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|April 26, 2000|
Close encounters of the starry kind
The Millennium Masti 2000 took its time winding through the USA and Canada to find it's way to Toronto. And it received an overwhelming reception when it opened at the Maple Leaf Gardens on April 23. The crowds ebbed and flowed, thick with fans eager to catch a glimpse of the six stars over from Bollywood, no matter that it was Easter.
The big draw sextet consisted of Salman Khan, Raveena Tandon, Sonali Bendre, Bobby Deol, Saif Ali Khan and Malaika Arora. The troupe is part of the concert touring 17 locations in four countries, USA, Canada, Spain and Great Britain.
"I've driven a few hundred miles for the show," averred Ritu Singh of Ottawa, who came to Toronto especially to see Bobby Deol. And she wasn't disappointed.
"He's definitely the cutest and coolest guy around... I just can't wait to see him shake a leg on stage," she said.
Fans held up posters and banners of the stars they were rooting for. And the Gardens, favourite venue for ice hockey games in Toronto, resounded to a roar of a different kind of crowd altogether.
Salman Khan won the popularity contest hands down. One poster read, "We Love You, Salman" and another said, "Toronto Welcomes the King of Khans." There was a solitary jean-clad teenager flashing a big colourful poster of the "Chotte nawab". Saif Ali Khan had at least one supporter.
Though the tickets were cut into the pocket at CA $ 100, 50 and 25 each, the audiences paid up all right. This wasn't the day to complain really. Latecomers scampering into the Gardens came upon the "House Full" board and returned home dolefully.
'Millennium Masti 2000' was promoted by Farath Hussain and organized by the Morani brothers of Bombay and Bunty Surma in collaboration with local Toronto business magnate Nav Bhatia and Esquire Promotions Inc.
The show was preceded by a fashion show, with hip-swinging models displaying the latest fashions and designs -- from Bombay.
But the audiences were chanting, "Salman, Salman," even before the show began. He stole the thunder with solo dance numbers from films like Dulhan Hum Le Jayenge, Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam and Biwi No.1.
The stars' performances were interspersed with playback singing by new and upcoming singers. Many were disappointed when Malaika Arora preferred to compere the show instead of swinging to the beats of Chaiyyan Chaiyyan. Her vivid description of the stars, however, kept the audiences happy.
The musical song-dance show opened with hit songs of 1999 and 2000. 'Chotte nawab' breezed in from backstage with wife Amrita and the audiences weren't humoured when he came onstage and referred to Toronto as Vancouver. But they soon forgave the faux pas when he charmed them with his unique wit and suave manners.
He endeared the crowd when invited a Toronto girl to dance with him to the beats of Ole Ole; he had them eating from his hand whein he later invited a Sikh to do a bhangra number.
Bobby, new to the game of stage shows, kept in sync with other dancers. His ready smile and good looks won the girls over. Performing in front of a live audience for the first time didn't faze the young Deol who set the stage afire with dances from his recent films, Dillagi and Badal.
And Jugni jugni and Main jat yamla Punjabi, Punjaban meri hole had the audience in a frenzy. He completed the act by dancing like his dad Dharmendra to the seventies' hit song Main Jat Yamala Pagla Deewana. "It's him that's the asli Punjab da putar, not me," Bobby told the audience shyly.
If the guys were a hit, the women received all the attention and some from the males.
Raveena and Sonali took the stage by storm, dancing to numbers from films like Bade Miyan Chhote Miyan, Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, Taal and Hum Saath Saath Hain.
The grand finale included duets performed by star couples on stage.
"I wouldn't miss this show for the world. Seeing them in flesh and blood is a different experience altogether," said Mohnish Bagga of Toronto. Bagga had booked the tickets well in advance so that he could see Sonali, whom he referred to as "the girl of my dreams".
While many returned with a smug paisa vasool look writ large on their faces, others, not yet satisfied, trailed the stars to their hotel.
"Fans were waiting for stars to show up till the wee hours of the morning," said a guard who is part of security arrangement at the Ramada Inn hotel, where the stars had been put up.
Now that the show is well and truly over, Toronto is now preparing for the visit of Daler Mehndi, better known as "Dollar Mendi" in the west, and Karishma Kapoor on May 20.
And come the day, the audience will be out there again in force, delirious with joy, and full of their heroes and heroines again.
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