Art won over politics in Kolkata on Tuesday night when Pakistani ghazal singer Ghulam Ali performed at the Netaji Indoor Stadium. The singer hailed West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee as a form of Saraswati, the Hindu goddess of wisdom and music. “I am grateful to her. She has done us a favour in the form of Saraswati,” Ghulam Ali said with a smile.
The chief minister reinforced her views on universal brotherhood and requested the 75-year-old singer to visit the city again. She welcomed him with a shawl and a scarf. Banerjee was seen absorbed in the music with closed eyes as Ali entranced the audience with his expertise in vibrations.
Ghulam Ali , who has over the years enthralled millions across the globe with his baritone voice, on Tuesday expressed gratitude and elation as he performed to a packed audience in the eastern metropolis, three months after cancellation of his concert in Mumbai. “I am very happy today. I have been coming to Kolkata for 30 to 35 years. But this time it feels like I have come back after 50 years. I was so sad and today my sadness ends,” he said.
Ghulam Ali began the musical night with his famed ghazal Chupke Chupke Raat Din in his inimitable style - in a duet with son Aamir - to thunderous applause from thousands in the enraptured audience at a concert.
Ghulam Ali had first performed in Kolkata in 1981. “Gana wana mujhe nahi aata (I don’t know how to sing). I only know how to listen,” he said, reminiscing how he was tutored by the legendary Bade Ghulam Ali and his three brothers. “I used to be after them (to learn),” quipped the singer, whose famous ghazal renditions are Chupke Chupke Raat Din, Kal Chaudhvin Ki Raat Thi, Hungama Hai Kyon Barpa, Kiya Hai Pyar Jise and many others.
Attired in embroidered white kurta-pajamas and a shawl, Ali complimented the audience for their patience and silence as they immersed themselves in his shayaris and ghazals including the famed “Dil Mein Ek Lehar Si Uthi Hai Abhi”. The ustad’s arresting style conveyed a range of emotions, even as he rendered the same couplet more than once.
Spectators, which included the creme de la creme of Bengal, seemed to be overwhelmed with a strong dose of nostalgia, when Ali began Chupke Chupke. Filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt, who recently roped in Ali to sing for his play titled Milne Do, was also in attendance. There was never a dull moment as the ustad kept up an engaging conversation with the audience through explanations for the shayaris and ghazals he sang, in his characteristic lively and jovial demeanour. Ali said he performs all over the world but enjoys most while performing in Kolkata.
Listen to a playlist of the most famous ghazals by Ghulam Ali:
However, a section of Twitterati, including BJP leaders, slammed Banerjee for inviting the singer to India just weeks after the Pathankot attacks.
Due to Confidence Building Measures like #PathankotAttack, Ghulam Ali will perform again in Kolkata (after saying he won't be back ever)— Marvin (@VogonPoem) January 5, 2016
We lost our martyrs in Pathankot last week & WB CM @MamataOfficial, Kolkata people are enjoying Pak singer Ghulam Ali's ghazals. Speechless!— Devika (@Dayweekaa) January 12, 2016
"TMC Govt is doing politics by bringing Ghulam Ali to perform in Kolkata" #AntiNationalMamata— BJP-Bengal President (@bjpbengaloffice) January 12, 2016
On the other hand, there was also support on the microblogging platform.
Blockbuster Full House at Ghulam Ali Concert in Netaji Indoor Stadium Kolkata today. Shivsena can create nuisance in Mumbai, not elsewhere!— Vinod Mehta (@DrunkVinodMehta) January 12, 2016
Glad Ghulam Ali performed in Calcutta but disturbed to hear Minority Affairs Ministry organised the event. Should have been Culture Ministry— Ashok Malik (@MalikAshok) January 13, 2016
Tell you what... More people have called me up for Ghulam Ali concert passes than for an IPL match 😊#kolkata— Derek O'Brien (@quizderek) January 12, 2016
After cancellation of his Mumbai concert in October due to threats by the Shiv Sena , Ghulam Ali had expressed disappointment asserting “never to return to India”. Banerjee offered Kolkata as a venue following the cancellation of the Mumbai concert in October.
(With PTI & IANS inputs )