…despite a near two-hour delay at Sydney show
It was a late start. Very late. So incredibly late that this article was very nearly called The (late) Shahrukh Khan.
But just as you expect the most beautiful brides to be late to the altar, so too do you expect the biggest and brightest of Bollywood stars to be late for their performances. Heck, you’d be surprised if they were on time!
And yet this time round, the Sydney audience could not contain themselves as the hugely publicised Temptation Reloaded show opened after a delay of an hour and forty-five minutes. They broke out in ‘boos’ as the lights finally dimmed, and as the introduction came on, the usually suave Harry Harinath, Parramasala director, fumbled as the waiting gallery showed their displeasure.
But such is the power of Bollywood that ultimately, the masses forgive its stars their every folly. This time round, the star was the indomitable Shahrukh Khan, and no one can be mad at him for too long.
It was him they had come to see.
There was much build up on the screen as the audience sat on the edge of their seats in those final moments, waiting for their favourite star. The music was deafening and climactic as SRK clips flashed by with dramatic speed, hypnotising the audience into hysteria. It was almost as if what you were going to see would be the best thing you would see for a long, long time, or that you were going to lay eyes on some kind of messiah…
And when the messiah set foot on stage, escorted behind open umbrellas before a dramatic ‘unveiling,’ he looked, er, kind of puny. No, I am not going to hit ‘backspace’ and erase that last bit. And if you’re a diehard SRK fan, you can start writing out your letter of protest; but please be aware that I have myself been an admirer ever since I first saw SRK on the TV series Fauji and more so since he gave the most amazing interview to this newspaper when he was in Sydney last during the making of Chak de India. But, he did look rather scrawny, and was a bit of an anti-climax after that massive build-up. And dressed all in black, with the blackest of black hair even at age 48, and in what looked like a black raincoat, the messiah looked less like a messiah and more like a baddie from Lord of the Rings. Yet oh, how the audience loved him; they roared as he greeted them in different tongues, and in one very bad Aussie accent.
SRK’s first act, forty five minutes into the show, lasted just over ten minutes, but included the best and most expected of SRK, in a medley of Chaiya Chaiya, Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, Kali Kali Aankhen, Chammak Chhalo, and that trademark line Picture abhi baaki hai. The Badshah of Bollywood also felt hot and cold alternatively, because he changed jackets four times in those ten minutes, each change respectfully carried onto stage by one of his minions.
At least some of his fans in the audience had by now forgiven him of his late start, especially as he related how much he loved Sydney and would like to settle down here, probably in ‘Harish’ Park. He also thanked the acts that came before him, some of Bollywood’s leading women, who were huge drawcards to his show. Perhaps no one has the guts to tell the King that you can’t refer to each woman as ‘the one and only’; he might ask for their head on a platter. Or then again, ask the women: he probably makes them feel they are his ‘one and only’ as he romances them in his oh-so-special way…
Sydney’s very own Poonam Chandiramani definitely felt she was his ‘one-and-only,’ as he singled her out from the audience for some special King Khan attention. One-time Miss India and the country’s leading model in the mid to late ‘80s, Poonam (nee Gidwani) must have stood out like a flash in the pan from where SRK stood. She came across with dignity in the face of the star’s gentle needling, and looked stunning on screen as he wooed her with his love songs. (In a parallel world somewhere, Shahrukh probably would have wooed her on screen: few people know that in her heyday, Bollywood came knocking at Poonam’s door, and while she declined the offers, her bestie from the industry, another Miss India called Juhi Chawla, chose to take them on).
“I felt like I had known him for years as I stood beside him on stage chatting,” Poonam told Indian Link later.
Three other members of the audience, the irrepressible Lucky Singh, her hubby Balbir, and Abhishek Chopra will probably tell stories of their up close and personal time with Shahrukh, for as long as they live. Jab tak hai jaan? Meanwhile, there must be a YouTube clip somewhere of Lucky’s relentless refusal to give up the mic, of Balbir rolling on the floor, or of Abhishek’s unfortunate lungi wardrobe malfunction. Now that would be priceless!
For many, SRK’s hobnobbing with randomly picked members of the audience will remain the stand-out memory from the event. King Khan was in his element as he did what he does best in his stage shows, taking the mickey out of his beloved fans.
The dancing divas Madhuri Dixit, Rani Mukherjee and Jacqueline Fernandez were reduced sadly to ‘side-acts’. Many wanted to see them and hear from them, especially the divine Madhuri, as much as they wanted to see Shahrukh, and they were left disappointed. Madhuri Dixit’s advent on stage particularly saw the entire auditorium light up like a night sky as phone cameras went off. The hit O Re Piya was performed to non-stop screaming, even as the iconic star was slowly raised on a white cloud in near darkness. As the stage lit up to Devdas-style decorations, it was the foot-stomping Ek Do Teen and Aaja Nachle, so enticingly performed that one felt like telling the chorus to step aside and let the lady speak on her own!
With Rani as well the crowd roared to see the lovable star say Shava Shava. The chorus line in red allowed her to stand out in shimmering white, a strategically placed head-piece giving her added height. She may not be our best dancing star, better known as she is for her histrionics, but she put enough vigour and gamine energy into her performance to make it pure entertainment, and brought her best-known numbers to life admirably. And the best part of it was, she looked like she enjoyed every minute of it!
The leggy Jacqueline Fernandez, completely overshadowed, was reduced to being but a filler act.
Cleverly picked clips from their films (and dialogues in Rani’s case like “Ab kuch dramatics ki zaroorat hai”) whet the appetite just before the stars came on. In hindsight, they probably showed the gloriously transforming power of the silver screen that converts regular people into the enigma that they are.
In contrast, self-proclaimed rapper Honey Singh Yo Yo (or is it the other way round?) got way more exposure. Some of his songs such as Lungi Dance did go down well, but hey, did we have to sit through two renditions? And did we really have to listen to him blast on about himself: he had successfully wrapped up the controversial court case against him; the newspapers write good stories about him now; he would bring home a Grammy one day; he is going to record in every Indian language; his next song is so good he deserves an award for it… And it was Shahrukh who referred to himself as a “self-obsessed superstar” only a few minutes ago.
MC Meiyang Chang on the other hand, managed to reach out more successfully. His clean image, his sheer love for what he does, and his unmistakable talents as a singer and entertainer came across commendably. For someone of non-Indian heritage to mouth words like Saadi to aisi hai ada, sing older classics as well as new hits and to do a parody of ghazal maestro Jagjit Singh… what can we say but Bravo!
There is no doubt that the show will go down as one of the highlights of the year. But there was much discussion in the community about the huge sum of money donated by the NSW Government to the event (with nary a mention of Parramasala by the star), and also about the manner in which ticket sales were conducted. The diehards felt relieved to have bought their tickets early on as word went out that it was a ‘sell-out,’ with more tickets to be released later. A few days prior, prices were slashed for unexplained reasons, causing concertgoers to ask if they would get refunds on their pricier tickets (some even wanting to write to the Department of Fair Trading). There were unhappy murmurings about this strange ‘late-bird discount’ as opposed to ‘early-bird discounts’. An entire section in the auditorium, right down the centre, lay completely vacant as the show began, only to be filled by people moving in from other seats.
For a venue which can accommodate about 13,000, the stated figures of about 11,500 in attendance still left the venue short of a full house. One remembers the AR Rahman concert at the same venue a few years ago which pulled in well over 15,000 people.