Salim and Sulaiman Merchant, along with other popular singers, had the audience screaming, dancing and asking for more

If you thought screaming women in the audience are limited to concerts featuring baby-faced boy bands, think again. The Music Academy on Sunday played host to brothers Salim Sulaiman, one on the threshold of 40 and the other, all of 43, who kept a packed hall, well-entertained for a little over two hours.

The audience, a mix of young and old, were a little restless, as the event started half-an-hour late. But they brightened up when Salim got on stage and started off with the melodious 'Ae Khuda Mujh Ko Bata' followed by ‘Aashayein’ and ‘Kurbaan Hua’.

Note of nostalgia

Then, amid drum beats, Sulaiman made his appearance playing a percussion instrument. “This city holds a lot of memories for us. We did our very first album here. This is the first time we are performing here,” he said, as he switched to playing the zendrum that remained his companion for the rest of the evening.

Meanwhile, Salim performed an improvised version of ‘Ishq Wala Love’ and the crowd joined in. There were shouts of “Salim, you rock” and every time the singer-composer swept back his mop of unruly hair, quite a few women went weak in the knees.

On stage, Salim and Sulaiman seemed to present a contrasting picture. Sulaiman was dressed in black, and Salim in white. While Sulaiman calmly swayed as he made music, occasionally throwing his hands up in the air, Salim bounced about the stage like a firecracker, head banging, dancing and quivering with fervour.

The duo was accompanied by singers Vipul Mehta, Benny Dayal and Shraddha Pandit. Just before Benny came to the stage, Salim introduced him saying, “He is aadat se majboor, he drinks daru desi and he is badtameez!”

Cheers for Benny

The viewers had a special welcome reserved for Chennai boy Benny. He walked in wearing a trendy fedora, displaying a few Jackson moves, while loud cheering and clapping engulfed his first few words.

He sang quite a few of his hits including ‘Adat se majboor’, ‘Tarkeebein’, ‘Badtameez dil’ (composed by Pritam) and ‘Tu hi to meri dost hai’ (composed by A.R. Rahman). Vipul Mehta sang songs such as ‘Jalwa’, ‘Yeh hausla’ and ‘Haule haule’ and Shraddha Pandit crooned ‘Halkat jawani’, a little too shrill for our liking, ‘Mar jawa’, ‘Dance pe Chance’…

One of the highlights of the show was the flute solos by Paras Nath. It had the audience swinging to his lilting tunes. If he were to walk out playing the flute, half of us would follow him like the Pied Piper of Hamelin.

Salim and Sulaiman then decided to jazz things up a bit with ‘Ainvayi ainvayi.’ There were girls and boys dancing in the aisles and Salim led a bunch of them to the stage. A few got their photographs clicked with the multi-tasking Salim who posed, sang and played several instruments at the same time. By the end of the song, it looked like quite a task to get the enthusiastic fans off stage as they flocked to hug the younger Merchant. “Show us your love from your seats,” he finally appealed.

With just a few more minutes to go before the Academy shut its doors, the performers quickly squeezed in a few more tracks which also comprised a prayer for all the women who have been sexually-abused and the ones who lost their lives to it.

It was time for the show to end. At this point, the audience was requested to stand up and join the performers as they energetically sang ‘Chak de India,’ a song that almost became the sports anthem of the country. We are not sure if making us stand was a ploy for a standing ovation but had they not asked us to rise we still would have, as the Merchants and their band of singers and musicians sure knew how to get things rocking.

(The music composer duo was in the city to perform at Salim Sulaiman Live in Concert, an event by The Hindu, presented by Urban Tree)