When Salman Khan  burst onto the stage on Sunday night and hollered a dialogue from his blockbuster ‘Dabangg’, he set the tone for Ahlan Bollywood, the song and dance spectacle at Dubai Festival City on the UAE National Day. 
“Ek baar jo maine commitment kar di, fir main apne aap ki bhi nahi sunta (Once I make a commitment, there’s no stopping myself)”, Khan shouted.
The Bollywood superstar, who made his stage comeback after seven years in Dubai, displayed no sign of rusty dancing skills. To be honest, that came as a surprise because Khan is a notorious rebel and a non-conformist. To see him synchronise his moves with a set of superb dancers was a pleasant surprise - especially because the day before at a press conference, he was in a funny mood. But on Sunday, he seemed to have cleaned up good.
Like all Bollywood events, there was some waiting involved. Khan made his appearance at 10.15pm, more than 40 minutes after the show had kicked off with starlets Zarine Khan and Sophie Choudry who danced to some of their film songs. During the four-hour show, Khan was on the stage for a good fifty minutes. Hardcore Khan fans may have craved for more, but he ensured that he made every second of his slot count. Clad in a biker leather jacket with metallic studs, dark glasses (the all-important sun down accessory for a big star) and jeans, Khan played up to his larger-than-life hero image through his carefully selected repertoire of songs.
During the first leg, he danced to the title track of ‘Dabangg’ called ‘Hud Hud Dabangg’, the song ‘Dhinkchika’ from ‘Ready’ and ‘Mashallah’ from ‘Ek Tha Tiger’ to reinforce his jaw-breaking action hero image. Fast moves interspersed with his popular one-liners made it thoroughly enjoyable. He hadn’t spoken a word to the crowd but no one seemed to notice. Khan may not be Bollywood’s best dancer, but on Sunday night, he seemed to be gunning for that title.
His first act wrapped up quickly with fans having to wait for more than an hour before he put in a cameo again just before midnight.
This time, Khan played up his image as the perfect lover boy. Clad in a red shirt and black pants, his moves were all right but the red and white balloons that filled the stage made it all a bit cheesy. Waltzing with Choudry, he performed to his soft ballads from his films including ‘Maine Pyaar Kiya’, ‘Jaan-e-man’ and ‘Pyaar Kiya To Darna Kya’.
The crowd went wild when he acted out scenes from the hit film ‘Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam’ with the songs ‘Chaand Chupa Badal Mein’ and ‘Tadap Tadap’, featuring ex-flame Aishwarya Rai Bachchan. Their relationship may have gone sour, but this man who has broken several hearts can surely peddle the idea of long-lasting love. Looking up forlornly at the moon and spreading his arms wide with a tortured look that only a spurned lover can conjure up, Khan made sure that his fans took part in his fantasy.
This time around, he also opened up to the crowd as he wished his UAE fans “a happy National Day”.
“I am happy that I am making a stage comeback after seven yeas in Dubai... to perform in Dubai, it’s alag che [different]. Even dancing, singing, partying and [filming] feels different in Dubai,” said Khan.
Anything he said was lapped up by the fans. Even his “hello” evoked frenzied screams.
During his act, Khan also turned on his game show host avatar as he called upon the audience to play a game. The whole thing felt slightly orchestrated though: He chose two men and two women to come up on stage and posed questions such as “What percentage of men are not into women?” or “What percentage of men are truly happy in their marriages?” and “What percentage of the ticketholders tonight would like to see another Khan on-stage?”.
The latter evoked the most laughter with Khan innocently claiming that he was alluding to comedian Kader Khan and not the ruling Bollywood Khans, Shah Rukh or Aamir. The game, though funny in parts and bit, stretched a bit too long.
Plus, the gap between his two acts was far too long.
But actress Priyanka Chopra, who made an entry from a crane just after 11pm, was the redeeming factor. She kicked off her bit with her hit song from ‘Don 2’ and ‘Anjaana Anjaani’. Her ‘Kutte Ki Dum...(Even if a dog’s tail is straight, he’s still a dog) dialogue from ‘Don 2’ starring Shah Rukh Khan hit the right note with her fans. A jibe (“Where’s Shah Rukh?”) from the gallery coughed up a few reluctant jeers.
Chopra was every inch a diva and one of the highlights of the evening. However, she wasn’t on stage for long.
Bringing in some variety was Pakistani singer Rahat Fateh Ali Khan who showcased his impressive vocal range with a medley of hit songs. Some faulty acoustics were forgotten as he sang ‘Tere Mast Do Nain’ from ‘Dabangg’ and ‘Aaj Din Chadeya’ from ‘Love Aaj Kal’.
There was collective excitement when the announcement that a tribute to legendary filmmaker Yash Chopra would be rolled out. But when actress Zarine Khan appeared on stage to do the honours, it was an anti-climax of sorts. Everybody expected Priyanka Chopra (not related to Yash) to own that space. However, Zarine Khan put in an earnest performance. Her dancing skills weren’t exactly riveting and her choice of songs chosen for the tribute was questionable. Hits from Yash Chopra-produced films like ‘Dhoom’ and ‘Ladies Vs Ricky Bahl’ were chosen instead of songs from his hit directorial ventures.
The show, which ended at 1am, could have done well with some good editing.
The grand finale featured Sophie Choudry (impressive multiple costume changes), Priyanka Chopra, Zarine Khan and Salman Khan as they matched steps to ‘Dholi Taro’ from ‘Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam’.
In all, it was fun night but like all sweeping Bollywood musicals – a snip here and there would have made a world of difference.
By Manjusha Radhakrishnan