Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray reportedly told the organisers of the now-cancelled concert featuring Ghulam Ali that he himself is a big fan of the Pakistani ghazal maestro, but the performance at a time when tensions at the border continue to rise could not be allowed.
Having received two letters from the Shiv Sena protesting the scheduled concert, one from the local unit of the party at the venue, Shanmukhananda Hall, and another from the Chitrapat Sena, the party’s film industry union, the event organisers reached out to Thackeray for a breakthrough.
Randhir Roy, business head at Panache Media, the event management company for the concert, told The Indian Express that he heard of the Sena’s demand for cancellation of the concert on October 6. “It came in the form of a letter, hand delivered at the office at Shanmukhananda Hall and they called me up,” recounted Roy, who immediately went to the venue to take a look at the letter.
The manager at Shanmukhananda Hall added that the Chitrapat Sena sent a similar letter on Wednesday. “The first one was signed by Aadesh Bandekar while the one on October 7 was sent by Mangesh Satamkar,” said a manager at Shanmukhananda.
Roy got in touch with Sena workers who arranged for him to meet Thackeray at the mayor’s office. “We met at 7.30pm and Uddhavji explained to me that they don’t have a problem with the artiste. He also admitted to being a huge fan of Ghulam Ali saheb, but said he cannot allow a Pakistani talent to perform in the state as the tension between the two countries is high,” said Roy.
After a round of discussion, the concert in Mumbai was called off and a decision to cancel the Pune show, scheduled for October 10, was also taken.
Incidentally, while Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis called the Shiv Sena’s belligerence as “unfortunate”, his public declaration of full protection for the concert never reached the organisers.
Having opted to cancel the show in view of the threat of violence, Roy said they didn’t hear from the government or the Mumbai police. “I learnt of his (the chief minister’s) promise from the media, like everyone else,” said Roy.
“My government is willing to give full protection to Ali’s concert in Mumbai. The show must go on. It is unfortunate to drag a world-class, renowned ghazal singer into Indo-Pakistan politics,” Fadnavis had said.
The organisers, on their part, did not reach out to the authorities. “The safety of 2700 people who were to attend the show was at stake. If even one person gets injured, the responsibility would be mine,” said Roy.
Panache Media began to organise the ghazal maestro’s shows in India in 2012. Roy said Ali hasn’t faced any such protest or calls for cancellation. The singer, as popular in India as in his home country, performs here several times a year. His last concert was in Hyderabad on April 5 and he last performed in Mumbai on November 21, 2014 at Shanmukhananda Hall.
“His shows are always house-full. This time too, the most expensive tickets, priced at Rs 5,000, were the first to be sold out,” said Roy. The concert was a tribute to the late ghazal singer Jagjit Singh.
Aditya Thackeray, chief of the Sena youth wing, said, “We enjoy the songs of Ghulam Ali. However, we need to show some sensitivity towards our soldiers killed at the borders. We cannot be having fun when our jawans are being killed.”