Times of India: The evenings are crisp and fresh. The hope and anticipation that marks the beginning of a new year still lingers. So what better time than this to bring you the best of the fests… the Times Pune Festival. A veritable treat of music and theatre is on offer from Saturday with renowned artistes eagerly waiting to win over the hearts of Punekars.
The ball will be set rolling by the versatile Ali Zafar of ‘Tere Bin Laden’ fame at the historic Shaniwarwada on Saturday evening. And though he will be performing live in Pune for the first time, Zafar has heard a lot about the choosy Puneites from fellow musicians and singers who have spoken highly of the erudite audience.
He will be followed by the exciting ‘Parikrama’ on January 13 who just cannot wait to rock the city. “Pune’s audience is probably the best in the whole country,” says Subir Malik, who is on keyboard and synthesisers for Parikrama. “We have played in Pune over 50 times now and each gig here has been a ball. Our first show in the city was done by a close friend way back in 1996, when we shared the stage with Indus Creed. Besides, we have great friends in Pune,” he added.
Music will make way for the unique flavour of theatre when English plays ‘Salaam India’ and ‘Broken Images’ will be staged on January 14 and 15 respectively.
Director of ‘Salaam India’, Lushin Dubey is no stranger to Pune. “Pune is a city of intelligent and receptive theatre connoisseurs, who understand the subtle nuances of this medium. Pune is very special to me, considering that I have spent six glorious years here. My father not only worked in the railways here but was also the principal of a premier educational institution in Pune. I studied in St Mary’s while I was here and lived in the lush environs of Koregaon Park, next to the Osho Ashram,” she recounts.
“A visit to Pune is often a trip down memory lane. In fact, it was in Pune where the spark of love for theatre kindled, gradually metamorphosing into a flame,” she said.
After capturing the Pune audience with ‘Kaifi Aur Main’ during the Times Pune Festival last year, actor Shabana Azmi is revisiting the city this time with the play ‘Broken Images’.
Then it will be back to music with a line up boasting of ‘Raga Boyz’ on January 16, Raghu Dixit on January 17, Sabri brothers on January 18, Vidya Shah – a disciple of Shubha Mudgal, on January 19 and finally the versatile Sukhwinder Singh on January 20.
The Sabri brothers who will enthrall the audience with their qawwalis are also looking forward to their show in Pune. Pune has had its own harvest of prominent Sufi and Muslim saints who left their followers with a treasure of powerful shrines and ‘dargahs’ in the heart of the city. The brothers share an intense love for Pune and eagerly await their performance here on January 18.
“Pune has a lovely audience. We have already performed four to five times in Pune. The latest invitation only proves that Puneites love our music. They know their music well and have been enjoying qawwalis even before the form entered Indian films,” said Hashim Sabri, who still has fond memories of the time they performed at the Kamar Ali Darvesh Dargah, situated in Shivapur, years ago.
Raghu Dixit is another performer eagerly looking forward to his show in Pune. “Oh, absolutely! The people here know all my songs and always sing along – it’s euphoric and always wonderful to perform here,” he said.
Wali Hamid Ali of Raga Boyz is also waiting for their turn to perform in the city. “Our aim is to acquaint the youth with classical music, albeit in a modern format,” says Wali who is the lead singer of Raga Boyz – a trio comprising brothers Nayab Ali, Inam Ali and of course, Wali.
Sukhwinder Singh, known for belting out foot-tapping numbers with as much ease as some soul-searching songs will round off the Times Pune Festival with a Bollywood dhamaka.
In keeping with the tradition of offering something for all those out to enjoy the festive atmosphere in all its myriad colours, there is opportunity to don the chef’s apron as well. Master chefs at Hyatt Regency, Ista and Shabree are ready to engage the foodies on January 16 and 17. They will not only whip up Italian, Pan Asian and Maharashtrian delicacies in front of some eager learners, but will also share some tips to make the perfect dish of your choice.