Even as the city’s youth cheered at finally getting to see Coldplay live, others wonders why there aren’t more international gigs coming to town more frequently
“India is a young country and our future is built on the choices you make and the actions you take. I hope you too will seize the moment,” said PM Narendra Modi while addressing the grand finale of Global Citizen Festival India at the MMRDA ground on Saturday.
As the PM rightly said, the Indian youth — especially those from Mumbai — made up their mind to attend a festival in which popular band Coldplay was scheduled to perform for the first time in India. They wanted to seize the moment because they didn’t know if they would have another event like this any time soon.
Chris Martin, Coldplay’s frontman, must have guessed the mood of the 88,000-odd fans’ correctly and instantly hit a chord with them: He wondered as to why Mumbai had to wait so long to see him and his band. “You have waited for us to come and perform in India for 16 years. You’ve been patient and beautiful,” he said.
Why not more shows?
The excited audience has obviously wondered why Mumbai does not get to host international stars and bands frequently, and what it is that stops interested organisers from staging events of this magnitude. The youth of today are very clear about the choices they make — in this case, being witness to Coldplay type events. Saturday’s was an outstanding show that ran nine hours. It featured desi and international celebrities like Jay Z, Demi Lovato, The Vamps, AR Rahman and a host of Bollywood stars, including Amitabh Bachchan, with the central attraction being Coldplay.
It was proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that the culminating event became a hit only because it featured an international entity. Mumbaikars may recall an event of similar grandeur, Michael Jackson’s blitzkrieg stage performance 20 years ago. The city may have hosted many events in the ensuing 20 years, but it hasn’t really gone beyond countless Bollywood events such as annual awards and concerts. What the city with an immense disposable income is missing is international stars that our youth adore. The city also misses international sport stars, especially of team games like football and hockey, the two disciplines the city holds close to its heart. We are not counting cricket here because it is backed solidly by a potent BCCI.
Government’s the X factor
Who stands between the enthusiasts and the people who may like to organise such events? Before determining that answer, let’s see why events such as Coldplay and Jackson succeeded beyond expectations. Simply because they were supported actively by the government.
The Global Citizen festival was special to the PM because, he, during many of his foreign jaunts, had been to a similar event in 2014. The Mumbai do was planned in advance, and the Devendra Fadnavis government was given a mandate to make it successful. It is another matter that like the Jackson event, this one too courted controversies. Leave that aside and instead see as to how the government can take the model forward in bringing more international events to the city without being an active player.
We have event managers, companies and individuals who boast of connections strong enough to rope in international acts. What they need is a proper government policy that would facilitate quicker licenses that are required for staging performances, police protection (they may pay cost for this), a couple of dedicated venues which charge affordable rent so that they don’t need to seek political assistance for getting a concession. Reducing 45 per cent entertainment duty that the Maharashtra Government charges from the organising agencies should augur well.
The government policy, if framed, should offer ease of business to the entertainment industry. In the past two years, Fadnavis’ government reduced the number of licenses and is now moving forward to offering a single window clearance in many sectors. The government can identify the Global Citizen festival as a role model for drafting an adequate policy because of the shorter time that its administration has taken in granting permissions, concessions and other facilities. In the policy, the government should ensure a voluntary role of a host partner for itself without getting actively involved in such events. It should play a passive role through its policy, which will help a cosmopolitan Mumbai in retrieving a status of an international cultural hub.
Fadnavis should mull over suggestions that we consider as a collective thought of the generation he interacted with at the Global Citizen Festival on Saturday. He may derive inspiration from the lines of Bob Dylan’s iconic song, “The times they are a-changin”, that his boss PM Modi quoted in his address.
Dharmendra Jore is political editor, mid-day. He tweets dharmendrajore. Send your feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org