On the 21st evening, Namz called me excitedly and informed that Papon (Anagaraag Mahanta), the nationwide popular singer from Assam is going to perform at the opening ceremony of the North-East Film Festival the next day. And that we should go and attend the show. The timing was convenient and it would be a Friday evening. Obviously I agreed.
It was the first North-East Film Festival (Aug 22-24, 2014) and an initiative of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. The venue was Siri Fort Auditorium, New Delhi. Apart from the invitees, entry was free. Namz and I arrived before the scheduled time. And Namz was super excited. The auditorium was occupied mainly by people from the northeast India residing in Delhi. Most of them looked like students. It was a decent gathering and everybody was seated properly at their places. I am sure most of them, like us, were waiting for the formal inauguration to be over so that Papon can perform. All of us were sitting patiently through the formal speeches of the Minister of Information and Broadcasting, and the Chief Minister of Meghalaya among others. After that, there was the felicitation of various persons from northeast India related to film-making, followed by the traditional lamp-lighting. And then finally the performance of Papon and his band ‘East India Company’ was announced. Then the hooting and whistling from the audience began.
This was the first time I have seen Papon perform live and I was mesmerized. He is truly an amazing performer. The way he connects with the audience is truly remarkable. That’s again what good artists are made of I guess. He was cracking subtle jokes and engaged the audience. Papon started with a number from his first album which is very very popular among the Assamese youngsters and then moved on to his popular numbers across the nation. The fans started screaming and hooting and I realized majority of the audience were Assamese people. The atmosphere felt very familiar. The serene and disciplined audience prior to the performance now started to clap and move in their seats. Even Papon remarked that given the auditorium it was an wonderful crowd. The entire place had come alive.
After almost an hour of performing, Papon tried to wrap up saying that he was only the bait, and that the audience should stay back and watch the movies that were to be screened. But his fans were in no mood to leave him. They started shouting that he must end with a bihu song (Assamese folk song). And he obliged. Bihu songs are dance centric songs and as soon as they are played, Assamese people start moving their bodies to the music involuntarily. And same was the case inside the auditorium that evening. The auditorium transformed into a dance-floor with the bihu music. When Papon asked the dancers in the audience to come near the stage, it seemed as if some dance festival was going on. When it was over, fans started cheering and shouting. A few girls shouted, “I love you!” The band members were felicitated and while leaving the stage, Papon threw his bouquet of flowers to the audience and a young girl caught it. She went crazy.
It was an amazing evening. Namz and I left after the performance as we had to get back home. And I made a silent vow that we would watch Papon and his band play live whenever and wherever possible.