Hong Kong is used to hosting a variety of events, international and regional. But this weekend, the island city will witness something unique.
Bollywood megastar Salman Khan will lead a galaxy of Indian stars to Hong Kong, to perform at the largest Indian concert to ever take place there.
The Hong Kong concert, which will also feature performers like Bollywood actress Bipasha Basu and South Indian dance legend Prabhudeva, is part of the “Da-Bangg” world tour that will also travel next weekend to New Zealand, Australia, and then possibly later in the fall to the UK, Canada and the U.S.
Khan, on a call from Mumbai, India, told CNN the concert was proof of how large the Indian community is and how it is “all over the world”.
The numbers surrounding the Hong Kong concert are astounding – it costs $2.8 million, showcases 300 bags of props and costumes, a 150-people troupe, 70 dancers, 12 LED screens and 11 Indian stars. The performers will take up 102 rooms in the Grand Hyatt Hong Kong, and will be ferried around in 55 cars.
What’s more astounding is that the bill for the entire event is being footed by Hong Kong’s Indian community, with one individual donor sponsoring a cool $1 million for the event.
Keeping Indian culture alive
Headlined by Khan — best described as having the action movie chops of Tom Cruise, the charm and good looks of George Clooney and the bad boy image of Charlie Sheen — and Prabhudeva, South India’s version of Michael Jackson, the lineup is expected to draw some 12 thousand fans to Hong Kong’s Central Harbourfront Event Space on Sunday. Tickets cost around $66 to $526.
“Shows like this are necessary, otherwise our culture dies,” said longtime Hong Kong resident K.P. Daswani, 81.
The concert is named “Da-Bangg” after Khan’s popular 2010 movie, where he plays a renegade Robin Hood-type cop who raids the corrupt rich for the poor. It ranks at No. 4 for highest-grossing Indian film franchises and plays up the likable everyman character Khan is known for.
“Everyone just wants to dance,” said Khan, who added that the movie showcases “simple moves everybody can do.” The buff actor has starred in more than 80 Hindi films, and although has visited Hong Kong before, has never performed here and admits he is “nervous” about the show.
His co-headliner Prabhudeva has never performed in Hong Kong either, and says he didn’t realize there were so many Indians in Hong Kong.
“I know everybody is waiting for us, and we’re waiting to see them,” Prabhudeva told CNN.
The lineup also includes Indian actresses Sonakshi Sinha, Bipasha Basu, Daisy Shah, rapper Badshah and Bollywood actor Manish Paul, who will emcee the event.
Khan, 51, is not without his controversies, having been acquitted for cases involving poaching and a hit-and-run death. Initially sentenced to a five-year prison term for the latter offence, he made bail within 2 days. He’s also made headlines for alleged physical assault of his ex-girlfriend, Indian actress Aishwarya Rai.
But Hong Kong fans are ignoring those headlines.
Gul T. Mirpuri, is the founder and chairman of the Indian Businessmen’s Association in Hong Kong, which has been around for 32 years and has 261 members. They are one of 18 Hong Kong-based Indian organizations the concert’s promoters reached out to in order to get support for the show.
Mirpuri convinced 95% of his members to buy tickets for the concert, saying Khan’s legal issues happened far away in India and isn’t something talked about in Hong Kong.
“Salman Khan is a macho type of actor, his roles really reflect defending the downtrodden, he appeals to the small man,” Mirpuri said.
“For such a large group to come to Hong Kong, it’s a tribute to us,” he added.
According to a 2016 census, there are more than 36 thousand people of Indian descent in Hong Kong, representing 0.5% of the total population.
81-year-old Daswani, who immigrated to Hong Kong in 1956, says Indian immigrants go back four to five generations.
“It’s a mini India here,” said Daswani, who heads the Overseas Indian Business Association.
“But if we don’t expose our community to dance, music, drama and plays, they have no idea what our country is capable of.”
Dream come true
The concert is largely supported by Hong Kong’s Indian elite and is a dream realized. Previously, Indian entertainment consisted of smaller shows, gathering 500 fans at the Grand Hyatt or through weddings.
“The show accomplishes the dream of bringing everybody together, all the groups, North, South, business and social,” said Ranoo Wasan, director of Ruttonjee Estates Continuation Limited.
Wasan works with the main sponsor, Purviz Shroff, who donated more than a third of the show’s cost, or $1 million.
Shroff, who also supports groups like Hong Kong Tuberculosis, Chest and Heart Diseases Association and Mother’s Choice, was asked why she shelled out so much for a concert.
This was her reply.
“Hong Kong has done so much for us, so we do much for Hong Kong.”