It’s official: NRIs love Narendra Modi more than Shahrukh Khan

No stranger to crowds.
No stranger to crowds.
Image: Reuters/Anindito Mukherjee
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Even by Indian standards, these are HUGE parties.

First is this weekend when Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan (and a few other celebrities, albeit less famous) perform at the Izod Center in East Rutherford, New Jersey, as part of a show they are touring globally.

Next up, on Sept. 28, is India’s prime minister Narendra Modi, scheduled to deliver speech at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Actually, that’s part of a show touring globally too.

Both venues hold about 20,000 people apiece.

A politician versus a Bollywood evening of “stunning visuals, state of the art production, mind blowing pyrotechnics and stunning costumes.” What’s an NRI (that stands for nonresident Indian, or Not Really Indian if you want to insult us) to do?

For all of Bollywood as the glue that binds the desi diaspora, it’s the politician who appears to be the draw. Tonight, an email from the team putting on the Modi event, the Indian American Community Foundation, announced it is “completely sold out.” A livestream will be up at Times Square and at viewing parties around the country. (We’re working to get one going on Quartz India; stay tuned for details.)

Granted, the tickets for Modi were free and distributed partly through community organizations, but this is Shah Rukh Khan we’re talking about. The second richest actor in the world. He has nearly 9 million Twitter followers to Modi’s 6.43 million.

As of tonight, tickets to Slam, as the show also featuring actors Deepika Padukone and Abhishek Bachchan is called, were still available for $100 at Izod Center, which sits just a few miles outside New York City. The best seats will cost you more than $1,000. Typically at these shows, the actors lip-sync to songs from their most popular movies in between a mix of rehearsed dialogues and ad-libbing.

The Modi event, meanwhile, “promises to be one of the largest ever gatherings to hear a foreign leader speak on American soil.” That’s ironic considering the US government’s past denials of a visa for Modi, a controversial figure during deadly religious riots in 2002. In 2005, Modi had sought to travel to the US—also for a rally at Madison Square Garden.

What a difference nine years (and an election sweep) make. The prime minister’s appearance, organizers say, will also include a “spectacular laser light show, holograms of India’s historical luminaries, and live folk dances.”