The time of the year is here again. The sky is blue with patches of white clouds floating lazily and the weather is cooling down. Durga Puja is here again in New Jersey. The local Bengali associations are gearing up to welcome Ma Durga with the usual pomp and cultural extravaganza, and let me share with you some information about the festivities that has come to my notice.
Like previous years, Durga Puja festival in New Jersey will be heralded in by the live Mahishashura Mardini (Mahalaya) performance at the Ananda Mandir on October 10th at 5.00am in the morning. I have been a regular attendee at this event, and I can promise you that if you can take that bold step of getting up from bed that early and drive down to Ananda Mandir, you’ll have an experience that you will never regret. Continue reading →
Finally the 2010 NABC came to an end on Sunday July 11th at the Atlantic City convention center in New Jersey with a “blow out” performance by Abhijeet. Although his mockery of Bengali culture was not well appreciated by many Bengalees who slowly drifted away from the hall (which was not liked by the singer at all), his performance was just what was expected of a Bollywood performer – entertaining but nothing extraordinary. However, people who came to the conference went back with memories – some of which may not be very pleasant but I would think most of them would be happy memories. Memories of the wonderful performances by Sahaj-ma and Utpal Fakir, Kaivalya Kumar and few others, memories of meeting friends, those long adda sessions and the World Cup finals.
But the people who went back with a bad taste in their mouth (no, I am not talking about the food served by Shahnawaz) were the people who came all the way to showcase their talent through dance, drama and music. These people paid group registration for their show, paid individual registration fees for their entire troupe and spend big dollars to bring their show with the hope to share with their Bengali friends who came from around the country. Continue reading →
The count down to NABC 2010 has started. In little more than seven months from now, Bengalis from all over USA and abroad will converge upon Atlantic City in New Jersey. Kallol of New Jersey, the host organization of NABC 2010, is working at a hectic pace to make it a great event. Most of the performers have been lined up, registrations pouring in and the committee members are busy working on the final details like scheduling and fund raising. On January 8th, 2010, a kickoff meeting/press-conference will be held in Kolkata in the presence of most of the artists and performers.
Lets take a look at some of the foreign performers who will grace the Atlantic City convention center stage. I’ll not be able to cover all of them in this article and plan to continue in future posts. At the 2010 NABC Kallol will be presenting some performers who are relatively unknown to the Bengali crowd in USA. One such group is Sapphire Creations Dance Workshop who will be performing at the opening ceremony. Sapphire Creations is a premier experimental dance company based in Kolkata and the only one of its kind in Eastern India performing regularly and popularly in festivals and arts events in India and abroad. Their objective is to integrate in its dance an awareness of tradition, a dimension of experimentation, an urge to entertain and a purpose to provoke consciousness to inspire us to reach brighter horizons. Continue reading →
In New Jersey, Durga Puja is a special time when the festive mood brings with it a flurry of entertainment and cultural programs across the state. This year too the line up looks very promising although the spirits have dampened a bit due to the tough economic times and with the rejection of visas of few of the performers. Still the combination of local talents and professionals from India is bound to enthrall the Puja attendees on the coming weekends.
I’ll try to briefly summarize the lineup this year, although the organizers have in many cases conveniently omitted the details about the local performers from their web sites. I tried to collect as much information I could manage. If any of you have more information, then please feel free to add them to this post as comments. Continue reading →
The reality TV show “American Idol” has triggered a new trend – Idol search! TV channels all over the world are searching for idols – or talents. This search is not only limited to the television screen, but it has also proliferated onto the stage in various forms. Although the primary objective of this kind of shows is to screen for talent, in reality (excuse the pun) it is nothing but an entertainment show. The excitement, the drama, and the occasional emotional outbursts, are all part of the show. Undoubtedly, such shows do bring many talented men, women and children to the limelight, but is this the right way to do explore talent? In many cases, the exploration turns to exploitation – especially for the young participants. They have to go through a grueling screening process, sustain a tremendous pressure to perform, and then handle a barrage of criticism from the celebrity judges. I know in one dance show, a young girl couldn’t take the judges criticism anymore and had a nervous breakdown resulting in a paralytic fit. In several instances the young competitors sacrifice their education to continue the show. But the tragedy is, in most cases the winner is not judged by the celebrity panel whose criticism these young participants have to encounter, but rather by the audience through cell/mobile phone text messages (SMS). And in this process, the wireless carrier mints money. I am sure the show also gets their share of this income too.
Entertainment events are the major attractions of any Durga Puja festival. The Puja organizers spend thousands of dollars to get the most popular artistes from India as well as from the local talent pool. It is the star entertainers that pull in the crowd, and crowd brings in revenue. The popularity ratings of the entertainers define the success of a Durga Puja.
But is it true? If the stars and their entertainment was the only reason to attend a Puja festival, then why do we have to listen to the constant rumbling noise of numerous “adda” sessions that continue in the background? As the audio levels of the performers rise, so does the noise level. To many attendees (myself included) the main attraction of attending a Puja is the opportunity to meet friends and engage in endless “addas”. We have no ill feeling towards the performers, they can continue to do their job as long as they don’t disturb our “addas”. After all, it is them who made us decide which Puja to attend – but they cannot deny us our birth right to be able to talk, talk and talk for hours on. We will occasionally listen to one or two songs to give our tired jaw bones some rest, but soon we’ll get back to argue about who was the best performer of the song, and how this “hopeless” artist has ruined the song completely. We’ll lament the dearth of talent in Bengal and how we miss the golden days of Kishore and Hemanta-da, how the new generation of band music is destroying Bangla music and why one should ban artistes like Sumon and Nachiketa.