sabri and sung by Robby Khela, and has Devesh Sodha’s rendition of the music. The piece is beautifully performed by our talented ensemble who enact Katrina’s emotions while I dance and express my deepest sorrows. It’s a powerful moment in the play and moves the audiences (and myself).

Can you share a behind the scenes story from the tour so far?

(Laughs) There is so much happening behind the scenes. We are a family with great chemistry, so the banter off-stage is never lost! I will however mention our behind the scenes hero, or rather heroine, Tanvi Gutka, who is our excellent hair and make-up artist. She is a wonder woman who keeps the cast ready backstage and always keeps our spirits up. It helps that we are all very filmy and share Bollywood culture so you can imagine the plethora of one-liners that fly across the dressing rooms.

How much of a Bollywood fan are you?

Much like Katrina, I love Bollywood! I grew up watching the likes of Shah Rukh Khan, Madhuri Dixit, Karisma Kapoor and yes this list could go on forever. It’s tough deciding my favourite movie, but one that I watch repeatedly is Dil To Pagal Hai. It has the best songs and is about love and dance. What more could I ask for?

Bollywood is built on romance, but how much of a romantic are you?

I’d like to think that I’m quite romantic. I enjoy long walks, conversations and looking up at the stars (when they are visible in London). Having said that, I haven’t had time for romance in my life just yet. The balance between work and dance has left me with time only for my family and friends.

Which Bollywood leading man would you love to be romanced by on screen?

Hrithik Roshan! Everything about him is beautiful.

Who is your favourite Bollywood leading lady of all time?

Priyanka Chopra, no doubt. She is a strong modern day woman who has broken barriers and has not been afraid of taking risks or starting something new. Her success in Bollywood needs no comment and she is doing extremely well in Hollywood too. A woman of today, I have unbound respect for her.

Can you see yourself acting in a Bollywood film in the future?

If the opportunity is there, who would say no?

What is the plan going forward for you?

I am investing in my acting career further so moving forward this will be my focus.

What inspires you?

Bravery inspires me. When I see courage and self-belief in anything or anyone, I feel lifted in my spirits.

Why should we watch Bring On The Bollywood?

If you want to escape to your own world of Narnia, Bring On The Bollywood takes you away on a journey full of fun, laughter, love, romance, hurt and family. It brings the colours of India and the glamour of Bollywood to the stage with a Shakespearean element. We’ve done half the shows out of 72 so far and I still laugh at every joke from backstage and can’t get enough.

Bring On The Bollywood by Phizzical theatre company is currently on a UK tour and being staged at the Arts Depot in London from July 6 to 8. Visit to find out more and for further tour dates.