I married into a really large family where it feels like a party every time we get together. In all the gatherings I have attended since my wedding, there has always been at least one evening reserved for performances. Song, Dance, Recitation. Impromptu jigs.
Everyone eagerly waits for this performance night. Probably a tad more than the occasion. Sometimes the occasion is extended to accommodate this night. Sometimes there is no occasion at all. Only the night. See how important it is?
There is an eager scuttle on the morning of the performance night. A soft energy wave. People quietly try to select the songs that will be played, arrange a speaker to play those songs, practice some quick moves in the corner.
The first time I felt this vibe was the day I moved in after my wedding. Once my welcome ceremony was complete, I heard people talking about resting before the big evening. I was told to expect a surprise specifically arranged for me. I wondered what it was going to be.
A few hours of resting and decking up later, there it was. My sister-in-law, Payal, cut the ribbon with a self-choreographed dance to welcome me. And then it took off from there. A song. Then another song. Then another. Some dancing. Some more dancing. And then everyone sort of started doing their own thing. Living the moment. Being a sport.
Gradually, I found out that almost everyone in the family has trained in something or the other. Some are trained singers. Some trained dancers. Some anchor shows. Some recite. And so on. So this performance night is more of a cultural evening that looks somewhat rehearsed but actually isn’t.
From then on, I understood the importance of this night. It begins somewhere around eight in the evening and goes on till no one has a drop of energy left. No occasion would be complete without it at my in-laws. There’s a reason why it feels as special. Not everyone can make it to all the events because of our family’s widely scattered locations. So when we do come together, there’s a lot of energy in the group that has been built up from the distance and the duration we’ve all been apart for. And it feels like something needs to be done with all that energy.
The last time we gathered like that was more than a year ago. Then with the coronavirus-induced lockdown, we’ve had to let go of all hopes of another get-together. So, we were left with no means to vent all the energy building up and gathering dust for more than a year. And then one day, my mother-in-law had a brilliant idea! She said, “Why not do it online?” She is quite updated that way.
She took charge from Day 1. She called up everyone to get them onboard. She had a clear idea about how to present the show. Everyone was supposed to create videos of their performances and send them over to be queued. Once the videos started to pour in, she started to sequence them and quickly realized that one long video containing all the performances won’t do. So it was broken up into four parts. Now each part needed to have a theme. We did some back and forth about that and also about how to make it look appealing. The first part was a little difficult to brainstorm because it was a new concept and we didn’t want to do a crummy job of it. It took some time and a lot of thought process to create the first video. We decided to put the young adults together in the first part and my mother-in-law named it after a song relevant to the age group – “Aaye Tobe Sohochori” (Come along, my friends), taken from a popular Tagore song. And following is the result.
We were a bit apprehensive of how it will be received. As it turned out, we hadn’t done a lousy job at all. In fact, everyone loved it. People were calling up, sending messages praising the idea and how it had turned out. It gathered more than 200 views! So by now, we had a sort-of idea about how to create the rest of the videos. But there was still a lot of work to do.
We decided to put the children of the family together in Part 2. But we were not sure about how the video curation would go because you know, kids work at their own wavelengths. Quite surprisingly, they turned out to be an even bigger sport than the adults! They selected their numbers and dressed up to perform them. Some even did it alone behind closed doors to stay completely focussed on the performance. Even the tiniest kid of the lot chipped in with a cute recitation of a Tagore poem. This part was named “Phaguner Nobin Anonde” (Young Joy of March – symbolic of spring).
It was another hit in the family. People started asking for more. Requests began to pour in. The phones started ringing non-stop asking for the next part’s release date. Weekends were reserved for the release. The third part constituted the seniors of the family. Who would’ve known that they would pack a punch too? Age is just a number, you guys. If you think otherwise, just tell me this – Have you heard an 80-year-old play the Hawaiian guitar with finesse? I’ve got one in the family! Even though my grandmother-in-law had qualms about participating, she turned out to be a sport in the end. She chose a song she had last sung 30 years ago and rocked it. Watch out for Santa Goswami in the video.
So we had gathered all the videos for this part from the participants. What was left to be done was putting them together. This is where it got a bit tricky. Up till the second part, we were using Google Photos to create the “Movies” and it couldn’t have been any smoother. But just a day before we were to create the third part, an unexpected problem popped up with the app. For videos shot in landscape mode, a black bar began to appear on the top and the bottom of the screen. It looked out of place. But we didn’t want the series to get interrupted by a software problem. So Tathagata came to the rescue. He did some research, switched to a different software to avoid the problem and he got the engine moving again. Part 3 was released as scheduled and the response was just as expected. Overwhelming! It was named “Ananda Dhwani Jagao” (Play the Happy Tune)
The final part was reserved for the middle-aged of the family. There’s some brilliantly seasoned talent in this video. But Arijita Bhattacharya’s performance stuck with me. I have listened to her song quite a couple of times now. You would be captivated too. She just hit it out of the park! Hands down. We haven’t met yet, but I am looking forward to the day.
The fourth part of the series was christened “Amar Ichche Kore Toder Moto Moner Kotha Koi” (I Wish I Could Speak My Mind Like You). On a side note, I appear in this video. Look out for me!
This time the response was a bit different. Nobody wanted the series to end. There were ideas coming in for the extension of the series. Or maybe another cultural programme series altogether. But like all good things, this too had seen its course. It had come a full cycle.
The entire series took more than a month to complete. Naturally, we had all grown an attachment to it. So there was a tiny heartache when it ended, especially for my mother-in-law since it was her brainchild. She had directed the entire thing and built it up from scratch. But we have some good memories associated with the series. It has been a massive help with the lockdown jitters. It came right after my “Lockdown Sanity” blog series, so it continued to take the load off a good deal.
The series isn’t professional or anything. It’s an amateur attempt and that shows clearly. Some slides have animation, some don’t. Some videos are long. And then some are really long. But I guarantee that you wouldn’t feel bored at any point. If at all, you will be asking for more. Give them a watch when you have some time and let me know what you think. Go on then. Have a great weekend! (Or whatever’s left of it)