When Nidhi told me that she had two spare passes for Rekha Bhardwaj's show at Bandra last evening, I was actually thrilled. I knew Mamata would like it too, so I prepared myself for a soulful evening with friends and my fiance. I mean, Rekha Bhardwaj is no lightweight, right? She had just a few hits. Two, three may be? All bollywood songs. The reportedly chart busting 'Ishqa Ishqa' album of hers was virtually unheard of outside the pretentious artloving circles. But she registered with every bollywood buff with her unique voice and superior skills at executing folk songs.
Little wonder, that I felt bad when I thought I was getting late for the show and eventually when we got to the venue, we found ourselves rather uncomfortable spots to stand on. No seats, I was trying to say. The show was oversold! To cut the story short, it was an evening filled with anticipation all around.
As the evening moved on to its first leg, I was a little surprised to see the MC dressed in denims for a sufi/folk nite. He made a very feeble attempt to thank the rajasthani folk group that opened the evening. It felt out of sync with the expectations from the evening.
And when Rekha finally took stage and started rolling out her numbers, the crowd readied itself for a magical evening of sufi nazms and folk classics. Oh, when I say 'the crowd', I was referring to the music lovers in the crowd and not the Page 3 types who mostly filled the front benches. Not just the Page 3 types, the bollywood sent over its representatives too.
You see, that was the whole problem with the evening. It wasn't music. It was bollywood. Rekha Bhardwaj belied expectations and made a spectacular fool of herself. She can stick to studio singing and yelling at the sound manager to crank up the monitor a bit when she feels bad about her own voice. She will take time graduating to 'enthralled-the-crowds-with-a-mesmerising-performance' act. For now, she's just bollywood. The front benches blissfully tapped feet throughout the mediocre renditions of songs that sounded much better on CDs. Male celebrities with long locks fanatically shook their heads and the female ones moved rythmically from side to side offering glimpses of their botoxed profiles to the back benchers. Apart from that, there was no visible or audible proof to say the evening meant anything to anyone at all.
While Rekha herself was brilliant in patches and boring for the most part, the accompanying artists were holding their own in individual capacities. Not even Vishal Bhardwaj's occasional hand signals could wean them away from showing off their mastery at their trades. And it all meant that the cacophony of malformed medleys damaged the little credibility Rekha started building for herself from the third song onwards. The much maligned Mark, the man manning the sound machine made the band sound like a cheap marriage-band orchestra. After 'Emosanal Atyachar' even marriage bands earned a new respect for themselves, so I'm not sure if they would induct 'Aziza' into their exalted company. Aziza is the name given to the evening by the well meaning Rekha.
I was surprised at the efforts TOI group put in organizing the eveinng. Ofcourse, they were promoting their new weekend edition 'Crest' aimed at expanding their Page 3 to 24 pages. Pooja Gupta, who was behind the marketing initiative herself qualified the evening with a non-commital 'Thanks Rekha. That was spiritual!' comment. Pooja then went on to make her case for a promotion with the Editorial Director, the reclusive JoJo, but that is just a side story.
I returned home incensed with the amount of mediocrity, commercialism, hypocrisy, sycophancy and also the lack of space to sit until the last 2 minutes of the show. I told Mamata that true art doesn't have a place in bollwood. There are corners in Indian cinema and music scene where true art exists. But not in the mainstream. Evenings like this are snobbish affairs parading as art partonage. I would think twice before attending such events in future.