The maverick behind the Bollywood Monster Mashup reveals the secret sauce

Standard
Vikas-Kohli-and-MRO-PhotoCredit-JaimeEspinoza

Vikas Kohli (centre) with the Bollywood Monster Orchestra. Photo by Jamie Espinoza

Have you noticed how animated some folks become when describing the antics of their child or a pet?

Picture that enthusiasm and multiply it with an outrageously high number to understand how invested Vikas Kohli is with the Bollywood Monster Mashup (BMM), an annual three-day festival in Mississauga, that he started six years ago.

(Wow, did I just use a Math metaphor?).  He also owns and runs FatLabs, a recording studio in Mississauga.

“I couldn’t have predicted how popular this festival has gotten in six years,” Vikas told TDD recently. “We continually have first-time performers in Canada, in fact, we’re at a stage where we’ve multiple headliners talking to us about wanting to be at BMM. People in Bollywood actually know about the festival now. How cool is that?”

 Sound castles in the air:

For some months now, Vikas, the artistic director of BMM and an award-winning composer, has been furiously working on arranging the music scores for the orchestra portion of BMM Finale concert.

The orchestra will deliver fusion sounds that combine old Bollywood songs with western influences.

“People often ask me, where can they find the band that played at BMM and I tell them, it doesn’t exist,” Vikas said adding, each and every musician that’s part of orchestra was handpicked and invited to perform at the concert.

2013-MRO-String-Section-PhotoCredit-ChrisScaini

The string section of the Bollywood Monster Orchestra will play several Bollywood hits fused with other influences. Photo by Chris Scaini

On Saturday, July 23, the Bollywood Monster Orchestra and Mississauga Pops wind orchestra will deliver a number of retro Hindi songs with powerful string section and blend it with original scores created by Vikas’ musical sensibilities.

Vikas’ influences range from rock ‘n’ roll to jazz to hip-hop, metal and of course Bollywood. So, the sounds you hear will be unlike anything you’ve heard before.

Imagine arranging dozens of scores for a single event and then as the evening ends, the notes too disappear, never to be heard again.

“We create signature acts every year and no other festival does this,” Vikas said. “It takes six months of work and rehearsals to do this. I not only pick the songs, but also decide what kind of instruments to have on the stage. Then, I sit down and make musical charts for all the musicians.”

Once the band is assembled, they run rehearsals. That’s a lot of work for a free event.

The BMM Orchestra (Symphony Nights) on the main stage will include a traditional, classical European-string section delivering rich and beautiful sounds built on some evergreen Bollywood hits. We’re talking a 55-piece wind orchestra and 13-piece string one.

The three elements of BMM festivals:

  1. Artist debut in Canada: So far, all the headliners of the BMM for the past six years have admitted to Vikas afterwards about how bowled over they were by the euphoria and the vibe of the crowd. For these artists making their Toronto debut, that’s a big deal.
  2. Cross-cultural offerings: The BMM has done an exceptional job of fusing South Asian culture with mainstream, whether it’s tap dancing, orchestra or performances by dance ensembles. This year, Culture Rock, a Toronto group will wow the crowd with Bharatnatyam, waacking, hip-hop and more.
  3. Comedy Show: For the past couple of years, humour has been a staple of BMM. This year’s event in Brampton was just what the doctor ordered, a barrel of laughs.

For more information visit here.

 

Advertisements

Aishwarya Nigam to headline the Bollywood Monster Mashup Concert

Standard

Monster Finale

What: Bollywood Monster Mashup Finale
When/Where: Saturday, July 23 from 2 p.m. onward at Celebration Square, Mississauga. Finale events begin at 6:30 p.m.
Who: Aishwarya Nigam (headliner), Mississauga Orchestra, Culture Shock and more
What else: KidsZone, food vendors, Laser Show

****

Here’s a prophecy:

I can predict with eerie precision when the masses taking in the Bollywood Monster Mashup’s (BMM) Finale concert will likely go berserk.

It will be a Nano second after the opening bars to Munni Badnam Hui (Dabangg) hits the ether.

I am not a Bollywood movie buff. In fact, my quota to watch a Hindi film is one every few years, but I am an avowed Hindi music fan. The streaming app on my phone is the only thing that keeps me sane during my brutal commute each day.

So, I know Aishwarya will bring the crowd to its feet more than few times. What’s interesting is his other chartbusters: His rendition of Lut Gaye Tere Mohalle (Beshraam) that is incidentally on my playlist will be another crowd favourite.

Let’s get to Aishwarya’s bio

He won the Sa Re Ga Ma Pa in 2006, in addition to participating and winning other reality music crowns: Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikander, Ek Se Badkar Ek, IPL Rockstar and more.

aishwarya

Aishwarya Nigam

Aishwarya has performed at more than 500 shows in India and abroad. The BMM will be his first in Canada. He has a debut album Ek Main Aur Ek Tu.

Highlights of the BMM finale:

  • KidZone: This activity-filled portion of BMM includes mini-car racing, kite/mask making workshops and more and will start at 2 p.m. onwards
  • Mississauga Monster Orchestra: Starting at 6:30 p.m., a string/wind orchestra, under the artistic direction of Vikas Kohli will perform a variety of retro songs with a new and fresh twist
  • Culture Shock: will showcase a fusion piece with Bhartnatyam, Bollywood, waacking (underground dance style) and hip-hop
  • What’s on? Tap! : This Mississauga group, a festival favourite, will tap dance to Bollywood numbers
  • A stunning Laser Show, food vendors and more

The festival is absolutely free. For information about parking, getting there etc. visit here.

Sanchari Bose and Bishakh Jyoti of Sa Re Ga Ma Pa to perform at BMM

Standard

BMM

What: Bollywood Monster Mashup (BMM) Concert
When/Where: Friday, July 22 at Celebration Square in Mississauga at 6:30 p.m. to 11 p.m.

Who: Bishakh Jyoti and Sanchari Bose will headline the concert. Dance troupe Afsana, the Destiny dancers and Bollywood hits by Mohua and Dhiraj

****

Just a quick note to let y’all know, Toronto Desi Diaries is proud to be a media partner for MonstrARTity’s 2016 Bollywood Monster Mashup (BMM) events.

As a blogger/journalist, I am leery of endorsing brands, but I had no conflict when I said “yes” to BMM folks. Variety of reasons dictated this : (a) they’re one of the biggest South Asian festivals in Canada (b) I love how they’re engaging not just the desis, but the mainstream population as well. Their line-up includes many fusion elements that blend the best of east and west. So let’s get on with it, shall we?

Bollywood Monster Mashup (BMM) is a three-day festival.

The first component, BMM does Brampton, is happening, Saturday, July 16 at 9 p.m. at Spot 1 Grill on Rutherford Rd. in Brampton. Got your tickets yet?

This blog is about the concert on July 22.

                                  *****

So, who’s Bishakh?

I know many folks watch the Indian Music Reality TV show Sa Re Ga Ma Pa and if you’re one of them, you probably know pretty much everything I have to say about him.

Anyway here’s the Coles note on the rising stars of Bollywood’s playback singing world:
Support and encouragement from his family led Bishakh to audition for Sa Re Ga Ma Pa, which he won in 2007 and took second place in 2011.

hi rez bishakh

Bishakh Jyoti will headline the Bollywood Monster Mashup (BMM) concert, July 22 at the Celebration Square in Mississauga. Show runs from 6:30 p.m. to 11 p.m.

He was nominated for Best Music Director at the New York Film Festival and Florence Festival for Mrs. Scooter. He was also nominated for a Mirchi Music award for Best Music Director for his compositions in Babloo Happy Hai.

Bishakh loves travelling and an important advice he’s gotten during his travels is, “to sing from heart.” Which is precisely what he will do, Friday, July 22.

Another alumni:

Sanchari, much like Bishakh, is a fellow alumnus of Sa Re Ga Ma Pa. She took the crown in 2002-2003 and went on to also win the “Amul Star Voice of India” contest in 2007.

“It really makes me happy when I see the smiles in people’s faces when they listen to my music or watching me perform,” Sanchari penned in an online site. “For me when one can create a complete silence among the audience with a combination of smile and tears, that means you have hit the target.”

HiRez sanchari.jpg

Sanchari Bose will headline the Bollywood Monster Mashup (BMM) concert, July 22, at Celebration Square in Mississauga.

Sanchari has won dozens of awards for her dulcet voice in her home state – Madhya Pradesh (she’s from Jabalpur) and performed more than 1,000 shows .

She has lent her voice as a playback singer for movies like The World Before Her, by Anurag Kashyap, Kabab Mein Haddi with Daler Mahendi and released a ghazal album ASHQ with Jaswinder Singh.

The concert is free. For more information visit  here.

These brown comics from Toronto have an agenda

Standard

Nav BMDB banner-01

What: Bollywood Monster Mashup (BMM) does Brampton, a comedy/music evening

Where/when: Saturday, July 16, Spot 1 Grill at 289 Rutherford Rd. S. Brampton at 9 p.m.

Who: Ben Mathai, Amish Patel, Ernie Vicente, Azfar Ali, Crystal Ferrier and Nitish Sakhuja. Music by: Movin’ Cool, Selena Dhillon and Daysdeaf

 

                                         ***

Laughter has a colour

“My child’s a stand-up comic and we are so proud of him/her,” bragged no South Asian parent ever to another or a relative back home.

When this motely group of South Asian comedians grab the mic at MonstrARTity’s comedy and music night in Brampton, you can bet your last loonie, their side-splitting accounts will be embellished with cultural references, parental snafus, arranged marriages and ethnic jokes.

Ben Mathai, a teacher and well-known stand-up comic and actor/writer/comic Amish Patel will lob laughter bombs made from cultural quandaries and quirks. Their mimicry of relatives or a friend’s mother/uncle will most likely take over narrative at some point and send you toppling over the edge of the seat.

BMM Comedy

Ben Mathai, a well-known comic and TV star, will headline a comedy and hip-hop night in Brampton, Saturday, July 16 at Spot 1 Grill, 289 Rutherford Rd. S. The event is by MonstrARTity Creative Community (MCC), a Mississauga-based arts organization.

Ernie Vicente, Azfar Ali, Crystal Ferrier and Nitish Sakhuja will boost the evening’s comedy repertoire.

A word of caution: somewhere between the mirth and madness, there’s a pretty strong chance a performer, may go into labour. Crystal, who has the distinction of being the first Indian woman to headline the prestigious Kenny Robinson’s Nubian Disciples Of Pryor Comedy Show in Toronto, is heavily pregnant, I am told.

Buckle up and enjoy a chuckle-filled evening.

Cost of tickets is $10/person in advance and can be purchased online or $15/person at the door.

 Kem che? Maze ma, Patel Bhai?

Notice how brown comics/musicians/artists have impressive educational credentials?

If a white kid wanted to go to clown college, his parents likely wouldn’t bat and an eyelid. They would gift him a clown kit for Christmas. A desi kid’s life is just the opposite. It’s a rollercoaster ride fluctuating between emotional blackmail, followed by periods of stony silences by parents.

Brown kids suffer through years of medicine/engineering/MBA lessons, stifling their creative voices, just so their parents can get bragging rights with Mrs. Sharma.

Take Amish for instance. He’s an aerospace engineer, but he has moonlighted as an Uber driver and dabbled in other odd jobs just so he could pursue his comedic endeavour, much to the horror of his Gujju parents.

BMM Comedy

Amish Patel, well-known comic, will host a comedy and hip-hop night in Brampton, Saturday, July 16 at Spot 1 Grill, 289 Rutherford Rd. S. The event is by MonstrARTity Creative Community (MCC), a Mississauga-based arts organization.

“The thing with brown people is: we’re oppressed by our parents,” Amish says. “When I was in my 20s, I wouldn’t even answer the phone when if it was my mom on the line, especially if I was on a date or something because my Mom would insist on knowing everything…”

As the youngest of three and the only boy, his parents pinned all their hopes and dreams on their heir. They hoped, he would take over the family’s catering business and follow the herd with: a stable job, marriage and kids, preferably in that order.

“I have not fulfilled any of their expectations,” Brampton-raised Amish announces nonchalantly.”

Amish’s stand-up routines on arranged marriages, big fat desi weddings, parental pressures are a huge hit because his insights are spot on.

“Being a brown comic helps me,” he said. “My training wheels are finally off. Unlike white comedians who have to dig deeper into their lives to come up with stories of oppression, we (brown comics) have so much to tell.”

Amish, who’s in the mid 30s says he has developed a thick skin. And as he thumbs his nose at expectations and approval, this engineer/comic/entrepreneur has been leaving a trail of laughter in his wake.

That, hopefully, will be his legacy. Check out Amish’s sketches here.

****


Movin’ Cool, a local hip-hop group, consisting of emcees B Magic and Noyz, and producer/DJ Dusty, will amp up the music on July 16. Other artists that will elevate the event’s status include Selena Dhillon, a soul, jazz and hip hop musician and Daysdeaf, a music artist whose organic and electronic compositions are making people stop and listen. For tickets and information visit here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Anarkali’s lead actor Kiran Rai basks in the show’s success

Standard

Kiran Rai

Kiran Rai, who plays Anarkali, the lead actor in hit web series by the same name, also edits the episodes. Photo by Baljit Singh.

Behind the scenes of Anarkali

Through the making of two seasons of Anarkali, Rakhi and Kiran learned a ton of lessons.

Their guerrilla-style filmmaking: shooting each episode, spending hours editing it and then uploading the edition on YouTube, though not terribly efficient, was effective.

So, after the success of the first season, Rakhi and Kiran Rai (KayRay) decided on a more organized approach. Instead of flying by the seat of their pants, they shot and edited all of the episodes of season two in advance. Then, they confidently announced a date for the season opener.

Except, few weeks before the D-day, the hard drive crashed.

So, they scrambled, yes, guerrilla style, to meet the deadline. Ah well.

KayRay as Anarkali

Kiran Rai or KayRay has studied film, theatre and television and film making and was doing this and that, when Anarkali catapulted her into the stratosphere of success.

This Bramptonian incidentally also happens to be social media celebrity. Her video blogs (kayray) have more than 1 million views and she has racked up some 37,000 followers on Instagram.

Kiran believes the web series’ success can be traced to its honest narrative. We all know truth has its own unique taste, but telling it needs a bit of chutzpah.

“There was a lack of images and stories in our community about the truth behind brown women’s lives. We told it honestly and that’s why it’s a success,” Kiran says. “Even in Bollywood, the stories are more in the realm of fantasy than a reality. The stories told in Bollywood are not authentic to our experiences…”

“People are hungry and they want more (content that reflects their lives),” she continued. “People that watch Anarkali are not just young women, but men, queer folks and everyone else as well.”

Kiran’s stock as an actor appears to have risen exponentially with the show’s success. People are now offering her roles that have a bit of meat whereas, before, she relied on making her own films and starring in them to show off her versatility.

A trip to L.A. some years ago, convinced Kiran, she should dive into the deep end of acting, instead of dabbling in it.

“There weren’t enough people my age doing it (acting),” she said on why she was hesitant before. “Everyone around me said, acting wasn’t realistic and that I wouldn’t be able to make a livelihood, instead, I should do it as a hobby…”

Once she decided to pursue acting, Kiran signed up at an acting academy in Toronto to learn the trade.

Armed with all her knowledge, she then decided to make short films and start her own YouTube channel – kayray.

Anarkali2.jpg

Some cast members of Anarkali, a popular web series. L-R: Mandy KayBee, Gavan Anand, Kiran Rai and Seth Mohan. Photo by Baljit Singh

So far, this year, Kiran has been trying something new in front of the camera every day as part of her “Never Have I” series.

But, Anarkali has and will continue to have its own special place in her life.

“I have so many similarities with Anarkali,” she says. “Anarkali is a beautiful character who’s trying to find herself and she (like me) lives in a diaspora where two different cultures are constantly clashing. It’s nice to be able to resonate with someone that’s so much like the women around me.”

Kiran often gets ambushed on the streets by hard-core fans demanding she give up her foolish fantasy of getting together with Prince. It’s almost as if they have no clue that the web series is a work of fiction.

“I guess fans want to know why Anarkali is so hesitant to make the right decision (when it comes to her true love),” she said. “I think it’s almost as if they are asking themselves the same question, but through me…”

This is the conclusion of our two-part series.