Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Unforgettables Concert in Chicago: The Experience

Outside of the AR Rahman concert, I've never been to one of these Bollywood shows before where actors mime songs and shimmy for four hours. But I thought: what the heck, there shouldn't be anything in life one doesn't try.

The Railway Station

Early on while I was picking up tickets from the box office, a few annoyed people were trying to ensure they got prompt service. There were three people at the window helping us. A fourth guy had the misfortune of being on the phone seemingly resolving a rather tricky concert situation because he had his head in his other hand.

"YOU SIR!" a man behind me yelled. "What are you doing on the phone?! Why aren't you helping us?" and then turning around indignantly to his (rather embarassed) wife "Kya KAR raha hai woh!" Phone Guy looked up stricken and hid behind a panel.

On the other side of the foyer, a number of ticket holders were trying to smuggle their kids in without tickets. Some of them held up their children to prove that they wouldn't occupy much arena space once inside. Arguing ensued. I heard someone threaten another person. Some people tried to extract their loved ones from the crowd via their extremities.

And it struck me that whenever large tolis of Bollywood fans congregate in one place - everyone gets stressed out. They all look tense, whipping out their phones, waving their arms about or rushing around. Some even get bent out of shape. Fortunately, this WTF deal can be highly amusing if viewed the right way.

In any case, once past this Railway Station mahol the concert was very enjoyable.

Vishal & Shekhar

Both of them showed up towards the end of the first third of the show and cranked out a number of songs mostly from OSO. Vishal came dressed like one of those Miami Bhais, jumped around a lot and executed a highly uncoordinated series of spins that looked infectious and endearing. Shekhar - who was much better live than I expected - sang everything along with Vishal. Their act was - alas - too short although I loved it.

Ritesh Deshmukh & Preity Zinta

Ritesh opened the show with an on-screen montage that declared him to be tomorrow's superstar. This self congratulating aside, I really appreciated his ability to dance endlessly with energy. Preity on the other hand vogued and shook her hips and smiled a lot. It was tremendously underwhelming. Later she came back to sing Bhumbro from Mission Kashmir and did a much better job.

Abhishek Bachchan

When Abhishek entered the arena he did it from the tail end of the stadium. In doing this he had to negotiate rabid fans in the middle section all the way to the stage. The man has lost his marbles, I thought. But helped by some hefty staff who circled him entirely and occasionally hurled over-eager fans back against the crowds, he skipped his way (entirely out of taal I might add) unscathed. Then he got into a cage and took a ride above the crowds. Clearly he is blessed with great people management skills. Dancing and conventional hero strutting, no. Abhi, director ki naukri is your true calling!


Aish showed up wearing pants and a shiny corset like thingy so tight that her wimpy opening dance seemed directly connected to asphyxiation. Abhishek and Ritesh joined her wearing sleeveless shiny vests. Then she took the mike in her hand and issued a bunch of tee hees.

Abhishek came out and helped her interact with the crowds some more. Both kitchie-cooed causing one half of the audience to go aww and the other to gag. Her second and third acts saw some of her trademark grace and thumkas.

Jaya Bachchan

In a segment that had me confounded then chuckling, a somber voice announced it was time to get serious and help our planet. Then Jaya walked on stage and mechanically read out a bunch of cue cards asking everyone to save our environment. She even, rather awkwardly, read out a URL for more information. This was so much fun that I think I will call her WWW from now on. Fans scurried off to the concession stand to take advantage of this paan beedi respite.

Later that highly annoying voice came back to instruct us all to "ride bicycles" and "plant trees", forgetting to add "children don't forget your lunchboxes when the bell rings".


Amitabh got a lot of love on the introductory segments on the monitor. UNFORGETTABLE LEGEND, the montage touted as every conceivable flattering adjective was showered on the man. Meena's husband nearby remarked "Shall we confer sainthood on him already?"

But Big B worked hard to win the audiences' affection. He sang a bunch of songs live to kick off his presence - the highlight of which for me was: yes, when he sang Main Hoon Don. Later he came out and did some dances. He recited his pitaji's Agneepath in a rousing voice. He then maroed a couple of dialogs from his film (including that rather famous one from Deewar when he goes one-on-one with Shiva in a temple and ends up begging for mum's life).

He spent a lot of time on stage doing baat cheet. He poured his heart and soul into all of it.

Finally a couple of notes. Amanat Ali unleashed a highly impressive warm up act dressed in his (by now) trademark Jitender-like white outfit with scarf.

And I loved the 'whole grass is greener on the other side' seat exchanges that occurred as soon as the show started. We were among the pioneers of this musical chairs and even visited our old seats once to check Aish from a different angle. (She looks good from all of them)



Anonymous said...

amanat ali? like our amanat ali at the concert?

how random!

Anonymous said...

What, no Madhuri in Chicago?

Amanat must have been a surprise. And what was this musical chairs. Were there empty seats in the arena?

Anonymous said...

Hate it when movie stars or politicians start lecturing commoners about reducing carbon footprint. They spend 100 times more jet-setting around the world while we have to ride a bicycle.

Anonymous said...

I didn't know Amanat Ali was supposed to be there. What about Madhuri?!?! I know Pitu was looking fwd to Mads more than anything...what happened?

Sounds like an OK show...nothing spectacular from what i've read here and what people have told me. So, out of all, who was the best, and who was the worst?? Not worst in the sense that they didn't perform much, but worst in the sense that they just didn't seem comfortable on stage...

lol on the WWW comment!!

Unknown said...

Yes, that amanat ali. He's pretty recognizable on the floor so that's good for him.

No Madhuri - fine by me.

Amitabh was easily the most entertaining. Preity was the least. That's my opinion.

I think one of the problems was the way the backup dancers had been picked - because they were probably optimized in terms of head count, changes between songs took much longer than usually.

And I think they had been picked to dance with the Bachchans who are all tall people. So someone like PZ struggled to stand out among them.

Unknown said...

j, the show had a few empty seats but also people showed up late. So musical chairs ensued.

Also there was a small percentage of the audience who was not in their seat at any given time either walking around or standing.

Anonymous said...

damn! i wish VS would come to south africa, would love to see them live in action

Anonymous said...

Great review, Drift saab!

BTW, a bit of Love Chakker---As cynical as I can be about stuff, Ash and Abhi do look like they are in loooove!

Also, Ash looooves her mom in law and pa in law.

And a guy in the audience all the way from San Fransisco LOOOVEs Abhishek Bachchan.

Abhi looooves the auntyji in the white salwaar. More Love Chakker ensues.

Unknown said...

Speaking of Love Chakkers, AB's blog entry about the Chicago show evoked this response among many others. (just so you know, it wasn't me)

[name withheld] Says:
August 12th, 2008 at 8:21 am

Amitabh, Abhishek, Ashwaraya—
Please let me be in one of your movies…give me a chane…i’ll do it for free!! i just want to be your friends and be with you and work with you guys…you guys rock!! i live in chicago…

Anonymous said...

j, funny that you should say that about the carbon footprint business, how they dont practice what they preach. Here is AB sr himself on the subject (..wow, how big can the egos get...)


Anonymous said...

..I will only venture into one of these shows again if Akshay Kumar or Hrithik Roshan shows up. I cannot forgive low energy, non-dancers...

Anonymous said...

Akshay Kumar was also supposed to be a part of the concert na??he wasn't there???

Anonymous said...

I think Akshay just joined the group in Canada where he was promoting Singh is King. I dont think he was suppose to be on the show.

Speaking of which anyone watched the movie. Akshay has been great in comedies since Hera Pheri so I am looking forward to it.

Anonymous said...

haven't yet but i think i'l be watching it soon!reviews say the movie is ok-ok..and Akshay is the best part of the movie!and too many 'stunts' for no good reason!

Unknown said...

c, j is right about Akshay. He did only one leg.

I haven't seen a positive review of Singh is Kinng yet. Everyone seems to hate it. But it'll probably be a huge hit given Akshay's track record + charisma.

Unknown said...

meena, thanks for the link. Boy is Big B defensive about his son and bahu! Its probably because of this Zaalim Bollywood duniya that has made Big B protective of his parivaar.

I am going to create a character called Gauri Khan and leave comments on Big B's blog about his carbon footprint.

My first comment will be: "Sir, ever since you published my husbands TRP on your blog and made fun of him, his smoking has increased by 20%. Was that an environmentally responsible thing to do, I ask you? Could you not have rode a bike, or turned off the lights (so to say).

Also, please come to Mannat for our kitty party next week"

Anonymous said...

I think that is why bollywoodians write blogs. Either to put their enemies down or to make themselves look good. Case in point is RGV or Kunal Kohli.

The only blog I think is worth reading is Amir and Vishal's.

Anonymous said...

Aspi, you should have read what he had to say to anyone who dared to say that aish's dress was wrinkled in Cannes :)

I do read his blog once in a while and it is fascinating to see the unconscious stunning egotism that comes through...you would think anyone who is a living legend is used to adoration..but I guess it never gets old that need for adulation..

Unknown said...

j, what do you think of KJo's blog?

meena, I remember reading that. In fact someone recently "advised" him to stay away from Amar Singh. I was hoping he'd respond to that but no dice.

Anonymous said...

The thing I liked about AB sr was that he was so humble. He had lived a life where he had faced the ups, the affairs, the downs, kids growing up and son having a broken relationship. This made him so much human.

Since AB Jr. wedding he and his wife unnecessarily try to protect ab jr and dil. He is turning into a grumpy old man.

K Jo's blog is like him kind of nice, kind of a little bland. I like reading it but it is tedious. He needs to incorporate some humor.

SRK would make a good blogger. He is not afraid of making fun of himself or others.

Anonymous said...

I do enjoy reading these blogs cause that's when you realize that the people you worship are nothing more than just bitter old people looking to complain and for someone to read their complaints!

Aspi, you totally should write on Big B's blog as Mrs. Khan. That would be totally priceless. Plus, we get to tell the world that the second tiff between the Bachchans and SRK was started by us!! Bragging rights Aspi G, Bragging rights!

I really like Aamir's blog! Also, has anyone read Sallumiya's blog? Apparently, he's been bad mouthing a certain Khan on his blog...I must check it out when I get home. Stupid firewall blocks all that fun stuff...

Anonymous said...

Aspi, here is an idea for a post - critique the blogging styles of all these celebrities.

Unknown said...

Good idea - I'll compare each blog to a car or vegetable while I'm at it.

Kanan said...

How close were you to the stage, Aspi? The photos have come out nice & clear, all the ones marked with DSC.

No backstage access for you? It’s too bad these guys don’t realize you’re their ticket to more fame. *sigh*

Desi crowds going crazy – that’s one of the biggest reasons why I don’t like these concerts. It’s like climbing into a bus like we used to in India all over again.

Unknown said...

I forgot to mention - I flicked all those pics off the tour site, they're actually from multiple shows. The site does encourage you to download and use the pics.

I was v. far away. Expensive seats were $300 a pop. For Don I would have paid that much. For the actor that played Don, not worth it.

Anonymous said...

i iused to read Big B's blog but most of the time he bores me.many explanations,so much reasoning and at times too philosophical!

i've never been to a bollywood concert ever.i wish i get to see Shahihd Kapur do a concert once...i love to seee him dancing!he shd come to hyd and perform..i'l be in the first row:P

Anonymous said...

i wish they came to my city.. i would go just for ash and preity.. and big b's old songs

don't care about madhuri or the rest of the gang.. MEH

and regarding Singh Is King..

i refuse to watch it.. i hate indian comedies, i hate akshay's mindless brainless movies.. and i don't wish to leave my "brain at home" thank you very much... and it is NOTHING for me to be proud of.. just because bollywood in the past has always depicted sikh characters as over the top caricatures and loudmouth idiots, doesn't mean i go ga ga over some lame movie just because they have a singh as the lead character and maybe have depicted them in a positive way..

my cousin was telling me that his friends are like you have to watch the movie its about us.. and i said to him, tell them to eff Off and say you don't need some lame inane bollywood comedy to be proud of yourself..

apparently akshay's character could have been of any ethnic background, the movie would have been the same..

Anonymous said...

I am so disappointed.. I missed out on my Olympic Swimmer boyfriend's gold medal winning swim :(

I don't think I'll see him again :( he isn't prolific

Unknown said...

You are dating a Korean guy?

Anonymous said...

Love that comment above :-)

Anonymous said...

OH GAWD no he's american.. i remember having a crush last olympics.. i was a giddy teenager in loooooooooove..

haha and i don't just have a "TV boyfriend", i got a "desi TV boyfriend", "olympic swimmer bf" "movie star boyfriend" "desi reality show boyfriend" etc etc

luckily no "politician bf" or "desi politician boyfriend" etc

Unknown said...

M, Alain Peirsol? Or was it one of those 4x100 freestyle relay guys?

Pitu said...

Hehehe!! I had fun!

Anonymous said...

Wow Meg...all these men in you life, yet you make time for the drift! Now there's dedication! :D

Anonymous said...

i LOVED singh is king...:)

Anonymous said...

the only Indian politician i like is Rahul Gandhi..all the others seem so fake!!

Anonymous said...

Singh the king,



Anonymous said...

it's not getting posted:-?


Unknown said...

Cinderella, great idea re: Abhishek on a reality show. Unfortunately 5-6 Jhoom Barabar Jhoom-like flops will have to occur before we'll see that.

Posted the Singh is King link. Thanks - its a terrific time pass game.

Also, links get posted by me manually so bear with me please if I'm late with it.

Anonymous said...

actually i could not find my own posts on the page so i got a bit confused.

Unknown said...

No problem - you're all good now. Wish I could make going from comments to posts easier. But I'm beginning to realize how limited the Blogger platform is when you want to do funky stuff.

Over Rated said...

I read Karan's blog once and he tried to come across as a acha insaan trying to confess his sins.

And I read Big B's blog once because I needed material to make fun off in my own blog. :P ...

He and Shobha De had this whole feud over the pleats on Ash's dresses!! The way he went of on her one would've thought that she burnt one of his dad's poems!! I dunno why he needs to sink so low and get back at his critics. He should just leave that to RGV.

Kalyan said...

Aspi ..extending your comment on Vishal and his dress ..At one point I thought with his heavy thump, Vishal is gonna damage the podium ... or he is on some running diet ... Here is what I found on India FM's back stage Day 24
- Talking of people behind the stage, Vishal can't ever forget a lady by the name of Noreen! It could have been one messy Sunday but Noreen ensured that there was no letdown whatsoever. Read on to know what really happened!

- Apparently, Vishal's costumes went missing and there was no time to launch a search. Reason? The show had to begin at 7:00 PM and it was already 6:20 PM. Stationed at his hotel, Vishal had to get something on to suit the mood of the stage and performance. This is where Noreen came to his rescue! She took him to a nearby mall and used her fashion experience to the fullest. In 20 minutes flat, she along with Vishal ran from one store to another, picked up stuff, didn't bother trying them out, dumped them into one huge bag and rushed to the venue. Of course, it was a fun of a different kind which Vishal got out of the entire experience. "

Unknown said...

Kalyan, thanks for the update. Vishal has a stage wardrobe?! Would never have guessed.

justanotherfishinthesea said...

I did not know Vishal had a blog. He seems like a pretty frank person so I am sure his blog would be a very good read. Man, I wish I could have afforded driving 4 hours for this show just for Amanat Ali, but I so couldn't with stupid bursar fees to worry about.

@M: I have a crush on Aaron Peirsol too. And I love the Olympics for ogling at male swimmers' bodies. But I kinda prefer Ryan Lochte because he is a goofball. Oh, and now I have the excuse to link to this pic. http://jezebel.com/5036456/golden-boys-ricky-berens-ryan-lochte-michael-phelps

Anonymous said...

how'd you guys guess it is aaron piersol.. teehee

yeah i luff him.. when i saw him the first time in the pool, i was like *swoon*.. last olympics .. donno he reminds me of guys i used to see growing up and thinking "wow can't wait to be legal so i can date one of them".. i think he is a surfer too! bonus! Aaron if you're reading this!! marry moiiii...i don't even care of you recedding hairline bb..

thats a hot photo fish lady but those boys got nothing on my Aaron jaan

Anonymous said...

i am missing him so much this olympics, its all been about Phelps.. yeah yeah we knoww he swims FASSSSST *rolleyes* don't wanna be reminded every 5 seconds like others don't matter...

also swimming got booooring after seeing phelps in every race.. like WTF?? butterfly?? UGH its for wankers! breaststroke? what the?? its for grannies!! don't even get me started on freestyle!

backstroke is where its at.. its the granddaddy of all swimming styles!! and so underrated UFFFF

and is it just me who thinks boys are looking girlier in the pool what with their one piece suit..yeah they're developed by NASA or whatever but a man wearing a one piece that isn't a wetsuit, ridiculous!

and the girls are looking manlier..got no tits and their upperbody is so manly..i can't even tell if its a women's event or men's until i read the names..


some of the female divers were so fat with thunder thighs what is up with that?

Unknown said...

Sheesh and what's up with this NBC coverage. There are gold medals and world beating performances on display everywhere and I get to watch Misty May and Walsh beating someone by a huge margin in some early round of beach volleyball. Every night!

This NBC coverage insults all Americans if you ask me.

And that Bob Costas - I was highly amused at the way he nodded nobly yesterday and went "There is so much to learn from the Chinese!"

No shit, little boy.