Warning: Doses of telugu words, lyrics and references may follow.
A friend called early afternoon and asked if I wanted to go for Manisharma’s concert in the area. Since we had decided to really do nothing much this long weekend except clean up and catch up on stuff, I was hugely tempted to go. Struck a deal with the husband that he could go watch Indiana Jones on Monday if I were allowed to scurry off with my friends, and off I went.
This friend’s house is 2 minutes away from the high school where the concert was to happen, and so we were to meet there ahead of time and drive up together. Two other ladies were joining us too. All gathered on time and just as we were leaving the phone rang. This friend’s colleague called to ask if it was okay if Mani Sharma and troupe could come over straight from the airport and freshen up before they head over to the concert place.
For a few minutes the world and the friend froze. Then orders started flying around. One raided the refrigerator to see if something could be salvaged, one tidied the newspapers and magazine pile in the living room. Guest room was dusted up and down and fresh towels brought out. One of the ladies is a good cook and she whipped up a ravva kesari loaded with some hearty ghee and tea was kept boiling on the stove. Watermelon was scooped into tiny balls and bowls were filled.
Frankly, I was secretly glad that unexpected company was showing up at her place than mine!
Fast forward 45 minutes.
No calls. No cars. No Mani Sharma.
Impatiently I started wondering if we’d be left with neither the tickets to the show nor our very personal pre-show backstage passes. After a few calls back and forth, we were sufficiently annoyed and we left for the venue. Met the colleague and he sheepishly told us that they dropped out of coming over as they were running late already. Sure of course!
The concert. One word: Wonderful.
It was an engaging troupe, of 4 male singers, 3 women and about 5-6 musicians.
As each were introduced I recognized a couple from TANA of last summer, but when the MC announced Zee Saregama followed by “Hemachandra” I fainted. I think I screamed loud. Very loud. Folks turned around and thought I was having a stroke or something. My friends on either side laughed hard seeing my face and expression. In any case, I had no idea the guy was gonna show up. So seeing him there was just a lovely surprise and an awesome “screaming” happy experience. When he started singing, that was taking happy to another level. yes, yes, happy place and all that.
Mani Sharma himself never really spoke, but his presence was what tied the whole piece together. All singers, musicians, and he shared a wonderful rapport on stage and the mood was fun. Lots of smiles, nods, grins and nods, Hemachandra and Mallikarjun (he dances and acts like Chranjeevi and has a melodius voice) along with K Muralidhara (who sang “ammaye sannaga” from Khushi) had a wonderful chemistry and understanding between them. Taking turns amusing and engaging the audience. Hemachandra of course was exuding his boyish charm, jumping up and down with the music and working the crowd as much as he could.
As a performer, I speak from experience when I say, the biggest accolade and enthusiasm and happiness comes not just from the aplause at the end of the show, but when you see the faces and body movements that speak volumes on how much joy you bring to the audience. Pretty much like the icing. So, I believe to stand on the stage and not let your music or voice not sway the audience or parts of it into claps, or up on the feet or just happy nods is a little disconcerting and to a newbie discouraging.
All such notions ought to be discarded when it comes to desi audiences. Especially the southern audiences. I was getting a trifle amused and annoyed seeing folks just sit there glued to the chairs with as serious expressions as watching CNN live report on some tragedy somewhere. I understand different folks have different ways of enjoying different genres of music, but this was pure Tollywood, full of beat, rhythm and joie de vivre.
Hemachandra and the rest persisted, and after the first break, people melted just a teeny bit. The break had reversegear Guruswamy do his bit. The guy was super hilarious, sang songs is his smooth voice not only the original way, but he’d also do a parody on the tunes, and his signature reversing of the words keeping thesame tune. He even challenged to be given a song from the audience, and he would flip it right back and sing away. Quite innovative, creative and requiring a special talent I must say. Enjoyable telengana jokes followed. Telengana and Hyderabadi telugu as a default cracks me up completely, and the scenarios he kept rattling were even wonderful.
Malavika sang Thaye Yashoda from Morning raaga and she got a standing ovation. Amazing strength and confidence her voice carried. Vijayalakshmi is an entertainer and a strong singer, very comfortable on stage and dances with grace and style.
We at home, had followed Hemachandra’s climb all the way on Zee TV two years ago, and are in awe of the guy’s voice, power and the range he is able to easily scale. His Nahin Samne on the show was his best ever. There was something very sweet and adorable about how he conducted himself, apart from the fact that there was that invisible Telugu pride bonding. :) So, to see home in flesh was a feeling as am sure many fans can relate to. One of my friends who has two sons in college and had never heard this guy before was so floored that she ran up to him, yanked him down, did a drishti with a $20 bill and gave it to him. Was funny, and in a way shows how much a person’s talent can move and bring on strong feelings.
Here’s a review of his performance last year in Chicago.
As a reflection: It’s so easy to to be completely bowled over with someone just based on art form, a facet of what they are. (so much of bollywood’s based on such a theme..)
Hemachandra was sufficiently bullied, embarrassed and applauded throughout. I even contemplated on shouting “we love you” and then sorta simmered down (unfortunate for me) as I was being ribbed happily by the ladies around me. After the show, we scurried backstage and were thrown into a photos ession with Mani Sharma. I was still searching for Hemachandra though, and just as the cameras clicked, he stepped out from the door behind and I yanked him into the group. Boy! Couldn’t believe I actually did something like that! :)
He good-naturedly stepped in, and so there’s a snap of me between the director and him, and as soon as the snap was done, I completely ignored the director (I realized that later and feel a lil weird!) and started rattling off to Hemachandra about his Zee performances and how much we enjoyed his voice. Bla bla. He was such a sweet kid, and posed nicely for bunches of snaps that everyone wanted. Here’s one. The splash of red on his left is me! hehe
No surprise when I happily teased him on how he must be wondering “damn, where are the girls, and why are there so many aunties around me?!” and he on cue showed shock and laughed good-humoredly and said “oh no, nothing like that, thank you very much. This is an honor.” One of my friends asked for his email and he actually grew serious and looked down at my bag hoping to see me flash out a pen and paper to jot it down! Down to earth and not chokingly modest and sweet like how the ones are shown on TV. Falling at feet and doing saadar pranams etc. And o, I discovered that he and Karunya are cousins?! Nice!
Drove home at 11.50 pm feeling very giddy, and throat hoarse from all the shouting and cheeks hurting from all the grinning. Unexpected and fabulous. Just what I needed. (Okay, I think I’ve a major crush on him, but he IS cute, not my fault!)
My brother-in-law tells me that over 700 tickets have been sold for this Sunday in Boston. A 3 hour show full of entertainment, that even a $50 towards this fund-raising event would be a steal.