The show started at 5: 30 pm as per schedule. The invitees were treated to an art display at the hall entrance near the ticket counter. Arnika, Shantanu, Gauri and Trupti had put up their art creations and managed to draw the attention of a few who had a keen eye for art. I don’t intend to provide an all encompassing account of the whole fest here and I may skip mentioning a few events and the names of the participants involved. I missed a first few shows myself and wouldn’t be able to do justice to them by writing about them here. That’s the reason I have titled it a biased view – as these are solely my views J
Of the shows I missed was GISO president Sarvananan’s Welcome speech. Well I don’t regret having missed it much since I get to hear a lot from him on a frequent basis anyways :D ( jokes apart , it’s probably his high energy, non – stop Hindi oratory skills with liberal doses of a heavy south Indian accent that made him the GISO President in the first place.) Next came the invocation prayer and the songs, followed by the much awaited dance shows. Dance is said to be ‘art in motion’ and the performers proved it. The efforts that they had put in were evident in the splendid choreography, smooth synchronization and the neat performance for the ‘Desi-Girl’ song. Quoting from ‘The economist’ - “When Chiranjeevi entered the stage (during a political rally) the crowd threatened to boil and burst”. When, Kartik entered the stage to perform the mega-star Chiranjeevi’s song, the crowd response was no different. His performance could only be matched by his co-performer Shreyasee’s village belle act – complete with the appropriate histrionics and facial expression. Amidst deafening noise, Kartik danced to the tune of another popular Telugu song. The crowds went hysterical when he performed the “The veena step” during the Jalsa performance. The smoke screen effect for the dance brought in a new dimension to the performance. NGO Pratham had sponsored a dance show of its own – titled the ‘Kathak Swing’. This was followed by Shantanu and his group slicing the air with their slick dance moves. The rubber-like body twists and gravity defying ‘balancing on the toe’ acts were also impressive. The crowd was electrified. Hmmm, now did I forget something? Ah yes! There was of course the nostalgic 1960s dance song and the evergreen “Dhagala lagli kala” dance performce by “Sita” and group. Having lived in Pune myself, I couldn’t help lift a leg or two for this quintessential Marathi song while I was backstage. Now what was I doing backstage? Well, I was eagerly waiting for Sita to finish “his” dance show, rush backstage, wrap around a sari at the speed of rolling a chappati and get ready for our next show – a short skit titled “Ram-leela”
.“Ram-leela” proved to be quite a disaster – well almost. Sita’s ‘collar mike’ had slid down her sari and had managed to find its way to the ground. Ram’s arrow was supposed to strike Ravan at the 4th attempt but it pierced the center of ravan’s heart at the very 1st attempt. The ‘Berozgar’ drama company manager (myself) was so engrossed in enacting his dialogues that he barely noticed that he held his mike a meter away from his body – the clamorous crowd didn’t hear a word of what he said. In all the mayhem - Hanuman never got to know when his tail got detached. Hanuman’s weapon - Gadha, stubbornly refused to give-in to the physical force of the mighty Ravan and did not break as preplanned. The play’s director – Sarvanan , who sat in the front row with the chief guest , struggled to hide the surprised look on his face when the very same actors whom he had directed a few days ago, mouthed dialogues he had never heard before. But was anyone complaining? Not the crowd at least. When Ravan did his famous intimidating laughing act, the crowd played along with him and laughed too – this time even louder. When Ram entered the stage, the din of the crowd soared. Hmmm, there were a few jeers too such as a clearly audible loud and sarcastic “Wow!! What ye comedy” and “yeek-celle-ant” –as in ‘excellent’.
There was even an irrelevant but infamous kadigesta ninnu shout in Telugu– roughly translating to “I will teach you a lesson” that YSR had uttered to Chandra Babu. However, the fact remains, that no-one stood up, turned around , showed their backs to the stage or started clapping in the opposite direction - to demean the participants as it routinely happens in a few unfortunate fests that I have attended. The fact remains that a majority of the crowd lapped it up and had a hearty laugh.
The fashion show by Arnika was a bit of a show stopper. There was the ethnic round with the girls resplendent in their ethnic dress and the guys strutting their traditional wear. It was hard to not notice that two non – Indian couples also took part in the show, beaming in their sarees and kurthas. The tattoos - be it a well drawn swastika symbol on the arm or a complete back covering design on one of the male participants – all were in line with the dark theme of the fashion show. A few things that I still remember from the fashion show: Bhushan’s hat, Shantanu’s semi painted face and his robot like act, Atul strumming his guitar in the middle of the stage, the ‘Kaante’ Hindi movie act where a string of actors walk to the front of the stage at once – only this time, it was the ladies doing the act -all these added to the captivating experience. And who could forget that it was not the facial paint but the trade-mark gait and “slurp-slurp” act of Gangadhar that infused life into the villainous character of the infamous Joker. The lead girl couldn’t stop flaunting her cardboard wings –even after the show got over! My only regret is that Tejas should have been allowed to unmasked and reveal himself towards the end of the show, which he didn’t.
But it was the sand animation that stole everyone’s hearts. This was proven by the fact that it received four – I repeat – four standing ovations. A surge of patriotism rippled through the crowd when the Indian map was drawn impromptu, in sand. Be it the cute little toy train with "only Europeans" written on it or the more abstract figurine drawing of the Mahatma Gandhi himself – lean, clad in inexpensive dhoti and clutching a walking stick in one hand - the drawings brought new life to the story that Omkar narrated in a soothing voice. He ended the story by thanking GISO and calling it the ‘kalpataru’ – or the coconut tree symbolizing the ‘eternal giver’. Everything ended with a sumptuous dinner from Balaji Bhavan.
So did the whole three hour even unfold without any hick-ups? A day before the event only about 250 tickets had been sold. Minutes before the start of the fashion show, two participants realized that they had either lost or forgotten their costume at home. And , comparisons with the previous event – Maitri 2008 were inevitable. Whatever happened to post-event much awaited free for all dance party? It was held during Parichay. Last year too, it had been held all the way upto 11 pm in the night. I for one, distinctly remember that a few guys had pounced on poor Sarvanana (who was not yet the GISO President then ) during the post event jam session and had given him “birthday bumps”- even though it was not his birthday :D . Sarvananan had pushed me accidentally in the process, and I ended up completely drenched in the University Center’s underground fountain water!! We missed that fun this time. On a more serious note, a lot of guys did wait impatiently to show off-their amateur dance moves on the dance floor during the post-event jam session. It was only later that I became cognizant of the fact that committee had actually tried have one. The space for dance-floor, however, was not available at the University Center – as was the case last year. (The cougar den had been occupied for another event on the same night and this could have been the probable reason). In spite of all these difficulties, the fact remains that a record setting 514 tickets were sold as against the mere 400 plus sold the previous Maitri. This clearly indicates the new level of playing field that Maitri has forayed into!
As Mr Khator said, the chemistry between the lead comperes was commendable. A prize was given to the Anubhav cup winners – Team Ike team and also to the runners – up team. Navneeth, Prasahanth (Majithia) and Rahul were the extra helping hands at the ticket counter.
Hmmm - Aug 3rd “Friday night” - Maitri 2009 … Once again I recoil back in my cozy seat and say - What a night it was!!!