Apart from quizzes (intended to reflect their kalcharally-superior culture), Bongs also like music. Again, as an indication of their superior kalchar. What this translates into during the Durga Pujo is a lot of music concerts which take place a part of the cultural events. Not the community ones, those are small scale – these music concerts and plays et al are held on large stages with hundreds (possibly thousands, if enough people elbow their way in). I’m NOT kidding; you should add ‘pushing my way in to a Durga Puja concert’ as a list of challenges to complete in lift right after ‘skydiving’ and right before ‘white water rafting’. Invariably (in places like CR Park) the local cable operators take it to be their sacred duty to broadcast the concert on their local network, generally, live from the venue. The only flaw in this grand scheme happens to be the fact that the camera operators constantly keeping zooming in and out of focus in way which would make even Ekta Kapoor blush like an Indian bride. As if that it wasn’t enough the editing studio keep on adding silly ‘effects’ like 8 picture-in-picture feeds of the same video. What are the thinking when they do it – that spiders comprise a major section of their audience?
These concerts happen to be of two varieties – ‘Bong rock’ concerts and Bollywood song concerts. I’ll talk about the latter first since they’re more common. ‘Bollywood songs’ generally translates into Kishore Kumar ‘classics’. I don’t know how many songs that guy wrote, but in the Pujo concerts at least the (bathroom) singers who do it always end up singing the same 10-12 songs. I would gladly like to go back in time to kill that Kishore guy’s grandfather, never mind if it ends up wiping me out because of some weird physics paradox.
Sometimes however, they get current singers from the Bollywood industry (not necessarily Bongs); or the losers who win reality TV music shows. These chaps sing new songs, but are generally cajoled by the crowd into going back to Kishore Kumar stuff every now and then [shudder]. There was a funny incident last year when some Bollywood guy called Udit Narayan was supposed to sing at a CR Park Pujo. He charged a couple of lakhs, turned up very late, sang about 4-5 songs and then announced he would be leaving. Needless to say, the Bengali bhadralok crowd (including the organizers) pounced upon him, bitch-slapped him, and took him to a police station (where, to their consternation, they found out there’s no section in the Indian Penal Code which spells out the punishment to be meted out to singers who don’t sing Kishore Kumar songs).
For anyone younger than 30 years of age, all of the events of course would be fatally boring. So some of the more ‘modern outlook’ Pujos – like the ones at Greater Kailash Durgabari or the CR Park Milan Samiti – hold ‘Bong rock’ concerts. The former ends up getting Palash Sen and his band Euphoria (mostly), because he stays in GK (I guess the organizers get a residents’ discount). Euphoria happens to be about the only Indian music I like / listen to, so it’s quite fun. These days the Pujo closes early because of security issues, but earlier these concerts stretched far beyond the midnight hour. You’d have Palash Sen watching out from stage to see if anyone was leaving, and try to cajol them to stay. If he’d spot some party leaving, then he’d stop right at where he was with the song and say something like “Mashima, aar akta gaan shune jaan“. ‘Mashima‘ being a respectful term for an old hag, who probably was in that family leaving; the rest is figure-outable, isn’t it? The mashima in question would then mumble something about having an Indian Airlines flight to catch at 2am, but would grumble and stay on with the whole audience rooting for Palash’s ego.
The ‘other’ kind of Bong rock bands come to perform straight from the Mother Ship (i.e., Kolkata). All of the band members look the same and sing the same type of songs. Given below is a Secret Set of Commandments (these have been laser-etched on titanium-plated steel, locked in a trunk, and thrown into the river Hoogly for safekeeping) which these bands follow:
- Thou shalt eat a lot of machcher jhol (fish curry). Only phat dudes shall be allowed into bands.
- Thou shalt have long curly hair. Get a wig if you don’t.
- Thou shalt not shave. It is common knowledge that all Bong rockers need beards.
- Thou shalt wear spectacles. This one’s optional.
There isn’t much to talk about the songs as such, as they tend to be Vague Genre Songs. What is interesting though is that since audience is much younger, it’s a nice time to check out, uh, stuff. You know, stuff. Let’s call it ‘security arrangements’. Speaking of ‘checking out stuff’, the award for the ‘best security arrangements’ would go for the GK Durgabari.
This brings me to the last, uh, stuff in this post – the public address systems at most Pujos. Although the speakers used for the concerts are top-notch ones, sometimes even donated for the event by the speaker company as sponsorship, the PA systems suck. Sound like a foghorn, and nothing that ever comes out of them is intelligible. The latter might be because mostly old Bongs man the PA systems (since all the younger ‘stuff’ are roaming around / ‘checking security arrangements’). Most old Bongs have atrocious Bengali-heavy accents. If you’re feeling tired and want a few laughs, pull up a chair near the reception desk and enjoy the PA announcements in a crazy mix of Hindi-Bengali-English-Klingon (keep staring at your phone while laughing otherwise it’ll seem suspicious).