The Hindu November Fest

Rekha Bhardwaj gave the audience a chance to reminisce stories

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… And vice versa; Rekha Bhardwaj’s debut live performance in Chennai was an opportunity to sit back, hum along and recall films with powerful plots

Like its name, Cinema Soul - Rekha Bhardwaj Live by Azzizon ki Toli, the penultimate concert of The Hindu November Fest in Chennai, was all about cinema and soul. As a playback singer, Rekha Bhardwaj, wife of filmmaker and music composer Vishal Bhardwaj, has carved for herself a niche in the space of cinema, lending her voice to a certain kind of a song — of love, loss, longing, rejection and seduction. Songs with stories, songs that are layered and powerful with poetry, songs that shape and further a story, demanding therefore — both from the artiste and the audience — a kind of evolved participation. This means that even though the concert was all about cinema, it sparkled with a certain minimalism.

Breaking into the concert with the very seductive ‘Ranjha Ranjha’ from Ravan, an AR Rahman composition and lyrics by Gulzar, Rekha Bhardwaj set the tone for what was to come. The choice of song was perhaps to warm up the Chennai audience — this concert was Rekha’s debut live performance in the city — telling us a little story of how that recording with Rahman was her first-ever recording at midnight. From AR Rahman, Rekha segued into Ilaiyaraaja, sharing a little anecdote of how her husband and she, in the early years of his career as a music composer, spent two full days attempting to notate a song by him.

And even though Rekha performed that iconic track from Sadma, ‘Aye Zindagi Gale Laga Le’, feeling every word and emotion, she didn’t quite make it her own. It is when she stepped into her own shoes that she really demonstrated her prowess; owning the poetry, its emotion, its experience, allowing them all to crystallise into that moment in cinema where a filmmaker uses a song to tell a story. Whether it was Kareena Kapoor and Ajay Devgn’s folksy seduction song, ‘Naina Thag Lenge’ from Omkara, the famous ‘Kabira’ from Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani, the ghazal ‘Phir Le Aaya Dil’ from Barffi, the iconic ‘Genda Phool’ from Delhi - 6 or the raw and earthy ‘Namak Ishq Ka’, yet again from Omkara, Rekha performed every song with ease, conviction, and feeling, connecting within and with the universe around her — the audience — twirling and whirling occasionally, and moving just enough to retain the focus on the song and its story.

Rekha’s concert was also an opportunity for a cinema buff to reminisce some films with powerful plots. Unlike a typical concert from cinema, where there’s a lot of song and dance, Rekha’s concert was also subtle with enough opportunity for her very talented band, Azzizon ki Toli, to showcase their potential with their own instruments. Male vocalist Saurabh Joshi, for instance, who accompanied Rekha in a handful of duets, was measured and sensitive in the way he handled his voice and the guitars simultaneously. When the concert ended, the audience requested for more. Rekha gave in, but just a little, saying in Hindi, “Thodi si pyaas rehni chaahiye,” meaning, it’s important to retain a little thirst.

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Printable version | Jan 22, 2020 8:05:03 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/november-fest/rekha-bhardwaj-gave-the-audience-a-chance-to-reminisce-stories/article25538831.ece

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