So this week I have mainly been doing shows in the NCPA. It has been pretty nice to be in an auditorium actually built for theatre with some kind of half decent acoustics. The salubrious surroundings were much more akin to the venues I’m used to in Europe- clean, carpeted, modern, proper rigging as opposed to scaff towers ‘leveled’ using piles of sand (!) In typical Indian style though the air conditioning was turned up to arctic. All the Indians swanning around in short sleeves were casting bemused looks in the direction of the one foreigner in the building huddled in the corner wearing three jumpers and a wooly hat!
I just can’t take the cold- it is one of the main reasons I don’t live in England in the winter, but here freezing your arse off is a desirable state of being. I wonder how long the novelty would last though if any of them actually experienced the reality of the UK climate. Cold in short bursts can be refreshing and snow with it’s childhood snowman building associations enchanting, but the endless daily trudge of being blown into work by an icy wind interlaced with freezing sleet or being able to see your breath inside your house is basically traumatising and there is nothing romantic or cozy about that version of cold. Sitting for hours on end shivering under the glacial blast of the NCPA AC conjured up such images for me and I was pleased when the venue filled with people raising the temperature a few vital degrees enough to remove my rather attractive wooly hat which I’m told along with my stagehand black clothing made me look a burglar!
And so entered the stage Shaan – probably India’s most famous Bollywood singer – before tonight I shamefully had absolutely no idea who he was – a fact that like my aversion to the cold shocked my Indian colleagues. Surprisingly vertically challenged (!) with a winning smile permanently superglued to his face he entertained the predominantly middle aged and exclusively damn rich audience for around two and a half hours – still not quite sure about the fact he was reading some of his lyrics off an iPad on a music stand (get a subtle auto-cue surely?) Still, the show was glittering, the band was tight, there was a troupe of cute kids doing some awesome dancing, a minor stage invasion (not what i had expected from the middle-aged, middle class clientele) and although some of the numbers had a karaoke-esque feel to them (none of the songs were his own – they are all from movie soundtracks so maybe not that surprising) I was sold on Hindi love songs and a new Shaan fan!
The following day and another exceptionally short celebrity took the stage – Indian comic Vir Das presented four shows for a comedy festival. What a crash-course education in Indian pop-culture the weekend was turning out to be for me! I’ve come to the conclusion that Indian comedy is well funny even though I didn’t understand the political gags or have a clue who any of the sports personalities or famous actors being joked about were. There are certain similarities to British humor – especially the gleeful use of sarcasm (a concept that completely goes over many other nationalities heads), a shining example of which was presented in the finale of the day – a celebrity roast of two Bollywood actors I’d once again, never heard of. I got into the spirit of it all anyway and even made a joke myself as well as finding myself the butt of one:
When a young stagehand stepped on my toes and then couldn’t stop apologising profusely. I told him not to worry – it was nothing – try standing in the ladies carriage on the Western railway in the morning rush hour! (See my previous blog on Mumbai public transport.)
During the first show without warning they invited several of the audience onto stage. I handed one guy a microphone who promptly switched it off then proceeded to look confused as to why it didn’t work when he tried to speak into it. I had to run on stage and swop it for another (still wearing my rather sexy Christmas style wooly jumper!) while the comic joked, “there goes your pay check!” Thanks! Let’s hope they edit that bit out!
last but not least and this photo really doesn’t do it justice I just wanted to share with you the moment where I looked down and thought “has someone put something in my drink? The train floor is moving under my seat!” and realised it was about 50 massive as you like cockroaches – minging!