The stage was yet to be set at the scheduled hour. And when the curtain actually went up for the start of Manabendra Smaraney's light-cum-classical programme titled ‘Raag Roop Aur Rang,' the audience had become almost restive.
But it was worth the wait. An impressive list of artists occupied the stage -- Pandit Ajoy Chakraborty, playback singers Mahalakshmi Iyer and Javed Ali and Shruti Jauhari (who joined later). The repertoire had been designed to impress the connoisseur and the common man. The medium? Film songs based on classical ragas.
This has been attempted by several groups. What made this programme special was the choice of songs. It was a catchy mix of a bygone era and the present, ranging from S.D. Burman and Salil Choudhury to A.R. Rahman and Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy.
The ‘light' numbers were ‘weighed' down by the exposition of the raga in its classical form. Each song was given a prelude by compere Shailaja Ganguly with the details of the lyricist, composer and speciality.
The show started with a sloka on Lord Krishna in the regal voice of Pt. Ajoy Chakraborty in Khamaj, followed by R.D. Burman's ‘Amar Prem' number ‘Bada Natkhat Hai Re' in the syrupy voice of Mahalakshmi. Offsetting this was ‘Maula Maula,' Rahman's track from ‘Delhi 6', a Sufiana style song rendered by Javed Ali.
‘Ja Tose Nahin' by Salil Choudhury which carried strong semblance to the Hamsadhwani number ‘Vatapi Ganapathim,' was later extended with raga, swaras and a bandish by Pt. Chakraborty.
The classical creations of yesteryear composers Naushad Ali, Sachin Dev Burman, Madan Mohan, Hemant Kumar, Roshan and Pt. Ravi Shankar were on the list. It was interesting to hear Pt. Chakraborty bring out the enchanting facets of Bhimplas to the rhythmic refrain of ‘Bol Na Halke Halke' of Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy from ‘Jhoom Bara Bar Jhoom'.
The mystic beauty of Kirvani was further explored after the famous ‘Nagin' number ‘Mera Dil Ye Pukare Aaja' and he demonstrated how the notes also could fit into a peppy jazz number.
A soul touching Tagore song ‘Jete Jete Ekla Pothe' and a Bengali song ‘Shrabono Megho Maya' by Pt. Chakraborty and the detailed dovetailing of Malhar after the ‘Barsaat Ki Raat' song created a great classical ambience. Pt. Chakraborty illustrated at every stage how the ‘raag roop' (form) takes a different ‘rang' (colour) in a ‘dhun' (tune) to make a melody more appealing to the common man.
Shruti Jauhari credited herself with ‘Sawan Ki Raate' (Prem Patra) and ‘Rasme Ulfat' in haunting Madhuvanti (Dil Ki Rahen). Javed Ali's silky voice was quite brilliant in the ‘Jodha Akbar' melody ‘Kahaeneko Jashn-e-Bahaara' with many micro twists and nano turns (credit AR Rahman) showing this young singer's vocal range and stability.
But, the Tamil song ‘Kurukku Siruthavalae' from ‘Mudhalvan' was indeed an odd inclusion since it was neither classical nor with any special lyrical charm.
Pt. Chakraborty was supported by Sunil Kanta Gupta on the flute and Shuvonkar Bandopadhyaya on the tabla. The film music section comprised Ajay, Nilesh, Praveen, Varad, Vijay, Vasudev and Rahul and was orchestrated by Ajay Madhan.