Diwali in Toronto: 50,000 people, 30 hours, nonstop
Over 50,000 people attended the Diwali celebrations at the Rogers Center in Toronto October 9 and 10. The 30-hour nonstop celebrations set a world record, claimed hotelier Harpreet Sethi, the main organiser.
As many as 172 artists -- mostly from Mumbai and England, but some local ones too -- performed at the event.
"I took the initiative," Sethi explained, "to organise this marathon Diwali celebrations as when we came to Canada 20 years back, not many people knew what Diwali was. Then, people started celebrating Diwali in banquet halls but that was not akin to the way people celebrate Christmas and New Year."
He spent $1.2 million for the show.
Image: Taz from Stereo Nation (of England) is seen performing at the Rogers Center.
Photographs: Girn Photo
Something for everyone
"There was something for everyone," Sethi continued. "So, we had Ram Lila, we had bhangra, dandiya, musical concerts, devotional music, laser shows, and even a lecture by a Shankaracharya.
"I wanted to bring all communities together -- be it Gujaratis, Punjabis, Rathastanis or others -- on one common platform with a mandate to spread awareness and knowledge of South Asian culture and traditions amongst various communities and mainstream Canada and pass these on to our youth who can take our heritage forward."
Performers included Hindi movie and Indian television personalities like Kashmira Shah, Eijaz Khan, Hussein and Tina, Amit Sarin, Anuradha Paudval, Kavita Paudval, Mahalaxmi Iyer and the pop group Stereo Nation.
Image: Harpreet Sethi, actress Kashmira Shah, producer of Heartthrobe Roger Nair and Mrs Sethi
'The Toronto audience was interactive'
Most of the film and television personalities performed in Roger Nair production's Hearthrobs, a Bollywood dance show. Nair said the show -- quite the highlight of the event -- was put together in just one month.
"The artists are all like my personal friends and so they agreed to travel from Mumbai at a short notice," he said.
Sethi said he was disappointed that Hindu temples and management committee groups of various local gurdwaras did not support the event with all their might, despite promises to the contrary.
"In real terms that help was not significant, it was all lukewarm and some people for unexplained reasons started a sort of negative campaign telling people the show would not materialise," Sethi said, adding that the Diwali celebrations will now become an annual event.
"It was an experience I will relish for a long, long time," said Sarin. Khan agreed: "The Toronto audience was interactive."
Other highlights of the evening included Ram Lila by the Indian Revival Group of New Delhi.
Image: Stage and wide angle shot of the audience.