The concert started on time, the first reassuring sign that all was well. By the time Sonu Nigam arrived, his larger than life image loomed behind him and seemed to dwarf his physical body. The crowd cheered as his mellifluous voice lilted to the strains of familiar tunes and the audience happily sang along. The audience had been warmed up — Neha Kakkar had been belting out Bollywood tunes, and spontaneous dance-alongs broke out amongst audience members.
The event? The ‘Klose to My Life’ concert at the Oracle Arena in Oakland, California, on Saturday June 17th, 2019.
The singers were in form. They kidded each other (Neha parties a lot, Sonu insisted. Good things come in small packages, he said, referring to her being a full head shorter than him). They changed lyrics to insert their own names in the familiar tunes, stopped the orchestra to make a point, and did some heavy-duty dancing. Sonu frequently wiped his sweaty brow, and did so many call and response moves that the audience practically roared.
Some bad jokes — after all, it was the eve of Father’s day, and bad Dad jokes are a genre of their very own. Before launching into the soulful rendition of the oh-so-romantic “Pyaar manga hai tumhi se,” Sonu Nigam got a laugh from his audience by telling them that the song was responsible for a sharp spike in children being born. “Bacchon, agar tumhare Mummy Papa hans rahe hain, tumhi woh bachhay ho!” (Children, if your parents are laughing, you are those kids!)
As images of roses or geometric signs illuminated the tall screens and strobe lights and high-decibel music engaged (for some, overwhelmed) the senses, the crowd responded to familiar tunes with delight and applause.
Sonu Nigam sang “Sooraj Hua Maddham” with audiences clapping along. Fanaa’s signature tune caused the audience to cheer as they recognized the lyrics and sang along.
Neha Kakkar’s song “London Thumakda” rocked the auditorium. Her “Kala Chashma” created a roar.
And the best part of the evening? A good cause. What’s not to love?
Sankara Eye Foundation (SEF), USA, rated a 4-star charity by Charity Navigator for sound financial management and commitment to accountability and transparency, was founded in 1998 by Mr. K. Muralidharan, Mr. K. Sridharan, and Mr. Khushnood Ahmad, with the mission of eradicating curable blindness in India. A 501(c) (3) non-profit, SEF currently has nine super-specialty eye hospitals across India providing free vision care for the poor who make up 80% (~160,000) of its patients. So far, more than 1.84 million people have received the gift of vision at SEF hospitals, absolutely free of cost. As an acknowledgement and appreciation of Sankara’s path breaking work in the field of Vision Care for poor masses, the government of India recently awarded the title of Padmashri to Dr. R. Ramani- the visionary doctor, who along with his wife Dr. Radha Ramani, founded the Sankara Eye Care Institute in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, India in 1978.
If that’s not the best reason to cheer and shout, and do jhatkas and matkas, what is?
Geetika Pathania Jain is Culture and Media editor for India Currents.