That's what the announcer said we were going to do, and rock it Bollywood style we did.
Except for Saif, who is recovering from surgery but was a real trooper, doing dainty twirls with a delighted audience member and a few gentle arm flings (well, flingettes, anyway) with Preity during "Salaam Namaste." He worked the mic a lot, though, so there was still plenty of Saif to go around. One of his entrances included a great lingering view of him in his jacket with his "Super Saif" logo on the back - does anyone know why he keeps popping up in that (other than him being beyond a doubt super, of course)? Very enderaingly, Saif also explained how he was going against doctors' orders by being on stage that night - "My doctors don't know me like you know me! You know I would never miss being in Shee-kah-goh for the greatest crowd ever!" I love him.
It's hard to know where to start. I should probably start with the drive up there, which consisted of me spilling the much-anticipated travel snack (Combos - the pretzel with cheese kind - none of that pizza nonsense) all over the floor of the car before we even left town (Si - we were on Prospect headed to the interstate and had to make a quick turn on to Church to recover - tragic!) and Abby realizing, an hour in, that she had left her binoculars at home. The latter resulted in detour to our friend Dana's mom's house to borrow theirs. We also got to say hi to Dana's mom and her new puppy ("Senor Toby"), so all in all well worth the extra 20 minutes. Anyway, despite the insane construction on one of the major expressways, we got to the arena, on the completely unscenic Chicago campus of my university, a good half hour before we had anticipated. Dana and Wendy were already there (Dana hadn't been up for the show, but since she works at that campus she graciously agreed to meet us for dinner), while Tamara was attending to someone in the hospital. We ventured to Greektown for dinner and sat in front of the restaurant's open windows, watching the passers-by on the sidewalk, including a very tacky-looking woman who was clearly 1) wearing fake hair and 2) trashed. And her outfit, which I'm sure you can imagine, was just a warmup for what we were to see later. Tamara was able to join us for baklava and then we sauntered over to the arena.
When we got there and milled around the gates with the rest of the audience, we were amused to discover that we seemed to be the only white women at the show. I saw two white guys, but they were both with South Asian women. (Sorry for the detour into ethnography - when you're a white girl in the midwest, it is a very rare thing indeed to be the only one of your appearance.) And we could not have been more drab. I was wearing the most interesting shirt I own - it's blue and green paisley, with little gold threads running through it - and I felt like month-old slush. There was so much of fuchsia and gold and chartreuse and scarlet.
Having been adequately warned by Anand's delightful comments about the Heat show in LA, we were content to people-watch for awhile before the show started. But things were underway within twenty minutes of start time, even though "things" first consisted of blaring ads for local business that had sponsored the shows. Indulge me for a minute. All four of us were completely baffled by the looong spot from the tanning salon - because everything I've ever read about the cultural aesthetics of skin tone in India says that fairer is better (my waspy self could not be pastier, so maybe I'll play well). What do I not understand?
Anyway. The backup dancers - who were fuh-AB-ulous (ahem) - came out first, wearing gold...I'm not sure what to call them, but I'll go with flamenco pants, because they were flared pants with tiers of ruffles starting at the knee going all the way down. There were, as Anand promised, ridiculous introductory ramblings from the MC and from the stars themselves (although only one per act, thankfully), who took turns introducing the person coming on after them. Celina called Saif "the cool dude with all the moves" or something like that.
One of the fun things about the show was enjoying it with so many other people. Even though the arena was at least half-empty, there were well over a thousand other people as excited as I was. Well, probably not all of them were quite as excited as I was, but still. At least they knew whom they were yelling about. I spend so much of my Bollywood time by myself or with a few like-minded friends (in person or virtual) that I have no concept of which actors and movies are the most popular in general. Based on the screeching from the fans, Sush and Akshay are far cooler than Preity and Saif, which made me sad, because I really like Preity and Saif and think they're superwow.
A fashion note. I don't remember the song(s), but at one point the female backup dancers had on the most horrible outfits (female) I have ever seen in Bollywood. Yes. That's right. Not the antepenultimate word in horrible. Not the penultimate. The very final word in horrible clothing has now been had. I started to draw a picture, but then my graphics program crashed, so that will have to wait and we'll see if I can do it justice in words. First you have to imagine that the skimpy-looking tops turned out to be made like ice skaters' costumes, with transparent meshy fabric holding all the bits in place (thanks, binoculars!). On top they had bikini top thingies that were hot pink mesh (or maybe crochet, I couldn't quite tell) with bright yellow as a lining. Then they had on denim shorts with plum garter belts over, attached to pink pleather...well, kind of like legwarmers, except pleather and almost all the way up their thighs. So we'll call them legwarmers....anyway, these things were pink pleather and were scrunched up and then tucked into knee-high black boots. I think there may also have been sheer hot pink armwarmers (remember what Sanju wears in MHN? those things) on the right arms, but it's hard to recall anything through the sense of shock I had at the time. They were truly bad. Whatever laws there may be governing the layering of mesh, denim, and pleather; whatever laws there may governing how many tones of pink should be on one individual at any one time; whatever laws there may be about putting underthings on top of jeans - they were violated.
The music - apart from being incredibly loud with so much bass you could hardly tell anything else was going on - was totally enjoyable. I'm not sure any one song was played for its whole length, and someone had had a lot of fun doing remixing. I know at least one reader will be happy to know that snatches of "Woh Ladki Hai Kahan" were present in Saif's first set (although sadly minus the flapping). I also heard bits of "Tumse Milke Dil Ka Jo Haal," "Hum Tum," and some stuff I know from Monsoon Wedding but I think comes from older movies. Also, Celina, proving herself not completely useless, did "Kajra Re," with Akshay and Saif filling in for Big and Little B. Very funny. I really liked that they made the most of Saif's injury by having him do that stupid walrus move, which was about all he could muster through the rest of the show anyway.
I have to say again how amazing the backup dancers were. The stars themselves were fine, except for Preity, who was fantastic and totally stole the show. Akshay spent a long time running back and forth across the stage, then into the audience, as did Sush, who picked up someone's little child and walked around with her (I wonder if that was prearranged), as people thronged to the aisles to get up close. One of the silliest moments came when Sush very carefully climbed up the backs of some of the dancers to stand on a table and shimmy around. It was completely unimpressive, especially with the dancers holding the table (to be fair, it was wheeled and looked very fold-up-able). I mean, my friend Melina has done better, all on her own, at the local country bar, and I don't see her getting her own stage show. (Yet.)
The show sort of fizzled out by about 11:30, with Akshay doing...I don't know what he was doing, but it was a video of him surrounded by different wise-elder types and gorgeous Indian landscapes and clouds whooshing by, with a golden "om" shining down on people's faces. He also actually sang at one point, I'm pretty sure. But that was after he came onstage with nunchuka. Abby, who has studied such things, was quick to point out that what he was doing was really hard and she had injured herself on some of her own attempts to do likewise. He also had a big staff at one point. I was afraid he was going to hurl it into the audience, as Preity had done with teddy bears and Sush with her hat. Preity and Saif wound things down with dialogue from Salaam Namaste (I was disappointed when no one yelled "Hambarrrrrrrr! Hambarrrrrrrr!") and then pulled an eager married couple up on stage to do a ridiculous, stereotype-laden bit about how the two sexes view marriage. Barf. (This bit was a huge hit with the crowd, by the way, second only to the first appearance of Akshay.) Then they danced to "Salaam Namaste," though, so I was happy.
Before heading back to Chambana this morning, we made a jaunt down Devon (the thoroughfare of Chicago's Indo-Pak neighborhood) in search of treats. Posters in the storefronts alerted us that there is another Bollywood stage show coming to that fair city in May, this one starring Kareena, Salman, and Zayed Khan, among others.
Only one of the video stores was open, but someone was looking upon us kindly this morning, for it was staffed by the nicest man - so kind he put on different CDs for us so Abby could hear what she was thinking about buying and gave her the store's big poster for the show we had seen the night before. I bought Swades and the soundtracks to Love You Hamesha (I haven't seen this, but Akshaye looks superyum on the cover and it's by A. R. Rehman, so how could it be anything other than great?), Taal, Dil Chahta Hai, Main Hoon Na, Kal Ho Naa Ho, and Bluffmaster. I haven't seen Bluffmaster, but the guy played us a few songs when we were in the store and I immediately decided it's my new favorite thing.
And then I realized I was at an important crossroads in life. I could either go back to the way things were, pre-Heat Live, or I could embrace the glorious, inspiring lesson I had learned. I will now be accompanied, at all times, by the Trickbaby remix of "Sabse Bada Rupaiyya/Bluffmaster!" and a team of ten - yes, ten - male backup dancers clad in vests and pants of that black pleather that is so shiny it looks liquid. I expect this to be particularly effective when I'm dancing around the streets of various cities this summer singing "Good Morning India" from Khushi. I know Fardeen had a different crew, but I'm doing things my way.
Goodness, that was a long post. Well, it was a long night. And you asked.
Anand, please email me (address is on my blogger profile). We must discuss this show in further detail!