Deepika was in.... Dhaka
As I sat at the International Convention City Bashundhara amid building anticipation and flashy lights, the man next to kept pulling out a suspicious-looking white paper bag from his pocket, and quickly put wraps of paan (betel leaf) in his mouth.
It was not just the urban youth and Dhaka's elites that were there on Saturday evening, but people who had made long road trips just for a glimpse of one of the biggest big screen stars of this part of the world. Deepika Padukone, the supermodel-turned actress did not disappoint, engaging in humourous yet heartfelt conversations with a few of her fans on stage. She was in Dhaka as the brand ambassador of beauty soap brand Lux, and a capacity audience was left with big smiles, in an evening that featured lovely live music, a glittering fashion show and dance performances.
The evening began with songs by Bappa Mazumdar, Zohad, Kona, Jon Kabir and Partha Barua which, while a little scratchy at times, was overall quite enjoyable. Tahsan, who was the emcee for the evening, made his charming entry next, and after a brief history of Lux as a global brand, invited the models for a fashion show. The segment was divided into a few parts, the first having girls dressed as Marilyn Monroe and Audrey Hepburn – who have represented Lux in their years, among others, walking the stage. The more contemporary later parts featured prominent models, among them known TV faces Farah Ruma and Moushumi Hamid. Former Lux ambassadors of Bangladesh – Sadia Islam Mou, Shomi Kaiser, Ishita and Kushum Shikder closed the session with their graceful walks, drawing loud cheers from the audience.
Deepika's entry was reminiscent of her Bollywood debut “Om Shanti Om”, but it was her demeanour that won over the fans again. She answered questions from fans, engaged in banter with Tahsan, and even shook a leg with star-struck fans on the stage. While nearly all of the event was scripted (and rehearsed to not look scripted) to fine details, the star went at her own pace, and it sure helped that she had the most disarming of smiles, that hung from the corner of her face the entire time.
She then sat on a divan stage-side, to enjoy dance performance by Bangladesh's Lux superstars Mim, Mehzabien and Shanu, that included a tribute to Deepika, set on hit songs picturised on her. But by then, the audience had already had all their effort's worth, and then some.
Over 1.2 million people reportedly participated in the campaign for a shot at seeing Deepika in front of them, through messages recorded on a phone line. And along with them, from print media icons to Dhallywood's Ananta Jalil, a big fraction of the who's who of Dhaka were in attendance.