There is a method to the madness—the patriotic fervour that grips non-resident Indians when prime minister Narendra Modi comes visiting. And after two landmark NRI gatherings—first in New York in September and then in Sydney today—it’s clear what goes into the making of a Modi blockbuster abroad.
NaMo’s big NRI show isn’t an exclusive event, it’s a format.
And here is its recipe:
1. Book a famous arena
Ideally, the venue should be one where some of the greatest rock stars have performed. In New York City, Modi delivered a triumphal address at the iconic Madison Square Garden, a venue known for hosting big sports events and some of the greatest musicians including Michael Jackson, Elvis Presley and John Lennon. In Sydney, the chosen venue was Allphones Arena, which is the largest indoor sporting and entertainment arena in Australia. It was one of the major stadiums during the Sydney 2000 Olympic and Paralympic Games. It had played host to Mick Jagger last week.
2. Dance, music, lights and lasers
Modi’s speech in both New York and Sydney was preceded by a couple of hours of cultural performance, which had enough Bollywood dance numbers to put a Filmfare Award function to shame. Though the show is predominantly Indian-inspired, there are some hints of other cultural references in the medley—be it the music suddenly turning to Jay-Z’s Empire State of Mind or dancers impersonating Michael Jackson. Today’s programme had everything from Bhangra to Kathak.
Attention to detail: Add the traditional Garba dance.
3. NRI emcee. Ideally, a beauty queen
Miss America 2014 Nina Davuluri, who is the first Indian American to win the beauty contest, and PBS NewsHour anchor Hari Sreenivasan, a journalist of Indian descent, hosted Modi’s reception in New York. Today, the show was hosted by Miss India Australia Rashi Kapoor.
4. Get a hashtag for the event
#ModiinAustralia is the new #ModiinAmerica. The hashtag was circulated by the organizers well before the beginning of the show. In New York, it was printed on the press passes, on the volunteers’ t-shirts, and showed on the screens. In Australia, the volunteers’ uniform also bore the hashtag. The audience was encouraged to use it when tweeting or sharing videos and images from the event.
The same happened in Australia—which understandably generated some confusion.
5. Invite local politicians
Get them on stage, too. Ideally, they should all be standing in the background applauding as the real star comes on stage—to show support without messing with the hierarchies.
6. Sing the anthems
All of them. The Indian anthem, the hosting country’s anthem (USA, Australia), and—of course— Vande Mataram.
7. If it pleased the crowd once, it will again
8. Show diversity
Make sure minorities are represented.
9. Trust local organisers
Indian American Community Foundation, led by Chicago-based physician and Modi’s longtime friend Bharat Barai, organised the mega-event at MSG in September. The Indian Australian Community Foundation (IACF) organised the Sydney reception.
10. Hindi speech
Modi in Sydney spoke just like Modi in New York—see full details here.