‘Pancham’ was a fitting tribute to the genius of R.D. Burman, with a lovely mix of lilting and foot-tapping numbers

You hummed along happily, wanted to break into a jig, clapped to keep beat, and felt the tears welling up at ‘Pancham’, the tribute to R.D. Burman, the concluding concert of this year's The Hindu Friday Review November Fest. It was a full house, testimony to the hold retro numbers have over people.

RDB's compositions traverse up and down the musical scale with amazing ease and glisten with the navrasas. His songs remain in our hearts because they are not just verses set to tune; they are the result of the composer's melodic quest to draw resonances from the classical and the contemporary.

RDB's myriad facets

And, Karthik, Mohammed Aslam, Gopal Rao, Shweta Mohan and Kalyani Nair along with Bennet and the Band and the Chennai Strings orchestra tried to take us back in time with a selection of songs that showcased the myriad facets of RDB. Starting off with the lilting Kuch Na Kaho (“1942, A Love Story”), one of the of the master composer's last pieces, Karthik set the mood for the rest of the evening, his dulcet voice caressing the notes and lyrics.

Before the tenderness wore away, showman Karthik, who was all style, plunged headlong into the masti mode with the pulsating Bachna Ae Haseeno, showcasing his versatility. He kept up that tempo with Saamne Yeh Kaun Aaya, followed by that ode to friendship — Yeh Dosti. He got bored singing alone, and presumably forgot the lyrics — mere ruses for getting on stage Aslam and Gopal, who were sitting among the audience! Smart idea, that! The trio rocked the stage (the three men sure have a penchant for grooving!), and soon it was time to introduce the ladies — Shweta Mohan and Kalyani Nair — before they started performing solo. So, Aslam crooned Gulabi Aankhen, Kalyani the saccharine Bahon Mein Chale Aao, Shweta Raina Beeti Jaaye, and Gopal Yeh Jawani.

No RDB concert is complete without his peppy duets. The singers dipped into his vast repertoire to come up with gems such as Oh Mere Sona Re, Dum Maro Dum, Mehbooba Mehbooba (originally rendered by Pancham himself!), and Jaane Ja.

And then, it was time for the surprise ‘Unplugged’ section. The singers, with minimal orchestral backing, came up with a lovely medley of some of RDB’s most melodious compositions, banking on just the strength of their voices. It was music, pure and simple, and audience kept asking for more. Sample this wonderful mix: Naam gum Jaayega, Is Mode Se Jaate Hain, Tere Bina, Kuch Toh Log Kahenge, Churaliya Hai Tumne, Raat Kali and Mere Naina Saawan Bhadon. The impromptu violin interludes had everyone going wah wah!

Stirring the audience from the melody rush were rousing numbers such as Jai Jai Shiv Shankar, Aao Twist Karen and Yamma Yamma.

Each of the singers had their moments, conveying the essence of the original and leaving RDB smiling in the heavens! The long practice sessions showed in the way some of them, particularly Karthik, Shweta and Aslam, rendered these timeless classics. However, a little more focus on the lyrics and pronunciation would have helped. Flipping through the lyrics on stage is a definite no-no! Also, some felt the selection of songs was not fully representative of the genius called RDB. As for the orchestra, it was pitch-perfect, peaking at the right places and being unobtrusive when required.

For the last number, the group aptly chose Zindagi Ke Safar Se Guzar Jaate Hain. The lyrics went …Phir Nahi Aate… But, many in the mesmerised audience would’ve loved to say ‘Phir Aate Hain'!

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