Pursuit of Happiness

Mr Rock ‘n’ Roll

JnY Entertainment founder and ex-MD of Rhythm House, Mehmood Curmally is not just an Elvis fan, he brings the rock n’ roll king alive through his tribute shows

Faisal Magray

Think your bedroom walls covered with Linkin Park, The Beatles or Michael Jackson posters are testament to your love for the artists? Or the fact that you croon along with Taylor Swift, Justin Bieber or Bryan Adams on loop all day every day obviously would definitely show that you resonate with their music — that you are a true fan. Meet Mehmood Curmally, owner of JnY Entertainment and the MD of what was once the iconic Rhythm House store in Mumbai — he takes the meaning of being a fan to a whole new level.

From dressing up like Elvis Presley to singing the rockstar’s tunes, Curmally is one of the thousands of Elvis tribute performers across the world. Although his father and founder of Rhythm House introduced him to Presley’s music, Curmally confesses that he wasn’t an Elvis fan until college. He only understood how legendary the musician was when one day, in 1977, his father had tears in his eyes because Elvis had passed away. That greatness was reaffirmed through the film Elvis: That’s the Way It Is, a documentary that chronicles Presley’s Summer Festival in Las Vegas. “The movie stuck with me and inspired me to the core. That’s when I was completely into Elvis,” he says.

Born in a family of music lovers, Curmally enjoyed singing among friends, but he had never imagined he would be doing it professionally in front of hundreds some day. In 2014, a friend who was a committee member of the Bombay Gymkhana, nudged him to sing for their musical night. He dedicated his second half of the performance to the king of rock and roll and it was a hit. Curmally thoroughly enjoyed it and realised this is how he could share his love for Elvis with the world. “My calling is to introduce Elvis’ music to the people and like his ex-wife Priscilla would say: Elvis will take care of the rest — of converting them into a fan,” says Curmally.

Today, Curmally boasts of more than 200 successful performances, mostly in and around Mumbai and a few in Delhi and Bengaluru. One of his biggest gigs in Pune saw a gathering of around 2,500 people. “I was there for an opening of two business centres and my shows were a big hit,” he says. He also performed an Elvis song in front of a 4,000 people-strong crowd in Canada last year. “It was an Elvis competition that I had participated in. I wish to do that more often now,” he says.

Performing a minimum of three gigs a month, Curmally has also started training formally. “I had never learnt the proper techniques of singing before but I am trying to get better,” he says. Once a week, his vocal trainer teaches him breathing exercises, correct voice pitches and techniques. He is also a part of a 25-40-strong choir at the Stop-Gaps Cultural Academy. “We sing twice or thrice a month and I am the tenor of the group,” he says.

His dedication to this pursuit shows when the tall, lean performer changes into a white jumpsuit, studded with buttons, shiny stones and tassels. Curmally pulls out a wig and fixes it on his head, completing the look with a jewel-encrusted belt around his waist. “This is one of my many Elvis costumes,” he says. Most of his costumes are custom-made in a store called B&K Enterprises in the US. “They take instructions on email or phone and ship it to India,” he says.

Curmally’s passion has kept him going so far and he plans to keep giving homage to the king of rock and roll until his body allows him. “I wish I had started when I was younger,” he says wistfully. But, the 59-year-old is a great entertainer and proves that age is just a number.