How long would you be gone if you were to step out of home for a concert? Twelve hours, if you had set out for the MARG’s ‘Jai Ho’ concert in aid of Shakti Foundation and A.R. Rahman Foundation on Sunday. Because, about 70,000 Rahmaniacs had decided to brave the journey that took them about 100 km out of the city — to MARG Swarnabhoomi — from where Rahman took them for an out-of-the-world experience over a span of three-and-a-half hours.
A sea of people extended to over a kilometre from the stage to get a glimpse of the man who picked up a couple of Oscars earlier this year. Even from the 5,000 rupee-ticket section, about 300 metres away from the stage, it was difficult to tell one singer from the other.
Rahman surfaced, perched on a lift, around 7.25 p.m. with the haunting ‘Jaage Hai’, much to the relief of those waiting, getting increasingly restless and gave them something to dance with ‘Khalbali,’ without any histrionics himself, dressed quite simply in a full-sleeve black T-shirt, jeans and a blue shawl around his neck.
With ‘Athiradi’, the concert got just the start it needed. Hariharan began ‘Kadhal Rojave’ in Tamil with Sadhna Sargam and switched to Hindi half-way before a svelte Tanvi came in brandishing a megaphone to croon the velvety ‘Yeh Dilli Hai Mere Yaar’, with BlaaZe at his stylish best and rapper Vivienne Pocha.
“Chennai, I can see you all,” said Rahman, standing on top of a crane as he launched into ‘Jiya Se Jiya’ and tossed a few caps around for fans before returning to the stage. BlaaZe returned with more ‘Style’, this time with a rap in English: “Everybody in the front, you got style. Everybody in the back, you got style...”
Choreographer of the show, Harshal, and rapper Lush rocked the show with their ‘Liquid Dance’ before Lush joined Shweta Pandit for ‘Chandralekha’. Shweta continued with ‘Ringa Ringa Ringa’ as the crowd chanted, “We want Tamil”. The chanting was suspended with Rahman’s energetic ‘Dil Se’, the world-class visual graphics in the background working magic.
“Now, for love songs,” said Rahman, as he settled to play the piano, starting with part of the score from “Slumdog Millionaire” and ‘Kahin To’ before Hariharan joined him for ‘Tamizha Tamizha’. The crowd rose on its feet and hundreds of flags fluttered as the duo continued to do ‘Uyire’. Rashid Ali came on stage with a guitar, wondering how many Aditis there were in the crowd, and launched into ‘Kabhi Kabhi Aditi’.
Rahman dedicated ‘Rehna Tu’ to “a state of mind, of accepting people as they are, unconditionally”, and the sheer sincerity in his voice had the audience spell-bound. The crowd was rewarded for good behaviour with ‘Chaiyya Chaiyya’ as Raihana and Aslam came up with the electrifying crowd-pleaser. There was more excuse to dance when BlaaZe returned with Benny Dayal for ‘Taxi Taxi’.
Neeti Mohan came up with a graceful ‘Maiyya Maiyya’ before religious heads were called upon to give A.R. Rahman holy water from Jerusalem, Mecca and the Ganges to signify oneness. After the break, Rahman launched into a percussion-intensive segment — a medley of ‘Azeemo Shaan Shahenshah’, ‘Rukmani Rukmani’ and ‘Veerapaandi Kottaiyile’, followed by a rocking solo by Sivamani.
Rahman changed his attire for the Sufi segment as the stage bathed in green light provided the perfect setting for ‘Khwaja Mere Khwaja’ and ‘Arziyaan’. This was one of the finest parts of the show. Chitra entertained the crowd with ‘Kannalane’ and ‘Jiya Jale’, accompanied by fire dancers.
And soon, Hariharan came back to sing ‘Ai Hairathe Aashiqui’, and Suzanne gave them ‘Ai Bachchu’. But, it was the last 20 minutes that sent the audience into a state of euphoria — ‘Mustafa Mustafa’ followed by BlaaZe’s rap for ‘Humma Humma’, the high-octane ‘Jai Ho’ and ‘Vande Mataram’ for a finale.
There’s nothing more beautiful than hot air lamps taking off from the audience, a swaying crowd on its feet and fireworks in the sky. And, all those hours spent in travelling and waiting just didn’t seem to matter.