Some fans search for answers on where things went wrong and why
Vancouver: “We planned the performance on Canada Day because we thought that was the best day to give something back to Canada and Vancouver,” said Henna Juneja, partner at Gold Spade Entertainment, as reported by the Vancouver Sun earlier this year. And definitely, the infamous Debangg Reloaded show was something to talk about.
Many of the 7,000 attendees enjoyed the spectacular star-studded stage performances which were in true Bollywood style with pyrotechnics and dynamic set pieces. Fans caught a glimpse of their superstar icon Salman Khan, flanked by Katrina Kaif, Jacqueline Fernandes, Sonakshi Sinha, and more. But there were also reports of mishaps, fraudulent activity, mishandling of patrons, and more that came to light on Sunday evening as fans took to Facebook with videos and comments following the show.
As media, it is our duty to thoroughly research these allegations to bring our readers factual information rather than the usual masala-rich content that is often one-sided and emotionally-charged. Asian Journal Canada spoke to ten different parties to give our readers an in-depth look at the issues of what went wrong with the now infamous Debangg Reloaded Tour Vancouver.
Among the disgruntled were patrons who held tickets in the first five rows with VVIP and VIP floor seats. These tickets are a hot topic for several reasons:
- Floor seats were valued between $850 to $5,000 per seat;
- They were all printed as complimentary with a $0.00 price tag;
- Some tickets were double-printed where there were two tickets with different serial numbers for one seat;
- There were multiple ticketing agencies involved.
For upwards of six months prior to the show, Gold Spade Entertainment set up shop in the newly built Little India Plaza in Surrey on the prominent street corner of 80 Avenue at 128 Street where fans could purchase physical tickets. Tickets were also for sale at Kamal’s Video Palace and various B4U Video locations. But it doesn’t stop there – electronic tickets were also available for sale through Pacific National Exhibition’s ticketing service, Ticketleader.ca as well as on TicketHungama.com.
Many promoters will try to distribute their tickets to as many places as possible in an effort to reach more people for increased sales, so this is not uncommon. Floor seats were printed by PNE’s Ticketleader.ca, therefore giving each ticket an individual serial number. Since floor seats in particular were managed and sold directly by the promoter Gold Spade Entertainment Inc., management of these seats should have been under strict control. So, what went wrong?
Perminder Chohan, a South Asian socialite, was one such patron who held two tickets for himself and his wife in the second row. “When we arrived at our seats, we found someone was already sitting there and he refused to move. I calmly walked over to the security guard to tell him about the problem, but he was indifferent and told me to find another seat,” Chohan shared matter-of-factly. “I was kind of shocked and didn’t quite comprehend what to do, so I showed him my tickets and explained how they came in the Ticketleader envelope trying to prove the legitimacy, and I asked him to check the other person’s ticket. He rudely told me to either sit in the back or I will be escorted out. Next thing I knew, I was grabbed by two security guards who refused to let go of me until I was outside of the door. It was very embarrassing for me, I’ve never experienced this type of manhandling before. I support all of the community functions and have for many years so this was very unexpected and upsetting.”
Upon further questioning, he mentioned, “my wife and friends came to tell the guards to stop and to check the ticket numbers, but they simply did not hear anyone. Instead, they ejected everyone that came to help me or question their authority. I am seeking legal advice on how I should proceed with this very public humiliation which has tainted my good name. Everyone saw it.”
On the immediate scene was realtor Baljit Kainth, who had an all-access pass and saw the episode transpire as he was coming out from backstage to question why Chohan was standing on the sidelines speaking to a security guard in obvious distress. “He was telling the security guard again and again to look at the ticket number, but the guard said, ‘it’s none of my business, you need to take a seat, the show is about to start,’” shared Kainth, recalling that there were numerous others who weren’t able to take their seats as well. “The guard was extremely rude and told Perminder again to take a seat and before I realized it, they just grabbed him and began escorting him out! I was gobsmacked!”
“The security guards were so rude and angry,” Kainth continued, “and they weren’t supposed to be. If someone was drunk or making nuisance, their job is to escort them out but a prominent person in the community looking for his seat makes no sense. It’s insulting when people are staring at you, everyone is looking and thinking he is cheating so of course he would be upset with the guard. But Perminder did not instigate this incident.”
He recounted how he, along with Chohan’s wife Deep, were yelling and urging the guards to stop and were joined by nearby Rahul Gill, also a realtor, who came to aid his friend.
Gill explained “As we entered the venue, no one scanned our tickets. We were escorted in by the promoter Sid. I thought we were getting special VVIP privileges because we paid so much for the tickets, as well as paid a few thousand extra for the meet and greet wristbands.”
Upon seeing Chohan being jostled, Gill was quite upset and came to his aid. “Security were so rude and not willing to talk at all. We go to every major show and I’ve never seen security like this before. It’s as if they were instructed to be rude. [By] 8:45pm, I was out of the stadium, kicked out. I didn’t even see the show start. 4 guys grabbed me and threw me out. I was there with my family, I wasn’t drunk. None of us were, we came with the intention to enjoy the show until midnight! Nothing happened, they just grabbed me and threw me out. They all wore black jackets.”
Gill’s seats were on the floor in the fifth row. “Someone was sitting in my seat with the exact same seat number. Professor Virdi was sitting next to me and he also said someone was sitting in his seat. But upon examining the serial number on the tickets, mine was completely different than the one that Professor Virdi had. How can it be possible that PNE would print tickets with broken serial numbers? Wouldn’t it make sense that they all be numbered in order?”
Chohan held two second row tickets valued at $5,000 each but regardless of how much he paid for his VVIP experience, the question remains as to how the double tickets were printed and distributed in the first place.
“We don’t know if someone sat there by mistake,” said Sidharth Menghani, partner in Gold Spade
Entertainment Inc. “Every ticket has a unique bar code, and two tickets with the same barcode is not possible. I did encounter other people there who said they had duplicate seat numbers but I’m not sure how that happened. The entire show was a huge financial loss for us. We will investigate the ticket matter and issue an official statement next week.”
Ticket pricing should also be questioned. If the ticket stubs all stated a price of $0.00, but were sold at a whopping $850 to $5,000 per piece, with some being double-sold, what are the tax implications on this income? There were 1,300 floor seats valued at an estimated total sales price of $500,000. It is standard practice for promoters to have complimentary tickets printed for sponsors, but buyers should beware that they may be being frauded out of their hard-earned cash if their front row seats have zero cash value. Ticketing agencies were also duped as they typically charge service fees and convenience fees on each of the tickets. We tried to contact Canada Revenue Agency for comment but were unsuccessful at the time of printing.
We spoke to PNE about this ticketing fiasco. Spokesperson Laura Balance said, “I’ve worked here for 25 years and have never seen this happen before. It is incredibly unfortunate.”
To clarify further, she said, “just a few days prior to the concert, the promoter came to us and claimed that a number of the tickets had been lost, and so upon their instructions we cancelled hundreds of tickets and reissued them. There were several rows of tickets that this happened with. So, when people arrived we had 2 legitimate tickets for each of those seats,” claimed Balance. “This is 100% with the promoter, he needs to address that. We tried to rectify the situation by re-seating displaced guests, so we brought out extra chairs and even opened up some of the suites that had not been sold. A number of people didn’t want to go upstairs, so although we have never done this before, we actually allowed patrons to share seats if they so chose because they wanted to remain up front to see the stars.”
Who would give up an opportunity to be close enough to watch the stars sweat? Clearly not anyone who snagged VVIP tickets. “We host over 1,200 events per year very successfully and work hard to try to make the situation as good as possible for our guests,” said Balance, who also claimed that their staff is 70% South Asian to be able to be sensitive enough to relate to patrons of the Debangg Reloaded concert.
When asked about the behaviour of the security guards, she said, “We have not received any complaints as yet with regard to staff, and there is no police report filed with the Vancouver Police Department. It’s standard procedure to escort guests out if they are being disruptive.” And manhandling Chohan by having a guard posted on either side of him, firmly holding his arms? “Yes, this is standard procedure. For the amount of people that attended, this show had significantly less evictions than we expected. We even subcontracted Securiguard for additional security. People were dressed very nicely and came with their families for a fun evening, so they were very well behaved.”
The Asian Journal office fielded many other complaints about the Dabangg Show; renowned architect Jessie Arora was one of them. He claimed that he received a call to purchase two $5,000 tickets in the front row, but he opted instead for a modest 3rd row for a total of $2,690 which included valet parking, red carpet welcome, cocktails, and a photo opportunity at the VVIP meet and greet with Salman Khan. “When I picked up the tickets at the Dabangg offices in Surrey, I saw that they were actually in the row 4,” shared Arora. “Then at the gate when we were going into the concert, security told me my tickets were void and that the host will have new tickets for me. She [the host] gave us tickets for row 18 and when we I got there I saw so many other friends sitting there as well. Why should we sit in the back? It was so embarrassing for us.”
Another similar story came from well-known Immigration Consultancy owner Rajesh Randev who paid a whopping $5,000 cash for his pair of VVIP tickets in row 5. “Our tickets were scanning up as void and I was getting very upset with how rude the PNE security was with us at the gate. Mr. Kamal Sharma happened to be there and aided us to find Sid, the organizer. Sid then escorted us through the gate with the same tickets we had, he did not issue us new tickets,” he explained.
“We didn’t enjoy the cocktails or anything, how could anyone enjoy after being mistreated by the PNE security guards? They really have no manners,” said Randev who was quite upset while sharing his story. “We finally got to our seats and a short while later, two ladies from Brian Jessel BMW came with the same ticket numbers as us, we couldn’t believe it! Brian Jessel himself came and was very angry with us but what fault was it of mine? I paid for my seats. Even security couldn’t figure it out, it was a mess. First, we were feeling defrauded, then on top of that we were treated quite terribly by security staff who could have been more diplomatic. It was quite embarrassing for everybody, everyone in the area was completely stressed out and I would be surprise if they even enjoyed the show. We didn’t.”
Hon. Jinny Simms was also spotted on the sidelines looking confused and dazed at the unfortunate ticketing fiasco.
Constable Jason Doucette, media relations officer with the Vancouver Police Department, confirmed that there was no police report made for fraud or financial crime related to this event. “Victims of crime should first try to resolve their dispute with the promoter from whom they purchased their tickets from. If they still require assistance, we encourage them to contact their local police department to file a report. It could require an investigation to determine if it is in fact it is a crime or if it will be a civil matter.”
LATE START TIME
We have all heard of Indian Standard Timing; the much anticipated Dabangg Reloaded Vancouver show was also affected with this phenomenon. Delayed by one and half hours, guests who waited outside were antsy to see their beloved superstars. But here, there are two sides to the story.
Laura Balance, spokesperson for PNE said, “it is up to the promoter to advise our staff when they are ready to open the door. We are not able to open the doors based on the timing printed on the tickets. Unfortunately, their production team was significantly behind schedule and there was still rigging to the ceiling going on when the show was scheduled to begin.” Rigging is important for the safety of the artists and patrons who were sitting directly under the flying contraptions.
Sidharth Menghani, partner of Gold Spade Entertainment Inc. said, “The Fire Marshal decided to show up an hour before the show and until he was satisfied, he refused to open the doors. If he was that serious about his job, he could have showed up during the day but instead he came just before the show.” We tried reaching Vancouver Fire & Rescue Services for comment but were unsuccessful prior to the time of this publication.
EXCLUSIVE MEET & GREET
Only a lucky few got a chance to meet their beloved 52-year-old Bollywood icon. I personally would opt for someone that has better dance moves, but I must admit that even I would be star struck if Salman Khan went for his filmy go-to act of ripping his shirt off.
There were several ways to get onto the exclusive backstage list to meet the star:
- Sponsor the show for a speculated $250,000
- Buy a meet and greet pass for $1,500
- Win a meet and greet pass
Developer Daljit Thind was a major sponsor of the concert, and he is not new to concert promotion. He exploded onto the scene after sponsoring TOIFA in 2013, supporting other concerts and projects ever since. If you’re close enough to him to know his dog’s name, you’re on the list.
Others such as Rahul Gill, Perminder Chohan, Professor Avtar Virdi, Jessie Arora, and Rajesh Randev purchased their exclusive meet and greet tickets which promised a photo-op with Salman Khan who by his own right is Bollywood royalty. Having starred in over 100 films, majority of them being box office hits, Khan is reportedly now the highest paid actor in Bollywood. Although the above mentioned may not have made the exclusive meet and greet party, others did.
How these concerts typically work is that the stars are contracted to include 50-60 photos with sponsors which helps to recover costs for the show and is also good public relations for the stars. As for the meet and greet for Dabangg Reloaded Vancouver, the exclusive photo-op was to take place after the show – after Salman Khan shuffled across the stage and back for 3 whole hours. Since we know the show began at 9pm, we estimate the meet and greet to take place well past midnight.
I really like Salman Khan, but a tired and sweat-soaked star is not going to bring his A-game to the event. “VIPs were given group pictures,” clarifies Menghani. “Only 50-70 photos total was in the contract which is why we were strict with the list and making everyone do group photos. But one of the VIP’s got overly excited and tried to hug Salman. His bodyguard pushed the guest back, but he was relentless and tried hugging him again. The bodyguard took charge and threw the guest out. This upset Salman who was pretty tired already. So, he left.” Naturally, the guests that did not get an opportunity to meet Khan were pretty agitated. Wouldn’t you be if you spent $1,500?
Jessie Arora shared his version of events. “The valet parking was so disorganized, so I just parked my own car. There was no signage and no one to direct us to the backstage, no one knew where to go for the meet and greet, and security was not helpful at all. So, we did not even attend the meet and greet, and many others didn’t attend either. My mood was so spoiled. This is unacceptable. Now, Goldspade is not taking my phone calls. I already called Visa to request a refund.”
So, what if you were the winner of an exciting giveaway by the promoters directly? Insha Pathan was announced as the winner of the Meet Salman Khan Contest which was posted on the Gold Spade Entertainment Facebook page. “I had already purchased my show tickets on the day they went on sale, I’m a huge fan! The contest was for the meet and greet only,” she clarified. “I’m originally from Mumbai so meeting him was a lifelong dream of mine which I never thought would come true. But when I was selected, I couldn’t believe it!”
“On May 5, I was sent a Facebook message by Sid asking me to come to the office,” she said. “There I met with Sonny Juneja and Vinny who took my photo, told me that the meet and greet would happen on stage, gave me a script to memorize and sent me on my way saying that they would be in touch. Later, I was invited to the press conference and was asked to make a video the week before the show to talk about how excited I was to meet Salman Khan.” She was asked to share the video on her various social media channels which she did as a diligent and eager fan.
As July 1st approached, and her messages went unanswered by Juneja, Menghani, or Vinny, she decided to visit the Dabangg office a day prior to the concert in search of answers. Juneja was surprised to see her and asked her to wait as he attended to other pressing matters. “It was Sid who gave me a wristband and said he would put my name on ‘the list’ for backstage access. But no one told me any specifics of where to go on the day of. At the concert, I happened to spot Sid on the floor before the show and he told me to wait for the announcement at the end of the show.”
There was no announcement, so naturally Pathan went in search of answers. After speaking with six security staff, she was advised to wait backstage. After 40 minutes, she was escorted to the meet and great area and asked to wait outside. After what seemed an eternity and asking several others that held the so called ‘list’, she was allowed inside of the area. “At this point it was almost 2am. Why would Salman wait that long? It was so disorganized. Someone else checked ‘the list’ again and my name wasn’t on it. I was so disappointed. At the same time, it was announced that Salman had left. My heart just broke. I bought a new BCBG dress and got myself all done up and ready for my picture. I still can’t believe it.”
As if it wasn’t bad enough for her to leave in tears, she shared further, “all of my friends and family are congratulating me for something that never happened which makes me feel even worse. I contacted Sid and Gold Spade directly after the event and they didn’t respond. After 24 hours, I just posted my frustration on Facebook. Now, I’m making it my mission to reach Salman Khan in person with the hopes that one day he will read my plea.”
Media maven Shushma Datt, owner of Spice Radio Am 1200, ran a 3-day radio marathon post-Dabangg as an opportunity for listeners to share their thoughts and feelings about the show. The result was one of mixed reviews, with most of the red and blue section ticket holders having enjoyed the show for a lesser price, while those that spent big bucks on floor seats generally felt cheated.
“Personally, I was miffed at how much Bollywood has changed,” said Datt. “There was not even one Indian outfit on stage. Not one.” Perhaps there was so much going on both on and off-stage that no one really noticed.
I conducted my own impromptu survey via social media. At the time of printing, there were 272 respondents. 47% loved it while 53% did not have a good experience.
The Gold Spade Entertainment Inc. reportedly run by three partners, Siddharth Menghani, Sonny Juneja, and Sunny Laroia. Their website is offline, but the phone number given publicly is 604-449-8200 and their stated email address as per their Facebook page is firstname.lastname@example.org. Formal complaints with ticketing and staffing at the event can be made directly through PNE Guest Services either by phone at 604-252-3680 or by emailing email@example.com.