Bollywood Musical Odyssey Raises Funds for Ekal Schools

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March 20, 2012

Special By Geeta Goindi

Rockville, March 17 – Over 400 people packed the Scott F. Fitzgerald Theatre, Saturday, to hear melodious singers Samir Date and Deepali Somaiya perform in a concert titled ‘Bollywood milestones’.  The event was held to benefit a worthy organization, Ekal Vidyalaya, dedicated to education and village development in rural India.  It was entertainment for a great cause!

March 20, 2012

Special By Geeta Goindi

Rockville, March 17 – Over 400 people packed the Scott F. Fitzgerald Theatre, Saturday, to hear melodious singers Samir Date and Deepali Somaiya perform in a concert titled ‘Bollywood milestones’.  The event was held to benefit a worthy organization, Ekal Vidyalaya, dedicated to education and village development in rural India.  It was entertainment for a great cause!

Backstage at Ekal Vidyalaya’s music concert on Saturday are (from left to right): Bollywood singer Deepali Somaiya; Ron Filewich; playback singer Samir Date; and Ekal volunteer Neeraj Sharma.

Currently, Ekal Vidyalaya has 36,783 schools in remote areas of India, serving over one million children.  Staggering figures by any account!  Ekal’s philosophy is to take a holistic approach to social and economic development.

Bollywood singer Deepali Somaiya (left) with Mrs. Shashi Shrivastav, Washington DC – Regional President of Ekal Vidyalaya and a dedicated lady to the core.

At the benefit here, distinguished guests included; Maryland Delegate Eric Luedtke, District 14; Dr. Rajan Natarajan, Deputy Secretary of State for Policy and External Affairs, the highest position occupied by an Indian-American in Maryland; and Dr. Ranbir Singh, Counsellor, Community Affairs, at the Indian Embassy.  Prominent among the audience were: award-winning ghazal singer Mrs. Vatsala Mehra, founder and director of the Balaji Music Academy based in McLean, VA; and Nalini Bhatt who is seen on the Salaam India television show broadcast in the Washington metro area.

The event was another feather-in-the-cap of its dedicated organizer, Mrs. Shashi Shrivastav, Washington Regional President of Ekal Vidyalaya.  Lending staunch support were Mr. Kirit Udeshi, Dr. Brajesh K. Lal, Ashwin Saboo, Raaghavan Chellapan of MyDosti.com, Neeraj Sharma, Vani Rao and Ajay Kapoor, Rajiv Kumar, Viral Patel, Madhu Murthy, among others.  Mrs. Nilima Mehra, hostess of the television shows, ‘Chitrmala’, ‘Salaam India’ and ‘Religions of India’, served as the eloquent emcee.  The program opened on an auspicious note with a meticulous rendition of the Saraswati Vandana by Ekal volunteers Neil Dave and Sindhura Develraja.

At Ekal Vidyalaya’s benefit concert, in Rockville, are seen from left to right: Maryland Delegate Eric Luedtke, District 14; Dr. Rajan Natarajan, Deputy Secretary of State for Policy and External Affairs; and Raaghavan Chellapan, Co-founder and CEO of MyDosti.com

Delegate Luedtke extolled Ekal Vidyalaya for its exemplary efforts towards education.  “The mission of this organization is one with which I am very familiar”, he told the audience.  “I am an educator; I am a teacher.  I have made it my mission in life to help kids. I got elected to the General Assembly to try to extend that work, to try to provide every opportunity to make sure that every kid in the state of Maryland gets an opportunity.  And that is the same goal that this organization has, but on a much larger scale: 1.1 million kids”, he noted, with much admiration!

“That’s more students that we have in every school in Maryland”, he gushed.  “That’s incredible! It’s unbelievable!  And what’s amazing about it is that the mission of this organization is to provide something that I think is fundamental to humankind – education is one of the most fundamental things to humanity.  It is something that we want for all children and the reason why is because education is opportunity.  Education gives people the chance to be what they want to be and to be successful”.

Dr. Natarajan commended Ekal Vidyalaya for the “remarkable” work it is doing at the grassroots level in India.

Dr. Ranbir Singh acknowledged the immense contributions of the Indian-American community, some 3 million strong in the US.  “India is extremely proud of all of you”, he told the gathering.  “The contributions that you are making to the US, the contributions that you are making to India, the contributions that you are making to bilateral relations, are immense.  We at the Embassy of India and the Government of India salute you for that”, he said.

The highlight of the evening was the music concert.  It had heart; it had memorable melodies!  It began on an auspicious note with Deepali rendering a spiritual invocation.  She then proceeded to sing numbers originally recorded by Geeta Dutt and Asha Bhosle, now etched in the minds of music lovers.

Samir made his advent on stage with the popular song, “Tujh mein Rab dikhta hai” (Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi).  A gifted playback singer who has lent his voice to films such as ‘Parampara’, ‘Fauj’, ‘Emotional Athyachaar’, ‘Jazbaat’ and ‘Hang Up’, he possessed the charisma to hold the audience in his sway.  A consummate stage performer, he paid rich tributes to: singers Muhammad Rafi and Kishore Kumar; music director R.D. Burman; and actor Shammi Kapoor who, he said, “taught India how to love”.

Samir organizes the ‘Soul of Rafi’ concerts in Mumbai and he touched a chord with the audience when he rendered “Chahunga mein tujhe saanjh savere” (Dosti) and “Kar chale hum fida jaan-o-tann sathiyo” (Haqeeqat).  There are songs and singers who stamp an imprint deep on an era that echoes through time!

Among recent hit songs, Samir belted out “Ishq Sufiana” (Dirty Picture) and “Chikni Chameli” (Agneepath).

He told us, “Ekal Vidyalaya is promoting this national tour.  It is basically to eradicate poverty and promote literacy among the rural children of India.  Ekal Vidyalaya runs some 37,000 single-teacher schools in remote places of India.  So, we are supporting it as artistes by donating our time and our talent for charity”.

(RIGHT) – Bollywood singer Samir Date performing at Ekal Vidyalaya’s concert held on Saturday, March 17th 2012 to promote education and village development in rural India.

The tour comprises 39 concerts in the US and 3 in Canada.  Washington was the fifteenth show on the itinerary which will extend until June.

Regarding the response, Samir informed us, “It has been phenomenal.  Our shows are completely out-and-out entertainment!  I have a background in television and acting, so we tend to make our shows very interactive.  We try to get the audience involved right from the first song.  That makes our shows very informal.  The audience interaction factor is very high.  That is the reason our shows are very successful”.

About the title, ‘Bollywood Milestones’, he explained, the concert “is a journey of music from 1960 to 2012.  The songs are Bollywood milestones through the ages.  The show has something for everybody, of all ages”.

Deepali, who originally hails from Gujarat, mentioned that she is the state government award-winner for the Best Playback Singer (2005).  “I have sung for a lot of Hindi films like ‘Chooriyan’, ‘Rahul’ and ‘Hum Tum Pe Marte Hain’ and for over 100 Gujarati films”, she told us.  Both Deepali and Samir have been celebrity participants on Zee TV’s popular show ‘Sa Re Ga Ma’.

Dr. Brajesh Lal was profuse in thanking the audience.  “By this one small gesture of showing up for this program, you have helped a child get educated”, he told the gathering.  “Somewhere in rural India, a child is able to open up a book and read because you showed up today”.

Dr. Lal noted that Indians “have a tradition of placing value on education, a tradition that is thousands of years old.  Education is in the DNA of India”.  While some strides have been made, more needs to be accomplished.  “The event tonight is a reminder that we still have to educate children in India”, he said.


 

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