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News |  03 Oct 2016 15:28 |  By Suhas Thobbi

Bollywood Music Project first edition hits bull's eye

MUMBAI: The marketing phase was over, the aggressive advertising came to a halt, the interviews were done, it was time for Bollywood Music Project to walk the talk. I, personally, was skeptical of the first edition of this two-day event. And there were two reasons for it - the disinterest towards mainstream film music, and second, Bollywood's history with regard to ruining international trends - from horror movies to remakes. And Bollywood Music Project (or BMP) had both.

Reaching the venue two hours before the first act opened the festival did not turn out to be a bad decision after all. Dozens of young fans and older ones stood in queue to collect the tickets from the box office, and the buzz around the festival increased with the influx of more attendees at the venue - Jio Gardens. Located at the heart of the concrete jungle, I wondered how the organisers would manage to create a 'music festival' vibe in an environment majorly dominated by suit-wearing corporate professionals working in the tall glass buildings that disappear into the clouds. Any skepticism towards the presentation, set-up and arrangements of the music festival soon took a backseat after I passed through the security doors and took a larger view of the entire venue. On one side, a stage was set with a few food stalls to the right and the necessary space in front for the fans. On the other side, the second stage enjoyed even more foot space, and a scenic gradual setting of the sun behind itself.

It was the second time in a span of a week that I watched the Punjab-based songwriter Gurnazar perform live. However, unlike his performance on home turf Mohali, the underwhelming response to the set was the only difference for the young musician, known in the north for his energetic live performances, relatively relevant-to-millennial lyrics and the ability to engage fans - new and old. In BMP’s defence, to pull up an impressive crowd on a working Friday at 2.30 pm clearly could never had a positive outcome. The young versatile singer arrived with a mission and executed what he does best.


Soon, fans were spoilt for choice when the festival offered Digital stars featuring Arjun Kanungo, Darshan Raval, Raagatrippin' and Siddharth Slathia on Stage 2, while Darshan Doshi Collective with raags and sitar further made the choice tougher for the attendees. While the renditions of classic Bollywood songs filled the Stage 2 area, elaborate compositions coupled with sitar solos dominated Doshi's set on Stage1.

Darshan Doshi

I started craving for more. It still didn't look like a music festival experience for me. Between the two stages, a giant bar was set that steadily resulted into an effective move. A couple of smaller bars were set up at the two opposite sides of the venue. A jam room to the one side of the giant bar, and Hungama's fan-engagement stall on the other side, the colliding sounds from the two stages was the only issue with its placement, which disappeared as soon as one would enter either side of the bar. That's understandable though, and a common hindrance to every music festival with multiple stages. I had forgotten that Swaroop Banerjee of Event Capital - one of the experienced professional from the live music space - partly orchestrated the inception of the project. (Tarsame Mittal being the other). Event Capital's Director Deepak Choudhary deserves a shout-out for what was unfolding in BKC's giant arena.

Sonu Kakkar

On the music front, the party started with Hard Kaur. I always wanted to know what qualities do this rapper bring with her, making almost every organiser convinced of her talent as a live performer. It did not take her one song to answer the question. With professional b-boyers and dancers, Kaur unleashed one after another personal bests, and the crowd dispersed across stalls and bars, swamped to the Stage 1.

Hard KaurHard Kaur

Sadly for the young stars performing on the other stage at the same time, literally dozens ran towards the Hard Kaur's voice leaving behind lesser fans than during the beginning of the set. Hard Kaur might not be the finest of vocalists or songwriters in the country, but she definitely can make people dance - on the stage and off of it.

Young Stars

Mahalakshmi Iyer's set featuring Raghav Sachar soon appeared on the same stage, and the music transformed from dance to fusion, and the multi-instrumentalist Sachar (who performed at NH7 Pune last year) surely knew a thing or two about impressing the fans.

Aerial view

Papon, considering the crowd response, turned out to be the first big act of the day - so far. The act witnessed largest turnout and the slot timing helped the songwriter further. With an usual set-list, Papon did what Papon does best. Mesmerising Assamese folk compositions, some of his own classics reverberated all over the venue, and fans could not stop singing along for a second. Unlike Hard Kaur, I had a better idea of the sheer attraction towards Papon's sound and the musician's set-list did not disappoint a bit.


The idea of asking Sonakshi Sinha to perform at a music festival had me extremely confused since the day of its announcement. To be fair, this event was called Bollywood Music Project, and like everything Bollywood, this involved surprises. I would not call Sonakshi Sinha's performance 'great', 'unexpectedly beautiful' but it was technically sound. The actress turned up as performing on the stage had been a dream for her, and the organisers called her considering the massive attention she would bring towards the festival. As long as the larger cause benefits, everyone wins. And to give her credit, Sinha was graceful during her performance. The performance would not remind you of Adele, but that never really was the motive. Sinha got the basics right. Making complete use of the giant stage, the young actress looked nervous at first, but gradually with the help of excited and motivating fans, she concluded the set with a bow and a dream fulfilled. I stationed at the same spot, eagerly waiting for the following act.

Vishal and Sonakshi Sinha

Vishal and Shekhar shouldered the last-minute SOS from the organisers, when music composer Amit Trivedi announced his dismissal from the project citing family emergency. As soon as Rekha Bhardwaj's aesthetic display of pure art through her voice and visual displays came to an end, the venue witnessed a flock of children, couples, parents and teenagers flock to the other end with excitement and curiosity. The duo played the best set of the night, and the decades-long experience of performing live in front of hundred screaming fans helped the cause. With one fan favourite after another, the last set of the night ended with a huge cheer as a mark of appreciation of the day 1 and the eager fans showed themselves to the exit, only to return for the following day.

Vishal and Shekhar

Rekha Bhardwaj

The second day had Arijit Singh written all over it. Not a single soul who walked into the venue was not a Arijit Singh fanatic. A beautiful tribute to legendary composer S.D. Burman highlighted the first half of the day, featuring ten performers. Local and emerging talent Divine performed at the same time on the other stage, and once again, I was entirely surprised with the turnout for the act. No questions about the talent he possesses, but I did not expect hundreds to be present at 3 p.m. for a rapper still waiting for his due fame.


As with Day 1, it was dusk that brought the best performance of the day - so far. Sachin-Jigar duo has never had a bad show, or so I had heard.


For someone who is not a huge fan of Bollywood mainstream music, the effort put by these Bollywood biggies  walk an extra mile just to provide the fans a visual as well as sonic experience like never before, impressed me. The practice exists in the several music festivals executed yearly across the country, however, it surely burst any myth that mainstream musicians often take live shows casually. And that was proved once again by the legendary Hariharan. I call his act 'legendary' purely out of the genuine reasons that revolved around his hour-long performance. Hariharan performed like the debutant on a stage trying to prove a point. Hariharan also performed like a musician putting all his bones and muscles behind the last show ever before retirement. The energy on the stage was contagious, and every fan facing the composer, showed shades of the energy through grooving to the classic Hariharan tunes.


The next two hours summed up the power of Bollywood Music Festival. Badshah, Sajid-Wajid and Arijit Singh would soon embrace the stages. Badshah started with the typical flamboyant set-up and supporting MCs that soon transformed into a party. The crowd was relatively younger compared to the first day, and larger in number.


Sajid-Wajid extended the party with their set, and for some reasons, even I was growing curious to know how the Arijit Singh set would unfold. The drizzling rain did not dampen anyone's spirits. Just like every other Bollywood movie, the project awaited its climax. And it appeared in the form of headlining act - Arijit Singh. I had seen Arijit perform live before, albeit in an indoor venue, with a lesser enthusiastic crowd and the absence of the enthusiasm had reflected on his performance.

Jio Gardens, on the other side, was overwhelmed with teenage fans screaming top of their voices even before Arijit stepped on the stage. And when he did, I realised the power of Bollywood celebrity once again. In Arijit Singh's case, the songwriter, more or less, deserves the fandom. To narrate the performance in brief, Singh pulled in his greatest hits - the songs that made Arijit Singh - in a package that appeared like a gift to the fans. I witnessed the same through the other performers - the set-lists were created to please the fans, and rightly so, thus justifying the festival's primary cause.

Arijit SinghArijit Singh

Fireworks display concluded the first edition of the festival. To sum up the experience, the Bollywood Music Project was, indeed, a welcoming experience and there was not a single shortcoming arrived through arrangements, or sound or even management. Musically, the songs comprised older and recent Bollywood hits, and that does not come as a surprise considering the name of the event. There exists no doubt that BMP has a potential to rope in bigger names, associates, brands and partners for the second edition, and the phenomenon can cross boundaries and find hosts in western countries.