Shankar, Ehsaan and Loy rocked the audience out of its chairs at Saarang 2010. SUDHISH KAMATH on the euphoria

The trinity was at it again. Remember the spell the rock-star trio cast at Saarang 2006? Well, that was before “Rock On”. So you can imagine the blast of adrenaline for rock fans at the Popular Night at Saarang this year with Shankar, Ehsaan and Loy.

It was heavy, it was hardcore and it rocked the Open Air Theatre out of its chairs. Right from the moment the trio took the stage with an invocation and launched into ‘Jhoom barabar jhoom', they had the audience eating out of their hands.

The crowd rose on its feet and the sea of people waved their phones. “Before we go further, I want to say…” Shankar said as the band brought ‘Jhoom barabar jhoom' to a halt. “This song is not done as yet.” The extended version did sound a lot better than it did in the film. The crowd was in a trance and clearly, the IITians were in the mood to dance.

Shankar Mahadevan was blown away by the welcome. “This… is… fly-iiiing,” he exclaimed. “What's the chakkar with these chairs,” he said, looking at the first few rows where the VIPs were seated. “By the end, I don't want you to sit. We'll have you dancing,” he promised.

“I did my engineering. I wanted to get into IIT but the questions were so tough, yaar. So we are happy to play here again,” Shankar said.

The familiar opening strains of ‘Dil chahta hai' came next and the crowd roared in excitement. “How many ever times you call, we will come. Just for this.”

Shankar soon decided to get the women in the VIP section to dance. “Chennai mein IIT mein rehnewaali, Kanjivaram saree pehnewaaliPretty Woman,” he introduced the song and screamed the cue out to the percussionists: “Adra Dei!!” (Duh, ‘Hit it'! In Tamil.)

‘Pretty Woman' was followed by ‘Rock On' and the boys went head-banging before Shankar invited Raman to sing a sad song. “This song is picturised when the hero's grandmother dies and this song plays when the dead body is covered with a white cloth. Listen to it for two minutes or we will change the song,” he told the crowd that started protesting as the band belted out ‘Dil da mamla' that triggered off hysterical dancing all around.

Anusha Mani was up next to cool things down with ‘Lazy lamhe' and an enchanting ‘Yeh tumhari meri baatein' before Shankar returned to ‘Wake up Sid' and rock some more with ‘Socha hai'.

The “Gyarah mulkon ki police” couldn't have caught Don at IIT either because Shankar, Ehsaan and Loy burst into a stadium-friendly rock version of ‘Main hoon don'.

The showman singer then changed moods with ‘Mitwaa' and made the audience sing backing vocals for him. “Take it from Chennai to Bangalore,” he said daring them to croon Mitwa-aaaaa as long and far as they could take it.

Medley of favourites

Shankar made it look so easy with plenty of improvisation and alaaps during the ten-minute version of ‘Mitwa', and dedicated it to his guru.

The show rushed to a climax as Raman and Anusha joined him for a quick medley of ‘Goonji se hai,' ‘Jaane kyon log', ‘Tanhayee', ‘Bolna halke', ‘Sapnon se bhare naina', ‘Salaam-e-ishq' and an instrumental jam with Ehsaan on guitar and Loy on harmonica. And Shankar joined the percussionists.

Raman softened the mood with ‘Kholo kholo darwaze' and set it right for Anusha to carry ‘Phir dekhiye'. The girl rocked and won fans of her own.

Loy began a keyboard solo for a song that was close to their heart and hundreds of mobiles swayed in the dark like firefly robots in space before Shankar made eyes well up with ‘Maa'.

“How many of you want a Tamil song?”

“How many of you want a Telugu song?”

The entire audience rose up to scream both times.

Shankar gave them ‘Yenna sola pogirai' and Telugu music lovers got ‘Bhum bhum bhole' which he mixed with ‘Bum bum bole' from “Taare Zameen Par”.

Singer Karthik was invited on stage next because the band wanted to do a rock song. They teased the crowd with a little ‘Smoke on the water' and a rock-version of ‘Tujhe dekha to ye jana sanam' before introducing the now popular riffs of ‘Meri laundry ka ek bill'. The band recreated the “Rock On” finale with ‘Sinbad the Sailor' and ‘Tum ho toh' and the audience went into a state of euphoria.

Much delirium followed as the band attempted an old film version of ‘Koi kahe' and Karthik tossed up a classical version of the lines. Shankar did a Punjabi version and then a Hindustani classical lead and concluded: “Only Lakshmi and Saraswati are enjoying it… So shall we play the purana ghisa pita one?”

And after a decade, ‘Koi kahe' proved why it is still an anthem for the youth.

Shankar also sang ‘Breathless' before ending the show with a full-on rush of energy making the crowd head-bang to ‘Hum hai Hindustani'.

No, no ‘Kajra re' probably because they ran out of time. But hey, the crowd ran out of breath.