Big B's Unforgettable tour rakes in millions

By Ashok Easwaran

Chicago, Aug 14 (IANS) The Unforgettable tour turned out to be a multimillion-dollar show for everyone concerned. Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan and his entourage were paid about $700,000 per performance, while tickets worth over $1 million were sold in Chicago alone.

A prominent promoter had earlier turned down the show because - given the high fees for the stars - he feared he would not be able to break even. Bollywood concerts, despite the hoopla, have generally been known to make slim profits.

"It is not really a financially profitable business," said one organiser. "It basically boils down to being associated with glamour."

However, the Big B's Unforgettable show here Sunday raked in over a million dollars in ticket sales. Thousands thronged to see the superstar perform along with his son Abhishek and daughter-in-law Aishwarya Rai.

A promoter said while putting up the show cost about $1 million, with the stars getting paid about $700,000, they were able to cover the expenses since over 11,000 people, some from as far away as Florida and Ohio, flocked to see the Bollywood legend.

Amitabh got a thunderous ovation when he made his entry and the entire audience rose to its feet every time he performed, staying on its feet on one occasion for more than 30 minutes as Bachchan danced to his songs and delivered dialogues from films like "Deewar", "Agneepath" and "Silsila".

The show also featured Preity Zinta, Ritesh Deshmukh and music directors Vishal and Shekhar, who were all relegated to the sidelines. Jaya Bachchan appeared on the stage to make a plea for a campaign against global warming.

The success of the show took even regular Bollywood concert promoters in the city by surprise. A combination of the Big B's star power and the audience's nostalgia appeared to have brought in the crowds.

The morning after the show, at a meeting with journalists Monday, Amitabh said the audience's enthusiasm gave the stars the energy to perform.

"There were two unforgettable moments for me on this tour," he said, "One, the audience at all our performances was incredible and second the press (in the US) has been very kind and generous."

This, he said, was in contrast to the "habitually negative press" he received in India. Several newspapers in the US, including the Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Tribune, featured prominent articles on him.

At the press conference, he was humility personified, apologising for being late, and patiently getting photographed with everyone who wanted to. He also dismissed the show promoter's attempt at enforced deference. The promoter had insisted that the reporters ask only 'pertinent' questions, stand up while asking them, and address him as "Mr Bachchan".

Asked if he would ever visit Pakistan, Bachchan said he had accompanied his mother to visit his grandfather in Pakistan when he was two years old.

He said he was happy to meet two local Pakistani journalists, originally from Lyallpur, the city where his mother grew up. He also recited a poem by his father on Hindu-Muslim unity.

"Art and culture does not divide. It promotes unity rather than diversity," he said.

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