JOHANNESBURG – Indian pop queen Sunidhi Chauhan enthralled South Africans with a whirlwind tour of two cities at the weekend, belting out all her frenetic-paced hits with a stage energy to match.
After performing in Durban the night before, the troupe played into the early hours of Sunday at the Carnival City arena here.
Showing the same levels of charisma that characterises Western pop concerts, Sunidhi seemed to have boundless stamina as she did two long stints, and then, on insistence from the audience even after fireworks in front of the stage had brought the show to a climax, went back for more.
Clearly enjoying her own performance as much as her interaction with the audience, there was little allowance though for any duets, the only two being with Sumeet Kumar, son of the legendary Kishore Kumar, who made his debut in South Africa with some solo items as well.
As they did their duets, Kumar jested that the last time they had sung together on a stage was when they were at school together in Mumbai but “those were those patriotic songs like anthems and things”.
All this was after Ayub Patel had opened the show, as he proclaimed, with some “mood-setting” songs and then promptly went right into a very sad song. It was definitely not a precursor of the mood to follow when Sunidhi hit the stage.
Describing her audience as “mind-blowing”, a play on her hit song “You’re my mind-blowing Mahiya”, Sunidhi had them eating out of her hand as security staff had their own hands full trying to keep dancers away from the front of the stage.
South African dancer Yarisha Rajcoomar, trained by Bollywood choreographer Saroj Khan, got her first break as part of an international show with her team of dancers in a few items that matched the fast-paced songs by Sunidhi.
Ravi Raj, a compere who has been to South Africa with several singers from India in recent years, has clearly learnt to understand the local audience tastes.
Speaking largely in English to ensure that the locals understood what was said, Raj was a refreshing change from the usual comedy acts from India with their clichd items of mimicry.
Even when he did include some mimicry, it was done innovatively as he shared how some famous Bollywood stars young and old might have made their pleas to Durga Mata during Navratri, to the delight of the audience.
Half of the six-man band from India played the most serious percussion instruments, in keeping with the loud songs that have made Sunidhi a household name here, and her costumes and stage movements blended in well with her singing.
As one audience member in the crowd leaving the arena remarked: “She could be a Bollywood movie star herself!”