For the last nine years, Ketul Patel, 39, dominated Surat’s dandiya and garba circuit during the Navratri festival.
Her Gujarati folk renditions, with a quirky twist caught the attention of the organisers of Borivli’s Kora Kendra Dandiya Utsav Mandal, who invited her to make her Mumbai debut this navratri.
“Seeing more than 10,000 dancers sway to my music on the first day was overwhelming,” said Patel, who has included Marathi devotional tracks to her list.
Even dandiya Queen Falguni Pathak’s return this year at Sankalp Dandiya Utsav in Goregaon has not dampened Patel's spirits. “The style, tone and pitch of all the singers are different. People purchase tickets to dance and have a good time; not just to gaze at the celebrity singer,” said Patel.
While established singers like Pathak get around Rs1.5crore for nine days, upcoming artistes are paid around Rs 1lakh for the season. “Falguni’s name has turned into a brand. Organisers are aware that her presence will boost ticket sales,” said Nimesh Parikh, secretary, Maharashtra Navratri Mahamandal. “The debutantes are paid a fixed package. The big break and good exposure are added perks,” he added.
At Mulund’s Kalidas Prerna Raas 2011, upcoming singer Arpita Thakkar, 29, has experimented with her style to combat Brand Falguni. “I included Ganeshji’s devotional tracks to add flavour,” said Thakkar. “The first hour of the evening is the most challenging, till we grab the dancers’ attention,” she added.
With budgets of dandiya utsav mandals rising this year owing to inflation, the trend of hiring newcomers helps cut costs. “What is the point in shelling out lakhs of rupees to get a celebrity singer on board? It makes sense to get experienced singers from Gujarat for a cost-effective price,” said Gopal Shetty, who is associated with the Kora Kendra Navratri Utsav.
“It all boils down to the company you have. As long as the singer is not singing off-beat and the songs are lively, it doesn’t really matter,” said Neha Dodhia, 21, a resident of Mulund, who bought a season pass for Kalidas Prerna Raas 2011.
This year, sisters Preeti-Pinky, too returned to the Mumbai stage. For the last two years they performed in Australia and Ahmedabad. “Performing in Mumbai has its own charm. We add a tinge of glamour to our music and make it memorable or everyone,” said Pinky.