Pancham Unmixed, the musical show by The Hindu Friday Review November fest, 2011, Sunday last had the city swaying to R.D. Burman's music. Priyadershini S. and Shilpa Nair Anandwere part of those who enjoyed it

Nostalgia got the better of melody and song at the recently held musical retrospective on R.D. Burman at The Hindu Friday Review November fest, 2011. And the packed audiences at Fine Arts Hall, last Sunday, had every reason to celebrate ‘Pancham Unmixed’, an evening dedicated to his songs.

Srinivas, Chinmayi Sripada, Shweta Mohan and Haricharan Seshadri made it memorable. The hall was packed to capacity and the air was thick with expectation. Parts of ‘Pancham Unmixed – Mujhe Chalte Jaana Hai’, an award winning documentary on R.D. Burman by Brahmanand Singh was screened as well.

Popular singer Srinivas led the quartet of young singers, supported by a 16 piece orchestra, each member of which was an excellent musician in his own right. As the crowd warmed up listening to their old favourites, many were heard reminiscing the times when they first heard the song, of the situation, the schooldays or the Rajesh Khanna starrer…..

Srinivas began with ‘Musafir hoon yaaro…’ taking the audience along with him on a trip that spanned most of Pancham-da’s musical oeuvre. Around 27 songs from RDB’s wide repertoire were chosen. Srinivas said all of Pancham’s songs could not be sung and these were representative of his work. Most of the songs that Srinivas sang were Kishore Kumar’s, a breeze for him.

Next came the peppy ‘Saamne yeh kaun aaya…’ sans Kishore Kumar’s signature yodelling, which Srinivas confessed he was not too good at. When it came to Mohammed Rafi, he was in his element in the second half of the show. Performing to a live audience takes some warming up, and once he warmed up, there was no stopping him.

Music requests poured in thick and fast and the sporting Srinivas sang even if it were just two lines of the song to satisfy the eager fans.

Shweta Mohan was a revelation, whether it was her singing or stage presence. Her rendition of Lata Mangeshkar's ‘Raina beeti jaye…’ from Parichay was nothing short of brilliant. Performing to her home crowd she was in her element. She sang a combination of Asha Bhonsle and Lata Mangeshkar’s songs, but she was superlative when it came to Asha Bhonsle’s numbers especially those such as ‘Aao na gale lagao na…’ or accompanying Haricharan in the qawwali which has a cult following, ‘Hai agar dushman dushman zamaana…’ from ‘Hum Kissise Kum Nahin’. That said, her ‘Bangle ke peechey teri beri ke peechey…’ from the little known ‘Samadhi’ was not lapped up by the audience. But with this show Shweta has proven her versatility, in both classical-based songs or a rock inspired number.

There was drama and showmanship, the man behind it was Haricharan who made a dramatic entry from behind the audience with ‘Chura liya hai tumne jo dil ko…’ He carried the show with his voice and attitude. For the qawwali he came attired like a seasoned qawwal sans the cap. Srinivas and he rendered the two versions of ‘Tum bin jaaoon kahan…’ Most of Haricharan’s songs were those by Mohammed Rafi such as ‘Kya Hua Tera Vaada…’, and Rafi-saab’s is a tough act to follow. The orchestra did an excellent job, and Pancham-da’s songs are the kind that give the orchestra immense scope, especially Nikhil Ram on the wind instruments.

There were a lot of expectations when it came to Chinmayi, who started the evening with ‘Bheeni Bheeni Bhor…’ an album song. Chinmayi, dressed elegantly sang the numbers that suited her soft husky voice. However it turned out to be an off day for her, in the first half, with her missing her cue and occasionally forgetting her lines. But despite a few gaffes, she made the evening great.

Halfway through the show, excerpts from Brahmanand Singh’s documentary ‘Pancham Unmixed…’ was screened. It was a peek into the life of the genius, just as the audience was warming up, it was stopped.

The show was a musical high for the audience who clearly loved every minute of it. What Pancham concert is complete without ‘Piya tu ab to aajaa aajaa…’, ‘Jai Jai Shiv Shankar…’, ‘Mehbooba Mehbooba…’? Srinivas egged the listeners to get on their feet and surprisingly a rather reserved city crowd had a few fun loving guys troop into the well of the hall and dance unabashedly. The crowd cheered them on and the singers appreciated their participation. By such time the hall had turned into a party in flow. There seemed no stopping the dancers.

It was such a healthy high. It was one big sing along with people audience mouthing the words and singing along with the singers. The three-hour long evening came to a close with ‘Kuch na kaho …’ from 1942 A Love Story, the film which turned out to be Pancham-da’s swan song.

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