A.R. Rahman rocks Salt Lake Stadium on Tuesday evening. Picture by Pabitra Das
A.R. Rahman and Sukhwinder Singh at the RahmanIshq concert on Tuesday evening. (Pabitra Das)
The rain is relentless. The Puja spirit is damp. The rupee is ravaged. Trust three hours of RahmanIshq to set the mood right.
A.R. Rahman scored a hat-trick on Tuesday evening with his third Calcutta concert in 10 years sending the Salt Lake Stadium crowd into fits of ecstasy.
If the 2003 The Telegraph Unity of Light concert was his first ever show, the 2013 Celkon RahmanIshq, in partnership with The Telegraph, saw the double Oscar and Grammy winner singing in Bengali on stage for the very first time. That too Tagore. If Shah Rukh Khan had recited Where the mind is without fear at the IPL opening ceremony at the same venue six months back, Rahman sang the original Bengali lines on Tuesday night: Chitto jetha bhoy shunnyo, uchcho jetha shir.
Rahman had appeared on stage minutes back with a Shah Rukh song! Dil se re... It was 7.10pm in a very dark Salt Lake Stadium, still a light drizzle in the air, when suddenly a flurry of lights set the stage ablaze and there he was, back to the audience, in the middle of red smoke. Ek suraj nikla tha…and he turned around towards the erupting crowd.
|I messaged him and he messaged me back. I spent a good 45 days with him during Rockstar and I never miss an opportunity to catch up with him. I wish I could have stayed back and seen his concert. Mr Rahman performing live is nothing short of magic
Ranbir Kapoor on ARR
His most favourite audience in the whole wide world, Rahman called Calcutta “unbelievable” to have come out in the rain to watch him perform. “Enjoy the show,” he flashed that almost angelic smile, before appearing in a lit-up blazer, reminiscent of Amitabh Bachchan’s light bulb coat of Yaarana, which was shot many nights ago at Netaji Indoor Stadium.
Besides Rahman, the stars for the night were Sukhwinder Singh, Javed Ali and Neeti Mohan. From Ramta jogi (Taal) to Chaiyya chaiyya (Dil Se), the almost unrecognisable Sukhvinder — with a golden crop of hair — got the crowd going. Rahman and Sukhi (as he kept calling him) also gave everyone “a sneak peek of what they do in the studio” with a very acoustic version of Aayo re sakhi (Water) with master flautist Naveen Kumar joining in.
Javed sang Tum tak (Raanjhanaa) and Jashn-e-bahaara (Jodhaa Akbar) while Neeti did a “bhishon nomoshkar” to the crowd before belting out Jiya re (Jab Tak Hai Jaan).
But all pairs of eyes tracked Rahman. Whether he was quietly fanning himself with the pages of notations behind the grand piano or going berserk on the continuum piano at the end of Rehna tu hai jaisa tu (Delhi-6).
One of the best sections of the show had Rahman sitting on the harmonium in a very dargah-like setting and singing his Sufi set of Arziyan (Delhi-6), Kun faya kun (Rockstar) and Khwaja mere khwaja (Jodhaa Akbar). While many songs for the evening were curtailed to a stanza or two, these spiritual tracks were sung in full. Kun faya kun lasted eight minutes.
A far cry from the shy boy from down south who only wore check shirts and striped T-shirts, Rahman was adventurous with his on-stage costumes — from silver jackets to zardozi-bordered kurtas. “My wife does all the shopping for me,” Rahman had said earlier, with a smile.
Compared to his last Calcutta concert in 2009, which had a more populist playlist replete with songs from Bombay and Roja, Tuesday’s show saw a more eclectic bunch of songs comprising a lot of his recent works, including six songs from Raanjhanaa.
And as Rahman himself had said, “only I can do what I want with my songs”. He literally gave the Calcutta crowd very different sounding versions of their favourite tracks. Like Ranjit Barot, also the musical director and drummer for the show (no Sivamani around, sadly), crooned a very staccato Jo bhi main (Rockstar). And Rahman sang the Bombay Dreams ditty How many stars have to shine before your eyes meet mine as a prelude to Ishq bina kya jeena (Taal).
While the likes of Mohit Chauhan and Hariharan were sorely missed, other singers stepping in meant completely fresh renditions of much-heard songs. Like Neeti’s version of Nenjukulle (Kadal) or Shweta Pandit’s take on Tum ho (Rockstar).
|A.R. Rahman and Sukhwinder Singh at the RahmanIshq concert on Tuesday evening. (Pabitra Das)
The entire singing team got together for Jai ho, the Slumdog Millionaire song that won the little big man all the international glory in 2009.
The pre-show playlist doing the rounds didn’t have it, but no Rahman concert can be complete without it. Can it?
By the time Rahman’s Vande Mataram brought the concert to a close, Calcutta had again “felt the love”.
Not just through all the razzmatazz and the high production values and the gorgeous fireworks in the end. But that piercing voice and his enchanting melodies which have only grown since their inception.
And in the middle somewhere, Rahman did replace the words Mustafa Mustafa with Kolkata Kolkata — “Don’t worry... Hum hain tumhaare...” — assuring the fandom of his lifelong association with the city.
Today is the first day of waiting for the next A.R. Rahman concert in Calcutta.
- Chhaiyya chhaiyya
- Mustafa Mustafa/ Kolkata Kolkata
- Dil se
- Jiya re
- Jai ho