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The French connection

It was a nostalgic trip, French style, when Pascal Heni belted out Hindi and Tamil film numbers at Amethyst

A FRENCHMAN singing Hindi and Tamil songs? Well, that's what Pascal Heni enjoys doing most these days. Not just Hindi and Tamil, but Bengali too. His infectious smile and interesting voice recently had the gathering at Amethyst swaying and clapping in pure enjoyment. The event was jointly organised by the Embassy of France in India, the Alliance Francaise and the Prakriti Foundation, and is part of Pascal's 13-city tour of the country.

Pascal chanced to listen to Kishore Kumar's "Zindagi Ek Safar" in Malaysia and this brought him into contact with Indian cinema. Ever since, he has been on a collecting spree and has almost 2,000 songs in his kitty, mostly from the 1960s, 70s and the 80s. And mind you, he cannot understand a word of what he sings! What makes his singing work is the joie de vivre.

Pascal will soon be releasing a CD comprising 20 songs. And he has found a mentor in Pyarelal Sharma (yes, of the Laxmikant-Pyarelal duo), who's lending Pascal a helping hand. The singer, incidentally, admires the voices of Kishore Kumar, Mohammed Rafi, S. P. Balasubramaniam and Sadhana Sargam.

That evening saw Pascal give free rein to his love for Indian music as he sang (the stress on the `r's gave them a French feel) and danced (he really enjoyed himself) such classics as "An Evening in Paris" (an apt beginning from the Parisian!), "Zindagi Ek Safar" (naturally), "Itna Na Mujhse Tu Pyar" (Mozart, he said!), "Suhana Safar Yeh Mausam", and "Mein Shayar Tho Nahin", besides not-to-oft-heard numbers such as "Roop Ki Rani, Choron Ka Raja" and "Chali Chali Re Patang". The Tamils songs "Rajavin Paarvai" (accompanied by Smrithi) and Ilaiyaraja's "Oolukullae Chakravarthi", and the Kishore Kumar-sung Bengali number "Good For Nothing" brought the house down.

But the true extent of Pascal's talent came to the fore when he sang in a language that comes most naturally to him, French. "La Vien Rose", the haunting French standard was as melodic as the piece which he composed from Dante's "Divine Comedy".

Where does Pascal Heni go from here? Maybe it will be bhangra or Indipop! One never knows!


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