Nostalgia, humming, singing along, and much dancing. Friday Review November Fest's retro music evening was a reliving of an era of unforgettable lyrics and melodies
It's played a hundred times over on LPs as on the discs of your mind. You have hummed along on the radio, collected the tapes. It's survived the assault of every successive wave of music.
DJs have remixed it and given it their own spin. And now it's made its way to the iPod. But whatever it does, the romance of retro music never really does a cinematic fade out.
The Friday Review November Fest's night of retro music “The Golden Age” took people back to the era of K.L. Saigal, Mohammed Rafi, Kishore Kumar, Lata Mangeshkar, and Asha Bhonsle.
There's something about old Hindi film music that makes us all go weak in the knees.
Despite the road trip from Coimbatore to Bangalore (thanks to cancelled flights), the stars of the evening didn't let any of that exhaustion show. Holding up their singing and adding layers to their voices was a wonderful orchestra of musicians from Chennai and Kerala.
From the 40s to the 70s is one of Hindi cinema's most creative periods. Selecting songs is a challenge; no list can be comprehensive, and many favourites get “left out”. Srinivas opened with K.L. Saigal's 1940 track “Main kya jaanoo kya jadoo hai” from the film “Zindagi”.
It set a sombre note for the evening and won over the audience. The audience instantly focussed on and appreciated Nikhil Ram, the reed-thin saxophonist-flutist who effortlessly blew life into both instruments.
Chinmayi took on the challenge of “Kuhu kuhu boley koyaliya” and negotiated bravely the intricacies of Raag Sohini and the ensuing ragamalika. The song reiterated the strong classical influence from where our Hindi film music (and musicians) largely came. Haricharan too leapt back in time to “Madhuban mein radhika naache re” when a song was set to classical dance – in a typical Maharaja's court – Hindi cinema's original “dance music”.
The concert covered most of the templated “types” of songs we have seen in Hindi cinema over the years — Chinmayi chose the sublime mujra “Thaade rahiyo” from “Pakeezah” — songs that proved that pauses made for equally beautiful music. Mahalakshmi Iyer chose the more seductive “Aao huzoor tumko sitaron mein le chaloo”.
Haricharan and Chinmayi gave us the first duet of the evening “Abhi na jao chhod kar”, where Jaidev's music marries well with Sahir Ludhianvi's lyrics to give us a hummable romantic refrain. The men did a full-throttle “Parda hai parda”, the epitome of the qawwali genre.
Mahalakshmi Iyer got it bang on when she said, “The audience know these songs like the back of their hand” — a challenge then, for new and young singers who are expected to live up to the image of the original stars; but no one “copied” styles. The encouraging audience ignored the few slip ups when lyrics were forgotten or missed.
The tempo picked up with the audience demanding “fast numbers”. So “Badan pe sitare lapete hue” tumbled out, followed up with “Kajra mohobbatwalla”.
The invitation to dance came in the form of “Mera naam Chin Chin Choo” and Jaya Murthy from the audience came up on stage and took to the mike, while young Sushma set the stage on fire with her twisty moves.
The men whipped up passions further with “Mehbooba mehbooba”. The songs finally spiralled into “Aaaja aaja”, concluding with most of the audience dancing to the frenzied “Jai jai Shiv Shankar”.