Opinion: Trevor Noah's Show - A Blot On Bengaluru's Image

After making his fans laugh in New Delhi, Emmy-winning comedian Trevor Noah was to perform in Bengaluru on September 27-28 as part of the India tour 'Off the Record'. Just a few minutes into the show, the comedian realized the poor sound system which led to the cancellation of the show on both days, much to the disappointment of the audience. 

The show, scheduled for 7.30 pm, opened about 50 minutes late. The opening act by standup comic Wilner Sylvince was not audible to the audience at the back and when Trevor came on stage, the audience kept complaining that they could not hear the lines. Trevor took a break saying that he would get the sound quality fixed. But when he returned, nothing had changed forcing him to announce that the show could not go on due to poor audio quality and that the tickets would be refunded. 

It was a shameful moment for India's IT city when Trevor later tweeted: "Dear Bengaluru India, I was so looking forward to performing in your amazing city but due to technical issues we've been forced to cancel both shows. We tried everything but because the audience can't hear the comedians on stage there's literally no way to do a show. We'll make sure all ticket holders receive a full refund and again I'm so sorry for both the inconvenience and disappointment this has never happened to us before."

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According to eyewitnesses, the audience seated at the back could neither hear nor see the performance. Poor acoustics along with flat seating and the air-conditioners not working forced the world-renowned stand-up comedian to cancel the shows. The venue Manpho Convention Centre, near Manyata Tech Park in North Bengaluru, at best is meant for holding marriages and meetings. The convention hall is one big-sized hall and does not have an amphitheatre seating for a show like this. It is not even designed to provide superior acoustics, let alone world-class sound infrastructure.

For the packed audience present at the venue, instead of laughter, it was dismay, anger and tears galore. It is unbelievable that an event of this magnitude with a world-class artist can be organised at such a shoddy place, which at best is meant for holding marriages, meetings and cultural programmes. How did the organisers 'BookMyShow' and Trevor's event team pass the venue for an international performance of this class, without testing the sound quality at the venue?

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The show was held on the same day when Bengaluru saw one of its unprecedented traffic congestions on the Outer Ring Road that led to the venue. Many Bengalureans, who had paid between Rs 3,000 and Rs 12,500 for the tickets, could not make it at all for the show.  In fact, fans stuck in the jams seeing no hope of reaching the venue on time, were offering to resell their tickets on X at a much lower price.  Trevor got a taste of Bengaluru's infamous traffic as he himself was delayed due to which the show started late.

Prashanth G who was in the audience says, "As a Bengalurean, I couldn't be more embarrassed. We are proud of the accomplishments of our city as India's IT capital but going forward we'll think twice before boasting. At the venue, it wasn't only the sound system that failed us but even the condition of the toilets, malfunctioning of the air-conditioners let us down. We stay near the venue and therefore were happy that our travel time would be short. In hindsight when I critically evaluate the venue of such an event which had to host a world-famous celebrity, I feel the organisers grossly erred in their judgement of selecting this convention centre and not preparing the basic infrastructure to host an event which would've attracted the attention of global critics."

Indeed, this fiasco will make global event managers more skeptical about our country's ability to organise programmes featuring international celebrities and performers.

It is ironic that our country hosted the recently concluded G20 summit successfully with aplomb and the representatives of the participating nations went back home with cherished memories. And here it was an event that was organised by a professional event management company which failed in meticulously planning, anticipating potential roadblocks and creating an unforgettable experience for the audience and the comedian, bringing irreparable disrepute to the city in front of the global audience via instantly impactful social media posts.

Where did the organisers fail? 

Firstly, the comedian's management team should have been more careful in choosing the Indian organisers. 

Secondly, the choice of venue was surprising even to a Bengalurean. Manyata Tech Park which is adjacent to the venue - Manpho Convention Centre - is home to hundreds of companies which employ over 50,000 people. Traffic snarls across the location even on ordinary days are normal. An event of this level with Trevor being there should have been kept outside the city limits to ensure smooth passage to the audience, better car parking and traffic management. 

Thirdly, the seating was flat, making visibility poor for the audience sitting at the back. And to top it all, the venue, its open hall, lack of proper sound and acoustics made matters worse. The organisers seem to have kept profitability much above audience experience and the city's reputation.

No amount of apology or refund of the amount will salvage or mitigate the damage done to Bengaluru and India globally. What's rubbing insult to injury is that it all happened in the Silicon Valley of India!

(Bharti Mishra Nath is a senior journalist)

Disclaimer: These are the personal opinions of the author