Amitabh Bachchan draws packed houses on 'Unforgettable' US Tour

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By Arun Kumar

Washington, Aug 13 (IANS) Indian film icon Amitabh Bachchan is drawing packed houses on "The Unforgettable Tour" he is taking through six cities with his actor son Abhishek and daughter-in-law Aishwarya Rai.

The tour, with a cast of other top-tier stars dancing and singing live onstage in a "best of" blow-out musical production, is boasting sold-out venues with seating for about 10,000 people each, the Chicago Tribune reported citing Monty Saiyed, one of the promoters with Chicago Live Bollywood Shows.

"It must be centuries ago that I did my last tour," Bachchan told the daily. "Many, many years ago I stopped doing shows. At age 66, it's not advisable to get back on the stage, but the organisers, managers and other artistes involved, particularly Aishwarya, were very keen that I come along."

The audience at Sunday night's sold-out show in Chicago were keen to see him perform and hear his signature baritone voice boom through the Sears Centre, not to mention the splashy Vegas-style stage, backup dancers and the casts' spectacular costumes, the Tribune said.

And reports from previous dates on the tour have been that Bachchan's age has not been an issue, his performance energetic and electrifying for pleased fans, it said.

"What we do onstage is a reproduction of what we do on film, so obviously music, dancing and singing are an integral part." Bachchan was quoted as saying. Some of the film favourites the show covers may include "Don", "Kaalia", "Bunty Aur Babli", "Kabhi Kabhie" and "Silsila", he said.

And what of the perception that these shows feature solely lip-syncing? Bachchan doesn't deny that there is some, as the dancing portion of the show can be strenuous, but he adds: "We'll perform huge choreographed numbers to recorded pieces. But we'll also sing along and recite some dialogue from the films and interact with the audience."

The name Amitabh Bachchan is nearly synonymous with Bollywood, so some might find it ironic that Bachchan shrugs off the hugely popular tag. "We prefer Indian film industry," he says.

Chicago resident Ani Ahlu, a 29-year-old advertising executive and first generation Indian-American, told the daily her parents are huge fans of the stars on "The Unforgettable Tour" and that she herself knows of the actors and has friends attending the show in Hoffman Estates.

"I think we all grew up hearing songs from Amitabh Bachchan movies in the car with our parents, and film music and copying the movies' choreographed dancing is really popular at Indian-Pakistani weddings," Ahlu says.

"That industry is a big part of our lives, so I guess this show is a really big deal, especially because who knows if Amitabh will ever tour again."

"I have no idea if it is," says Bachchan in response to speculation that this might be his last tour ever. "I thought of that 20 years ago, and I'm back, so one never knows. I'm just thankful people still consider me a performer. It's very gratifying."

Bachchan says he welcomes people who recognise him on the street to say "hello" and shake his hand, and that even he still gets nervous about performing.

"Appearing before a live audience is always a frightening experience. There are butterflies and nervousness," the Tribune quoted him as saying. "But once you're there and you hear the crowds roaring and screaming out for you, all you want to do is please them."

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