Sudhish Kamath

Hands swayed, friends bonded and crowd rose to sing along the anthem of the youth

Started off with a tribute to Kishore KumarEhsaan did a rock versionEnergetic dancers sprayed foam as the girls did their little gig

CHENNAI: The open air theatre at IIT was packed even before a single word was sung. Then, at 7.20 p.m., Shankar Mahadevan had the crowd 'breathless' before greeting it with a yell: "Iii-Iii-Tee. Are you ready to rock?"

Starting off with a tribute to Kishore Kumar ('Dekha na hai re'), the Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy trio had the crowd dancing to its tune from the moment Shankar's vocal chords hit the microphone.

"Come on IIT, Don't behave like good children," he said before 'introducing' them to a movie called 'Dil Chahta Hai' - enough to turn a stadium into a dance floor. Hands swayed, friends bonded and the crowd rose to sing along the anthem of the youth.

The lights went off and out came the glow from the mobile phones instantly turning the atmosphere hyper-electric.

"I can't tell you how happy we are," said Shankar. "That mobile thing you did. Do it again," he said before launching into 'Ring Posh Maal' from Mission Kashmir. "I have a wonderful chorus section here," he said pointing at the crowd, urging it to give him a rehearsal for the first song he ever sang for AR Rahman: "All you have to do is say "Take it Easy policy." Halfway into the song, Ehsaan did a rock version of it and the band improvised.

After handing over the mike to Mahalaxmi and Raman for a few songs, Shankar returned to call all the 'Pretty Women' from the crowd on to the stage for the song from 'Kal Ho Na Ho.'

The energetic dancers sprayed foam as the girls did their little gig with the band.

When Mahalaxmi joined Shankar to sing the 'Woh Ladki Hai Kahaan' duet, the crowd developed 'wings' as people flapped their arms and jumped around trying to do Saif's comic jig from 'Dil Chahta Hai.'

"You think this is rocking? You ain't seen nothing yet," said Shankar, asking the VIP section to rise from the seats for 'Nach Baliye' from Bunty Aur Babli.

The very next song 'Ghanan Ghanan' brought the glow of mobile phones back as the light from hundreds of swaying phones illuminated the stadium.

Blaaze did a little rap on Saarang before he thanked "God and Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy" for the chart-busting 'Bunty aur Babli' rap. The crowd sang its lungs out as the stylish rapper hip-hopped around the stage before singer Raman returned with the high octane 'Dil Se' following it up with 'Dus'.

Surprises galore

With the show reaching its crescendo, Shankar slowed down the mood for a bit for a medley on his favourite songs from their not-so-successful films before he launched into the finale with surprises galore. He invited Srinivas to do 'Kaisi Hai Yeh Ruth' (from DCH), did a Bollywood version of 'Koi Kahe,' bringing the sky down with his Anu Malik-Kumar Sanu imitation, before calling upon Vijay Yesudas to join his team of singers on stage for their own version, but only after it was 'Time to Disco' and shake a leg to 'Kajra Re.'

There was also a moment of feel good and bonding when the glow of the mobile phones returned to recharge the crowd during 'Kal Ho Na Ho.'

The audience did savour every bit of it, like there was no tomorrow.

In fact, there was so much dancing in the stands that by the time the last song for the evening, 'Hum Hai Hindustani' came, the crowd nearly ran out of energy.

It couldn't have been a better Republic Day. A day for the public.