Did The Twilight Players intrigue you in Dev D? They sure distracted me from Dev, who, by then hopelessly singed by the pain of lost love, was always plastered. They’re the trio who break into groovy Michael-Jackson-meets-1950s hipster moves at the grimy watering hole that Dev frequents in Paharganj, New Delhi. Under cold blue neon lights, thick cigarette smoke hanging above them, The Twilight Players entertain the nocturnal wastrels. They even acquire a somewhat other-worldly aura—at certain points in the film, it seems as if they’re a figment of Dev’s imagination; at other times, they are the angels watching Dev’s every mistake. Clad in MJ black suits, white shirts, perforated Oxford shoes and black hats, they are every bit the retro hipsters.
Three’s company: (from left) Jimi ‘The Quiff’; Sinbad Phgura and Ammo ‘Too Sweet’.
Long before they appeared in Dev D, YouTubers were familiar with these performers: British Punjabi brothers originally from Hertfordshire (a desi hub bordered by Greater London), their dance form, Open Hand, was pioneered by a 1980s UK underground group called Cool Pockets.
Two of the brothers—42-year-old Sinbad Phgura, the flamboyant big brother and captain of the ship; and 30-year-old Ammo (Ammo ‘Too Sweet’)—decided to stay back in India for a couple of months after the Dev D release (the third brother, Jimi—Jimi ‘The Quiff’—is snowboarding in Eastern Europe). We caught up with the two at Mumbai’s quintessentially filmi hotel: JW Marriott, where they seemed quite at home.
What they’re doing now
The Twilight Players are in Mumbai for the long haul. Dev D gave them the platform to break into the Hindi film scene—after having performed all over the world and opened for famous names such as Madonna (as part of her Blonde Ambition Tour in 1990). “I’ve been a big fan of 1970s and 1980s Bollywood movies and Bachchan and Dharmendra. I kind of knew we’d be here one day,” says Sinbad, a free spirit who spent many years in Los Angeles and Barcelona before the band’s Bollywood debut.
He belongs to what he calls “OG”, or the “Original Generation”. Long before the British Asian Underground became famous in the early 1980s, Asians in the UK developed an underground hip-hop-and-Indian music idiom. Sinbad was then growing up in their “down-to-earth suburban immigrant family home”.
The catalyst for Dev D was a meeting with Abhay Deol, who plays the lead in the film, through UK-based talent consultant Geeta Handa. “We had met some other producers earlier, but they all had this fixed idea about how they wanted to use talent from other countries. Kind of like extras that you see in every other big Bollywood film now. Anurag and we were in sync from Day 1. He gave us an open hand and yet used us creatively,” Sinbad says. “It projects us as what we are: how we dance, how we move and how we hang—The Twilight Players is about a way of life,” adds Ammo.
Back home, their dad (he moved to the UK in 1959 at the age of 14 on a ship from Cochin), who owns a shop in Hertfordshire, is still kind of sore over his sons’ choice of vocation. “He’s happy we’re here in India though,” Sinbad says.
In 2006, The Twilight Players came to India for a workshop on Open Hand at the Whistling Woods Film School in Mumbai. They’re now zeroing in on a few workshops in Mumbai in the next two months and are also meeting producers and directors who, they say, have already started calling them. For more details about their gigs and workshops, visit www.twilightplayers.com