After at least five years I found myself jostling in a line,incredibly,to enter a nightclub at 11 at night. While approximately 40 people tried to catch the attention of the doorman or the hulking bouncers flanking him,one observation,besides how absurdly young everybody looked,was that very expensive,very frightening looking high heels are back in fashion. The venue was Pangaea,yet another attempt by Ashoka Hotel to shed its stodgy image after the previous nightclubs in the same location,Ssteel and F-Bar,packed up some years ago. Two months old,the international promoters,The Ault Group,are veterans in the club business and run over 80 bars across the world. But back to the doorman who wouldnt budge at my appeal that I was a guest for a private party. Eventually I had to call my host to be let in.
The nightclub business thrives on exclusivity. In the tragically short shelf life of any club,management has to create some mystique,so no,you cant just breeze in,unless youre on what every club tries to create: the exclusive guest list. The formula worldwide,is to create a list of cool people (fashion designers,models and socialites) give them VIP treatment and freebies so they keep coming,and the rest will pay to hang out with them. (If you dont fall in the cool category you make the A-list only if Dom Perignon is your favoured drink.) So if youre not the reckless spender type,pleading and begging at the entrance will have to continue. Pangaea is a cavernous space with heavy velvet curtains,glittering chandeliers and gilded frames. A few tables are scattered around and the most coveted one bang in the centre is priced quite hilariously,at Rs 4 lakh per night. On their website,Pangaea lists its philosophy,which is even funnier with many grandiose lines like this: Not everybody endeavors to drive a Ferrari,travel with Louis Vuitton luggage,dress in Hermes and Gucci or fly privately,but if you do,Pangaea is your home. Admirably ambitious,I say. Or it can be interpreted as a total lack of understanding on how Delhi works.
There was absolutely nothing Hermes wielding about the 25-year-olds I could see on the dance floor and you have to wonder whether this whole elusive promise of spectacular cool isnt a bit dated in the era of instant information. Not happening? questioned someone in the line on the phone to someone inside,and promptly left. Im in awe of anyone who would take on the formidable task of setting up a nightclub anywhere,but more so in Delhi where a venture like this is perpetually fraught with uncertainty. Traditionally,members-only nightclubs have been disastrous failures here. Delhi is a unique market where people probably can afford a Rs 4 lakh table,but will be outraged if theyre not offered it for free.
A couple of years ago,Lap,actor Arjun Rampals club,priced tables based on location within the club,asking for a minimum spend of a comparatively modest amount,Rs 10,000 per head. They had to scrap it since there were no takers. Shalom,another popular lounge bar had launched a members-only club called Deep Forest but the owner found the attendance fluctuating and the pool of partying people too small to sustain it. Its interesting that The Ault Group would choose to open in India now when the super large thumping nightclub is considered a relic of the90s everywhere else in the world. The night I went,Pangaea was smoky,dark and packed to capacity,with great music by Avicii,Pitbull and Gotye. It had a buzz at least till policemen turned up at 12:30 am and turned off the music. Its anybodys guess how long Pangaea will survive but history suggests,not very long. The enormous fixed costs involved in running a place like this requires a critical number of people on the floor,and getting those numbers on a regular basis is not easy. Itll need more than an international DJ to keep up the tempo.