She is already a fixture on American network television, with appearances on shows such as “Modern Family,” “All My Children” and “Law & Order.” And she had a starring role in the Broadway production of A.R. Rahman’s “Bombay Dreams” (more on that later).
But versatile Indian American actress Anjali Bhimani is most excited about her appearance in a cutting-edge stage production of “Metamorphoses” presented by the Lookingglass Theater Company in Chicago, and now running at the Water Tower Water Works.
Theatre producer Mary Zimmerman has “conjured the force of Ovid’s myths into gorgeous imagery, provocative moments and breathtaking storytelling,” said a spokesperson for the show. “Metamorphoses” debuted on Broadway in 2002 (earning the Tony Award for best direction), and this production represents a celebration of its 10th anniversary. The Chicago Tribune called the production “Entrancing … an evening of almost magical changes, wrought through the unique imagery of theatre.”
Bhimani explained on the phone to India-West that the show is an ambitious retelling of ancient tales. “It’s based on an anthology of Greek myth,” she said Oct. 16. “We do 13 different myths over the course of the evening, and what’s unique is that it is set in a pool of water.” Water, she explained, is an element used here to convey change; the play, too, depicts the transformative power of love and how it changes people.
“In true Greek myth fashion, it has been an epic journey for the show, and certainly for me personally. This show, more than any I’ve done, changed my life and remains very dear to my heart.”
When Andrew Lloyd Webber and A.R. Rahman’s 2002 London production of “Bombay Dreams” reached Broadway in 2004, Bhimani started in the ensemble cast and then secured roles as the understudy to Bollywood diva Rani (played by Ayesha Dharker on Broadway and in London) and to actress Madhur Jaffrey, who played the hero’s grandmother. Bhimani then took over for Dharker in the starring role of Rani when Dharker left the show.
On TV, Bhimani can often be seen in comic roles that demand real smarts and a grasp of sharp dialogue and quick timing. “I’m lucky in that I've never felt pigeonholed into playing purely Indian or South Asian characters, but at the same time, it has served as a benefit to be able to convincingly play other ethnicities. In the theatre, I’ve played every type imaginable, which again, I have been blessed and lucky to do,” she said.
And the next time you see Bhimani playing a doctor, remember this: “On TV I’m often a doctor, but I also think that has to do with the fact that I just handle medical jargon and action very well (rather than an Indian stereotype) thanks to the fact that both my parents are doctors,” she told India-West.
“I have a tendency to run TO accidents rather than away from them even in real life, so I guess this was the easiest way for me to be a doctor without going to medical school!”