The Screening Room Blog
Monday, August 25, 2008
Bollywood extravaganza is Unforgettable
LONDON, England -- My right ear is still ringing almost 24 hours after it happened.

A host of Bollywood's biggest stars put on a glittering performance at London's 02 Arena in front of 20,000 frenzied fans as part of "The Unforgettable Tour," described on its website as "an extravaganza of Indian cinema's magic."

The performance in London was the final date on the first leg of the tour across nine cities in the U.S. and UK.

Among the most frenzied of all the fans was the 16-year-old girl who occupied the seat to my right. In fact she rarely occupied it at all, preferring to jump up and down while delivering ear-tormenting screams.

The object of her attentions was 65-year-old legend of Indian cinema, Amitabh Bachchan. For the few uninitiated members of the crowd, a short but stirring video trailer preceeded his appearance on stage.

If Amitabh is a modest man, he must have been slightly uncomfortable as he listened to the trailer, which declared him to be India's "Unforgettable Legend." But the audience roared its concurrence and my teenage neighbour screamed her adulation at a man old enough to be her great-grandfather.

I tried to imagine a similar reaction to Clint Eastwood's arrival on stage -- but such comparisons immediately vanished as the veteran Indian actor burst into song and proceeded to gyrate energetically among a posse of dazzlingly-dressed dancers.

Amitabh may be the main draw but the supporting cast wasn't far behind him, judging by the decibel level achieved by my caterwauling companion, who changed to a series of guttural "phwoaaars!" when Abitabh's son, Abishek, marched through the crowd to the stage flanked by burly security guys.

Abishek is a superstar in his own right and last year extended Bollywood's strongest dynasty by marrying the golden girl of Indian cinema, Aishwarya Rai.

Abishek's a lucky lad indeed, according to the trailer for the new Mrs Bachchan, which declared her to be "the world's most beautiful woman" as well as "the fifth most Googled name on the internet."

The celestial body of the former Miss World was lowered from the heavens as she started dancing and lip-synching to a medley of music from her Bollywood blockbusters. But there's no outcry over singing simulation here: lip-synching is a long-established and accepted part of Indian film.

Other stars to appear including Preity Zinta, Shilpa Shetty and top Bollywood music directors Vishal and Shekhar. The music was uplifting and percussive, the choreography by Shiamak Davar stunning.

My wife and two young children loved it as much as I did, but the youngest lacked the stamina to endure all of the four-hour epic. As we stood up to leave, a girl two seats to my right leaned across and yelled: "I'm sorry about my friend, she's a bit of a wild one I'm afraid!"

I was about to say that it was fine and that her behavior wasn't the cause of our departure when her pal gave vent to an enormous expression of "Oh my Gaaawwwwd!" as another of Bollywood's brightest took to the stage.

The rest of my words disappeared in a screech taken up and repeated by thousands of girls across the Arena as the dhol drums rattled out more bhangra beats.

Post by: The Screening Room's Neil Curry

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