Tuesday, January 14, 2014

THE TIME OFMY LIFE XVIII ...COMPERING DELIGHTS



Thanks to Ms Grace ,my English teacher in Christ the King Convent, I had broken the first barrier of a Public Speaker- stage fear. Speaking a prepared piece is easy enough but to be master of ceremonies or compering, is a different ball game. It requires thinking on your feet.  A compere can carry along the most dull show by pepping it up with anecdotes and jokes or ruin a perfectly got up performance with a deadpan presentation.  an Emcee is like a conductor at an orchestra. He / she must know the nuances of every note coming out of a wind or string instrument. This means the compere must have a thorough knowledge  of the occasion and objectives of it, so that any unforeseen lapses can be covered without losing face. Unfortunately, there are no formal training guidelines nor coaching available to be a good Emcee. It is still an individual performance based on flair or talent.
The Husbands’ Nite in Vizag was my first platform as Emcee. Without a prepared script, I presented the show as it went along. That has been my style since then. When I stand on the stage with a mike, it is my personal commitment to ensure the audience has a good time. So , I make sure all the elements in my programme sheet are present and easily accessible. If the chief guest has to light a lamp, I ensure the candle and match box are available, so I won’t look a fool when I announce the lighting of the lamp and the match box  is missing. Once, I was compering a silver jubilee celebration of a charitable hospital where the Governor was the chief guest. I presumed the management committee was well geared with all necessary preparations. Imagine the embarrassment when there were no garlands and I had announced it! I made a light hearted remark and went on like nothing untoward had happened.
                                           Emcee at the arangetram of Priya Sharma in Mumbai
 My initiation to professional compering was the result of a radio show . after the interview , my guest Mrs Mehboob Nasrullah, former Sheriff of Mumbai, invited me to present classical dance programmes for tourists from abroad. She was heading a non-profit cultural organisation, Vaitalik, which had special dance performances at the Indian, restaurant at Taj Hotel, thrice a week.  They were looking for someone to give an English commentary for the benefit of the audience, from overseas. I accepted Mrs Nasrullah’s offer, not for the Rs 10 an hour they were to pay but for the experience . I continued with them for over six years.  Since we lived next door to the Taj , I could run across ,after my million other freelance commitments, to say my piece.  Depending on the interest of the audience, I compressed or elaborated the commentary. It was tailor made.Also presented many Arangetrams and dance performances of well now artists and musicians.
                                                  compering the Navy Ball in Bombay

Besides the regular shows, there were special ones for tour groups and international conferences. I enjoyed presenting a Dances of India evening on board SS Rotterdam luxury Liner that berthed at the Mumbai harbour for a few days.  I got this assignment through the tourism department . when the ship arrived , we greeted the passengers with garlands and ‘tikka’.Once in Vaitalik  we had the Norwegian Prince and Princess.  Except their Royal Highnesses, a few security guards and sniffer dogs, no one else was in the hall for the dance. Having learnt classical dancing in my teens ,I was comfortable compering these shows. I did a bit of research to add value for those wanting to know more.