A. R. Rahman Live – Part III of III

There were about 80,000 tickets to be sold for the concert, there were just a few thousands out there though. The tickets were all funky, with bar codes and stuff. You could also call a particular number, where a barcode will be given to you on the phone via SMS. This could be scanned at the entrance. High-tech, huh? At the entrance, our barcodes weren’t even scanned to invalidate them.

The rains are really heavy now, the concert has ended, Rahman has waved his final good bye and we’re on our way out. The ground that was is now a mud pool. We’re wading through the slush. Scores of people making their way out.

Once out, we hunt for Auto Rickshaws to ply us back. Not surprisingly, none wants to come to our side of the town. I’m used to this. This happens in Pune as well. I’m all ready to walk back the 7 KMs home. Never mind the rains, I’m on a high after the performance. Others have to go to work tomorrow, some “shramdan” (donate work) stuff. We don’t have it. Lucky us.

Anyway, while we’re wading ourselves out, a van seems to be stuck in the mud. We offer to help. Get it out in a couple of minutes. Further ahead, a big car is in even deep mud. Hmm. This one takes five minutes. Further ahead, there’s a police van — really big one and a fiat side-by-side and in deeper mud. We can’t help this scene, not even with Bahubali to tow. It’ll take cranes and really sunny day tomorrow. We walk out of the grounds.

Walking back in the rains… feeling nice about the rains now than at the start of the concert. I enjoy walking / riding in the rains. This is surely one such moment. But friends say we’ll have to take a rick back. “We’ve got to go to work early tomorrow morning!” It’s 12:15. We wait at a junction hoping we get a rick. Three of the friends who have to go farther than us, do get an auto rider willing to take them there. Great, they’re off.

After 10-15 minutes of lazing off at the same place, we get one auto guy who’s willing to come, but he’ll charge us Rs. 150. This is 5 of what we’d normally pay. Rule is to pay 1.5 times after 10, but we’re willing to pay twice. Five times is really too much. We refuse. I’m still suggesting we walk. If there’s an auto going that way, we’ll anyway encounter it and we can still hitch a ride. It’s better to walk in the rains than to just stand there. It gets real cold and shivery.

A truck comes by, a few people waiting with us get in. There’s not enough place for us. Ah.. More waiting.

A good soul-ed rick guy comes along. Offers to ply us for Rs. 50. That’s not even twice the normal fare. We can’t believe, we hop on. I’ll be dropped off first, I suggest my friends to pay him 60. Definitely he should be thanked for his sincerity.

I get off, thank the driver, walk a few paces towards home. It’s still raining heavily. I immediately take a hot water bath, for the fear of being out of action due to cold / cough. I usually don’t easily contract diseases, but cold is something that’s a biennial ritual. I don’t want it to happen now.

Post a hot bath and nice dinner at 2 in the morning, I’m all set to sleep. What a nice way to round off a very enjoyable evening!

A. R. Rahman Live – Part II of III

The show starts at 8:45. Alla Rakha Rahman, live in concert. Starts off with his “Fanaa” from “Yuva”. The crowd is hysterical. We’re all singing, dancing, swaying, letting out our excitement.

Part of the proceeds are to go to “Namma Mane” (“Our home” in Kannada) a home and school for the disabled.

The much-hyped 3D show isn’t happening due to the rains. The screen projectors aren’t working, so we can’t really see what’s really happening up there on the stage. Rahman is dressed in full whites. He’s at the center of the stage. To his left is Sivamani with his mega setup of drums. Just ahead of him are the guitarists and the bass guitarist. To his right is the flautist and the orchestra with violins, violas and drum pads. The chorus is further to their right. They also dance a bit to the tunes, making it look real good.

The line-up of singers: Chitra, Hariharan, Alka Yagnik, Kailash Kher, Sadhana Sargam, Sukhwinder Singh, Madhushree, Shankar Mahadevan, Blaaze and Alma (from Bosnia, she’s done the vocals for the Lord of the Rings to be screened later this year).

One after the other, melodies and music are flowing off the loud-speakers. The rains are holding off nicely, not disrupting the performance.

Kailash Kher, moving between baritones and tenors, rendering “Mangal Mangal” sounds great. He leaves after the song, we’ll be missing out on other songs of his which would’ve been on the list. Especially, we’ll miss “Yun Hi Chala Chal”.

Half an hour into the show, there’s a big rush ahead of us. There are a lot of empty seats that we can see from here. The crowds ahead of us in the next row are rushing forward into the seating area. Some of the people from our row are jumping the barricades and going there. The police suddenly realize what’s happening and they use their ‘lathis’. But a lot of people still cross over. The police are out-numbered. We, like good citizens, stay our ground. However, even our gates are opened up and we walk across to the next rows. There’s mud and slush everywhere, we wade through it. People stamp over others’ toes, just to be the first ones to get across. Police use lathis again. We are spared. We cross over, go ahead, and there still is a lot of room to go ahead. We keep going forward, jump over bars and barricades, finally reach where all the people are. I think we’re at the rows where people have paid at least 10 times what we’ve paid. We could actually also be at the rows where people have paid 20 times what we’ve paid.

All the people who’ve come from behind are now taking up every space available, and they stand and watch. The people who were comfortably sitting and enjoying till now get frustrated. They plead “we’ve been sitting and watching. Please, you also sit and enjoy.” Falls on deaf ears. People are also standing on top of chairs to catch glimpses of the performers. Sad, indeed. The ‘poor’ people who’ve really paid to enjoy the show from the front are now having to stand to see something beyond the throngs of people who’ve suddenly appeared from nowhere. Ah, they’re all Rahman fans, folks, they’ll do whatever it takes to be “in it”.

We all go off to the sides, where surprisingly, not many people want to be. However, there are people in front of us standing on chairs. We can’t see much. My friends grab chairs. They say get on it, we’ll at least enjoy it this way. Bahubali protests. Let’s not do that, if we do it, others will do it as well and we won’t be able to enjoy. Others will complain. No one heeds it. I too, usually the rule-abiding good fellow, don’t. I grab a chair and get on it. Bahubali joins.

Now on, the view’s a lot better. we’re much closer to the stars. “Kehna hi kya…” Chitra. Heavenly.

The projectors come to life an hour after the show started. Better late than never. Madhushree’s on the screens, belting out “Kabhi Neem Neem Kabhi Shehad Shehad” from “Yuva”. Wow, so mesmerising. She also has a great screen presence. Her moves are captivating. We’re thoroughly enjoying ourselves. Our voices are louder than the singers themselves now, the public around us are wondering what they’re getting to hear is actually what they want to hear. One wouldn’t mind the public getting ecstatic during the Ganesh festivals and singing in the public then. But listening to the crowds during a Rahman show is not really what’s on the things to look forward to. Hariharan’s singing in Tamil. We sing the Hindi lyrics. “Chanda Re.. Chanda Re..” Hell, shedding inhibitions, they too join us.

We’re swaying away, dancing, all on the chairs, balancing ourselves and enjoying the show. “Mustafa, Mustafa, don’t worry Mustafa”, “Taal se Taal Mila”, “Chhaiya Chhaiya”, the score from Bombay Dreams, “Closer than Ever”, meshed with “Ishq bina”, “O Humdum Suniyo Re”, “Baar Baar Haan…”(Lagaan), “Chupke Se”, “Humma Humma”, “Titli Daboch Li Maine” and a few Tamil hits.

Every singer, at the end of their first song, commends the Bangalore audience. No one has seen such a crowd that waits through incessant and heavy rains for a concert. We all cheer for ourselves.

He gives us a taste of a new song he’s composed, it hasn’t been released yet. He says we deserve it. He also plays a song he’s recorded for the UN for the movement to eradicate poverty. We’re all waving, supporting the cause.

Sivamani presents his solo. This is really a treat during the Rahman shows. He starts from one end of his setup, slowly makes his way towards the other end and then finally takes it to a majestic completion. It lasts 10 minutes. We’re totally immersed and entranced.

Blaaze keeps doing his rap bits every now and then. He, in his style, sings fast and puts in a lot of “Bangalore” in it. People ask for translations. Crowd is amused.

Shankar Mahadevan and Rahman engage in a jugalbandi. Mahadevan with his vocals, Rahman on the keyboard. Mahadevan exploits his complete vocal range. Rahman matches with his fingers. It’s an absolute treat. He then starts off with “Ghanana Ghanana…” from Lagaan. He’s imploring the heavens to open up. The crowd yells a big “NO”. But we’re enjoying this totally. Dry or wet, we’re going to enjoy this. At the end of the song, Mahadevan says it’s not over yet. In the movie, it never actually rains. The clouds come and go, leaving the farmers without rain and dejected. Mahadevan eggs on Rahman: had it rained in the movie, like it rained today, how would Rahman have composed the music? He starts off with Raaga Malhar. Oh, such a beautiful rendition. The music just flows. This is excellent stuff. Masterful. Enchanting.

We are all enjoying this thoroughly. More music. There are hints of rain returning. It gathers speed a while later. It seems Rahman quickly shortens the show even further. He doles out a beautiful “Azaadi…” from “Bose” and moves on to “Ma Tujhe Salaam”. The entire crowd is on its feet. The drizzle’s picking speed. Everyone has his arms spread out. Rahman reaches his highest point of voice. The rain is now as heavy as it was before the show started. No one is moving. All are looking up, arms stretched, singing along with Rahman. We’re paying tribute to our motherland. To the genius. “God is so kind. We finish and it starts again. God bless you all.” I don’t want to leave. I want more. We all plead for more.

What a genius. Great musician. What a kind soul. May the music keep flowing, enthralling us for many years to come.

A. R. Rahman Live – Part I of III

A. R. Rahman, the genius, performing live in Bangalore… I had to be there. Vikram went to Ahmedabad, so it was me with some friends — six of us in all. We ended up purchasing the lowest-priced ones, we’d have to stand for the whole show. My repeated arguments for at least a lowest-priced seated place all went in vain. Yeah, not all can afford the costly tickets — after all, it’s only the software guys that get paid decently.

The show is to start at 7PM on Saturday, 8th October 2005, but we go in at 5:30. We learnt the gates were going to be opened at 4:30, and to get at least a good place with a decent view, we figured we’ll have to do this.

We had two bright sunny days just before Saturday, but Saturday afternoon onwards we realized it won’t be a dry day today. Chances of rains being very high, that didn’t dampen our spirits in the least.

We reach the Palace Grounds at 5:30, the rains have held off well, we’ll at least get a good show, we think.

Surprisingly, not many eateries near the venue. Bangalore hawkers don’t seem very enterprising. Had this been Pune, there wouldn’t have been space for the audience, hawkers would’ve been everywhere. However, there were some people selling packaged food, popcorn and nuts around inside the arena. The ones with the least-priced ticket weren’t lucky enough. These food stalls were farther ahead, only accessible to the people next row onwards.

6:30, and the drizzle starts. We’re hoping it doesn’t last much. At least, not enough or not strong enough to wash off the show. The compere, who sounded like Darais from Radio City, says “the show will start on time, no matter what.” Encouranging.

7, and we’ve had 3 drizzles by now. The compere comes back, mentions there’ll be a slight delay but we’ll start “in a while”. Five minutes later, we’re lashed by heavy rains. We hold our ground. Not everyday do we get to watch the maestro live in action.

It’s raining like crazy by 15 minutes past 7. The people who’ve paid more for the seats are now holding up the chairs to protect themselves by the rain. We’re amused. Pay more to hold up the chairs. Nice.

7:30, rains are abating. But we’re all soaked, and there are strong winds blowing. Everyone is shivering. “I love you Bangalore! You are the best crowd! These are God’s blessings. In this holy month of Ramadan, he’s washing away our sins. Hang on, give us one hour to get the setup working.” We all cheer. We’re not moving. No amount of rains can wash our enthusiasm away.