Breathless Concert in Chicago

Published On: 2012-05-20

Author: unknown

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Breathless Concert in Chicago

Submitted By: Hifza Jalil

Hooray for Bollywood Canned singing makes for a lively concert

Friday night's show at the Allstate Arena was called "Breathless: Live in Concert."

Yet every time the show's one live singer hit the stage, everyone headed for the nacho stands.

This, after all, was a live concert Bollywood style, a production designed to showcase India's biggest movie stars (in this case
Hrithik Roshan and Aishwarya Rai) lip-syncing and dancing to some of their most famous film scenes -- in which they also danced and
pretended to sing.

Think of Catherine Zeta-Jones and Richard Gere touring the world, dancing and miming songs from "Chicago" -- if, of course, they never
really sang the songs themselves to begin with. Or, for old-timers, maybe a better analogy is Natalie Wood touring the country lip-
syncing and prancing around to songs from "West Side Story."

Now think about what would happen if the real -- not super-attractive -- singer got up onstage and sang and sang and sang while
the clock ticked past midnight and you feared you would never seethe attractive people again.

Can you understand the appeal of the nachos now? All the better for the Rosemont concessionaires catering to this crowd of about 11,000
smartly dressed Midwestern South Asians of various ages and religions. These fans of Indian popular cinema are famously faithful
to their stars, who come through every few years (Roshan was here two years ago) on tours like this one, which will stop in 13 North
American cities and is fetching tickets prices that range between $35 and $400.

And while the appearance of "real singers," also called "playback singers," almost always sends a ripple of polite disappointment
through the audience, their sets are usually short and so the reception is courteous.

Talented Bollywood singer Shaan, however, got more stage time than any other act on the seven-person bill. And he was just one of the
the lackluster decoys used to pad this 3 1/2-hour show that some people paid $400 a ticket to see. After a couple of hours -- taken
up by mostly non-star-studded lip-syncing songs -- a whole section of the audience simply started to boo loudly at the delay tactics.
Hindi- and English-speaking comedian Sajid Khan served as emcee and cracked wise between sets, but he couldn't do much to crack the
impatience in the air.

Still, when the show sparkled, it sparkled.

From beauty queen Celina Jaitley's opening number from the movie "Jaanasheen" in which she plays a busty visually impaired
violinist to Aishwarya Rai's dazzling more traditional Indian dance number ("Silsila Hai Chahat Ka") from the 2002 drama "Devdas," the
music, choreography and costumes were breathtaking when these movie re-creations actually saw the light of day. Elaborate lighting,
pyrotechnics and some clever sets accompanied these vignettes that often included more than a dozen backup dancers.

Other performers included former Miss Universe turned actress Lara Dutta and emerging star Fardeen Khan. Despite an ankle injury, Khan
entertained by letting the audience members ask him "anything you want" as he sat onstage with a crutch resting next to him.

Unfortunately the questions were not exactly the hard-hitting variety. They included: "Will you marry me?"; "Can I take a picture
with you?"; "Do you have a girlfriend?" and "Can I hug you?"

But the star that most in this well-heeled movie-crazy crowd was there to see was the heartthrob of South Asia, the Hindi-speaking
hunk of burning love and the man with Bollywood's bulgiest biceps, Hrithik Roshan.

The winner of both the popular and critical 2003 Filmfare Best Actor Awards (Indian Oscars), Roshan's star hit a pinnacle last year with
Bollywood's first big science-fiction hit, the "E.T."-like musical "Koi . . . Mil Gaya" ("I Found Someone")

The film was directed by Rakesh Roshan, Hrithik's father, and features the studly actor as a mentally retarded boy who befriends
an alien and is later transformed into a muscle bound hero through a freak accident.

Despite all the delays between his appearances, when Roshan showed up to perform numbers from "Koi," you could feel a certain
electricity in the huge arena. From the hip-hop inspired "It's Magic" to the kid-friendly "Jadoo Jadoo" and the title track,
Roshan's performances delivered just the kind of stunning showmanship and, well, star power, that the audience had shelled out
the big bucks to see.

Maybe -- like most Bollywood stars -- he can't carry a tune, but Roshan has proven himself a dancer with remarkable control and
grace. Whether performing sweeping hip-hop thrusts or tiny shoulder rolls, he is impossible not to watch -- and this is not just because
he always happens to wear a tight tank top and frequently goes bare-chested.

One of the best set pieces of the night featured Roshan and Rai side by side onstage with troupes of dancers behind them performing
dueling dance sequences under the glare of alternating spotlights.

Sadly, these spectacular moments were few and far between. And by nearly 1 a.m., when the show's finale kicked in, many fans were
flagging, cradling exhausted children in their arms and yawning.

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