By T S Sudhir
In Hyderabad, it was a case of `ThankGod it is Saturday’ on October 24. That’s because the Shehanshah of Indian film music Allah Rakha Rahman was in town with his `Jai Ho’ concert. The newly inaugurated expressway, the longest in Asia at 11.6 km, just made the journey to GMR Arena, the venue next to Hyderabad’s Rajiv Gandhi International Airport, that much more fun. And as if in keeping with the location, ARR took off smoothly at 7:14 pm, belting out several of his superhit numbers in Hindi, Tamil and Telugu.
Rahman greeted the Telugu crowd with `Andari ke Namaste’ as he began with `Jaage hai’ and moved quickly to `Khalbali’. And as if to demonstrate that he is not the shy youngster any more, ARR did a Rajinikanth, complete with glares and all, for `Athiradee’ from the Tamil-Telugu superhit `Sivaji’. The 50000 strong crowd had connected.
But Rahman is not one to forget his roots and where he began from. So it was back to the ultimate melody of `Roja’ with Vijay Prakash and Shweta Pandit and `Chandralekha’ from `Thiruda Thiruda’. One sms which flashed on the LED screen acknowledged the work done by the production crew. `The screen behind is awesome, whoever planned it’ it said. It was most true during the `Dilli 6′ number with images of Delhi stylishly enthralling the Hyderabadi crowd.
Given that ARR has been around for close to two decades now, there are now distinctly two sets of following that the maestro enjoys. One, like me, who have followed him since his `Roja’ days and the second, the younger lot of the 21st century, who sway to the beats of a `Pappu can’t dance’ from `Jaane tu ya jaane na’. For instance, when Suzanne sang the `Rangeela re’ number from `Rangeela’, 12-year-old Bhargav who was with me, did not react. But he perked up the moment, she started with her breezy `Aye Bacchu’ number from `Ghajini’.
The high point of the concert was when ARR sat with harmonium, cap on head and lifted the atmosphere to a more spiritual level with his `Khwaja mere Khwaja’ from `Jodhaa Akbar’. It was as if he was praying at the Ameen Peer Dargah in Andhra’s Kadapa district.
There was another Kadapa connection as well with Rahman offering a special tribute to the late chief minister of Andhra Pradesh, Y S Rajasekhara Reddy, with `Naina neer bahaye’. The proceeds of the concert going to the CM’s relief fund for flood victims and the A R Rahman Foundation, made the effort all the more commendable. As another sms from a Gopichand flashed : `A legend from Chennai with musicians from all over the world for a local cause proves the world is a single family.’
And then rapper Blaaze took over to get the crowd into the groove for one of the biggest hits of Rahman’s career. `Can you sing Humma Humma?’ he rapped as he set the ball rolling for Rahman to sing the `Bombay’ number that had enthralled an entire generation in the early nineties.
“It is a shame that I cannot see beyond the first row of people but I love all of you,” said Rahman and a guy behind me shouted, “We love you too”. In response, Rahman jumped into `Jai Ho’ with his entire chorus and the 50000 crowd for company. Everyone sang `Jai Ho’ together, standing, and you could be forgiven if you thought this was India’s national song. Brilliant fireworks lit up the Hyderabad sky and for those ten minutes, I saw no flight taking off or landing at the city airport. When Rahman sings `Jai Ho’, you can do nothing else but sing along and applaud. As another sms flashed on screen : `After a He-man, Spider-man, Bat-man, Super-man, now we have Rah-man’.
The morning after, I woke up with a heavy Rahman hangover. I took out my collection of Rahman numbers and I have many. And started with `Vellai Pookal’ from Mani Rathnam’s `Kannathil Muthamittal’ for which he won the National award in 2003. I have heard it 22 times since Sunday morning.