So, do you clap, or not clap? At the end of a rendering of your national anthem?
That was what I was wondering as Rachna started to sing Amar Shonar Bangla. My experience with anthems had been restricted to opera pieces sung at the Air Canada Centre during hockey games, where after the anthem is done you clap, cheer, hoot and spill your beverage 'by accident' on the visiting team's supporters. That would probably be against the protocol here.
Shim, the president of BSA (Univ. of Toronto), had changed his MSN nick for the whole of last week to 'the real BSA show is on March 24, Friday'. And I think that aptly sums up my take of Bornona, U of T BSA's signature cultural show this last Friday, at the St Lawrence Theatre of the Arts.
Other universities do put up a BSA show. Some of them even turn out to be very good. But U of T though, puts out something special. It's like the forever favourite that everyone tries to catch up to. Every year you see a couple of good performances and think, well, how will the favourite top that, this year? Well, U of T is the favourtite who always has one last trick to pull out of the bag to blow all competition away. Their shows have always been in a class of their own, regardless of how good the others were. For your $10, you get a seat at a posh theatre - probably the only time so many Toronto Bengalis attend the theatre simultaneously. There are cops to control the crowd, the technical details (lighting, sound, sets) are always professional, and that's just the frills.
The show started EXACTLY on time. I canNOT tell you how impressive this is to me, anytime desis are on time. For the last three years, U of T has started fairly punctually.
A word about MCs at these desi shows. You have all been to these shows where an MC (or a pair of them) will come on stage with microphones, say a few words about the next performance, read the names of the performers like a laundry list and disappear. Often, one will say it in Bengali, then another in English (usually the girl, leading to a few catcalls and jeers of 'Bangla Bol, Beti!!!'). Well, U of T changed that a couple of years ago. That year, the pair of MCs, Sumaiyya and Rifat (the up-and-coming standup comedian), played the part of a couple watching TV and channel surfing, where each program on the TV was a performance on stage.
This year, Sumaiyya played an MTV Bangla program hostess, interviewing 'local' Bangladeshis, while the music videos played between interviews were the performances. The locals being interviewed were a pickpocket (of Pick-pocket Inc.), a rickshaw driver (perhaps hoping to join the Bangladesh Commonwealth cycling team and disappear in Australia) and finally - which brought the house down - rapper Fata Lungi. All played excellently by Rifat.
As for the performances, they were all very good. It was a nice variety of songs, pop and classical, a live vocal performance by Mahbub of The Trap, dances (classical and the enjoyable), poetry and skits about life in Bangladesh (city and village differences being notably portrayed). I enjoyed the performances of Mashala Meye (Spice Girls) and Pichoner Golir Chele (Backstreet Boys) immensely (OK, this is the first time I have EVER used the word 'immensely'). The ending, by the BSA execs with a flashback to past performances, was a great deft touch and a suitable send-off.
After the show, came the after-show party. And that is another post for another day. At the moment, I am posting a few pictures here, but enjoy the full slideshow on flickr.
Rachna sings Amar Shonar Bangla.
Sumaiyya interviews 'Biddut'.
A pop duet.
An MD-digging auntie.
Aisha leads a dance troupe.
The work continues for a village woman after sunset ...
... while a city couple prepares for a party ...
.. while some things are the same.
Mosholar Meye (Spice Girls).
Malaysian womens' heart throbs.
The protagonists of the natok.
Tags: BSA Bornona