After a long wait and several potential hurdles, the Global Citizen India Festival kicked off in Mumbai on Saturday, 19 November, afternoon.
The weeks leading up to the concert, which is being headlined by British band Coldplay (frontman Chris Martin is the curator for the Global Citizen Festival worldwide), saw several nail-biting moments.
For one, the Congress in Mumbai decided to put up a last-minute opposition to the concert, which has the support of the Maharashtra state government.
Party members claimed that the BJP was trying to get political mileage out of their association with the event, in the run-up to civic polls, and alleged that this violated the election code of conduct.
Then, a PIL filed by two activists in the Bombay High Court this week questioned the entertainment tax exemption granted to the event, as well as the 75 percent concesion in rent the state government had granted the organisers to host the concert at the MMRDA grounds in Bandra Kurla Complex. The PIL sought a stay on the concert.
The Bombay HC, however, ruled that the concert could proceed — but also ordered the organisers to pay the requisite 45 percent entertainment tax.
Funds from the Global Citizen India Festival will be directed towards charity. The Global Citizen NGO works in the field of poverty alleviation, and a percentage of the tickets for the Mumbai concert were set aside for fans who 'earned' them by pledging for/working towards a social cause.
Apart from Coldplay, rap mogul Jay-Z and a slew of Bollywood stars — including Ranveer Singh and Katrina Kaif — were also scheduled to perform at the event.
On Saturday morning, there was some anxiety in store for the event organisers — the Global Citizen NGO and event firm Wizcraft ù as the Mumbai fire department had not yet granted them the mandatory clearance to go ahead with the show.
Coldplay is known for the use of pyrotechnics during their stage shows.
On the other hand, Wizcraft had come under the authorities' scanner in February this year when a stage they designed for a Make In India event at Chowpatty, Mumbai, caught fire during a cultural programme that was attended by the state government's top brass.
However, those issues seemed far from the minds of enthusiastic festival goers, who had queued up outside the MMRDA grounds by 9 am on Saturday morning. By the time the gates were opened between 10.30 and 11 am, a huge section of the 80,000-strong attendee list had shown up.
Gold and silver pass golders — who had paid between Rs 10,000-35,000 for their tickets to see Coldplay perform were ushered in first. The yellow pass holders, unfortunately, had a longer wait in store — not that they seemed to mind. None of the festivalgoers Firstpost spoke with, seemed worried that the concert might be scrapped at the last minute.
Among the fans and yellow pass holders was Avik Patel, 23. Patel told us that he was a huge Coldplay fan, adding, "That's why I am here. To watch an international band, it's a once in a lifetime opportunity."
Vaishak and Radhika tried to get their tickets from volunteering endeavours, but didn't succeed. Being huge Coldplay fans, they had to be at the concert so ended up purchasing the tickets through Bookmyshow.
To serve the attendees, 12 portable toilets were set up around the venue.
However, it seemed that there would be quite the rush for food and water.
People had lined up at the food counters by 11.45 am even though the organisers had said that they would only begin serving post-1 pm.
The bigger scramble, however, was for drinking water. Since water bottles weren't allowed inside the venue, festivalgoers were looking to purchase bottles that weren't easily available. Attendees were then allowed to head out and bring back one bottle per person, which enraged those who had spent upwards of Rs 10,000 for their tickets.
Away from organisational glitches, the festival kicked off with performances by Arijit Singh, Sonakshi Sinha, Parineeti Chopra and Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy. Amitabh Bachchan took to the stage and lent some star power to the festival. Farhan Akhtar enchanted the audience with his vocals and energy prompting them to hoot louder for him than for the Hollywood sensation Demi Lovato. Bachchan joined Akhtar on the stage for a special performance and the crowd went crazy.
Yet another musical act followed Akhtar's as maestro AR Rahman took to the stage. Before Jay-Z and Coldplay performed at the festival, the audience got a breather in the form of an act put together by East India Comedy.
However, the crowd seemed restive for the main performances of the evening. Jay-Z and Coldplay are expected to take the stage post-6 pm.
More images of festival-goers:
Outside the venue: