Event photographer with a studio by day, Elvis impersonator by night. After five years, it’s an easy transition for Siddharth Meghani, 29, who could be in Pune, Bangalore, Hyderabad, or Mumbai, performing the songs and music of Elvis Presley.
People look at my name and immediately wonder: Sindhi boy impersonating Elvis? But, actually, I’m not; I’m very much a Catholic boy from Mumbai’s Bandra, though my father is Gujarati. My mother was always a die-hard Elvis fan. When I was 10, she taught me It’s Now or Never, the first Elvis song I ever sang. My mum’s seven sisters are my backbone, my biggest fans, who still come for all my shows. They never seem to get fed up. One of them, Joyce, is the craziest Elvis fan you’ll find and a great resource for some super Elvis CDs when I decided to sharpen my act. When we were kids, her daughters, Malaika and Amrita (Arora), and I would be lined up at family gatherings and made to perform for the family. As a kid, I would always clown around, and one day I sang solo at a family do. The thrilled response from all the ladies boosted my confidence to sing in public.
My Elvis impersonation began a little over five years ago when a family friend called and wanted me to sing Elvis songs at a show. Overnight, she stitched an Elvis outfit, a blue-tinged all-white suit with silver tassels, stars and rhinestones. Before I knew what hit me, there I was standing in front of 600 people and breaking into song (and a sweat).
One thing led to another, and I was regularly being asked to impersonate Elvis and I started to get into the part. I bought books, videos, anything to do with Elvis’ life, music and performances. Then I grew sideburns and my hair, Elvis-style. To acquire my first pair of Elvis-style white boots, I went deep into Mohammed Ali Road’s markets to find the perfect pair.
Besides the look, I focused on the moves, Elvis’ characteristic hip swivel and his engagement with the audience. A single performance saps my energy. You can’t just stand there and sing. Being Elvis for a few hours takes a lot, specially moving and interacting with the audience, flirting with them, the way he did. To this day, I’m nervous for the first 10 minutes, then the music gets going, people start tapping their feet and I’m in Elvis mode.
Contrary to what many think, it’s not just older people who like Elvis. Surprisingly, the youth love him too. All my friends love Elvis’ music. It’s not old-fashioned at all; he is an icon who is part of today’s hip culture. No matter where I perform, people will request their personal favourites; the most popular have got to be Can’t Help Falling in Love and Jailhouse Rock, while Crying in the Chapel and Hound Dog come a close second.
I now perform with a seven-member band called Crimson Rage, a mix of young and seasoned musicians. If you think that’s too many people, Elvis himself had a small orchestra and about six back-up vocalists.
The nicest thing about impersonating Elvis is the support and response I get. Friends bring all kinds of books, souvenirs and memorabilia. My phone rings at odd hours with people asking: Aren’t you watching this Elvis special on TV? If I say I’m not, the immediate reaction is “then I’m taping it for you”.
I try to maintain a healthy balance between my family business of a photo studio and this. I’ve done a few advertisements and a foray into movies, with cameos as an Elvis impersonator in Pooja Bhatt’s Jism and Holiday. Participating in shooting a Bollywood film was a whole new experience for me, an awesome one. Now I’ve been on film sets before, and I know something of what it’s like, but Pooja Bhatt made me feel utterly comfortable. But that’s the extent of my participation in films; I have no aspiration for roles. I’m very aware about keeping it all in check. The photo studio is my bread and butter, my Elvis impersonation hobby generates the jam and cheese. I like to keep it simple, live my life and not let the act get bigger than me.
From the many Elvis images there are, I’d like to be the 1969 comeback Elvis. That was his prime, he looked fit and was at his most charming. And that all -black leather comeback outfit—that’s what I’d like to get. A version that keeps me cool inside though, I can’t dance under those bright lights in full leather—I can’t imagine how Elvis did it.
Next? Definitely on the agenda, in the next two years, a pilgrimage to Graceland and a trip to Las Vegas, perhaps I can give them a taste of a desi Elvis.
As told to Niloufer Venkatraman. Email your feedback or story to email@example.com