You know he’s a legend when someone who has completed 25 years in music spearheads a celebratory concert in Dubai but doesn’t deign to talk up his laurels or indulge in any cloying crowd-engagement gimmicks. Less than 75 words emerged from this man during his four-hour bombastic spectacle, but Oscar-winner A.R. Rahman proved that he prefers to let his songs do all the talking. And it spoke volumes.

Dense fog engulfed the expansive Bollywood Parks venue and the visibility was at an all-time low, but thousands of tiny torch lights emerging from fans waving their phones gave the night an ethereal quality. The seats were dripping wet, but no one seemed to mind the discomfort as they stuck it out until the very end.

Everything about this concert, which began at 9.30pm and went on past 1am, was spectacularly surreal and fantastically futuristic.

MUSICAL MAESTRO

Rahman, who stood at the centre in a gleaming coat attacking the keyboard with gusto, was at the centre of the magnificent stage that stretched from one end to the other. A scene straight from a sci-fi magnum opus was rolled out, as a robotic voice claiming to check the LED lights and cameras flashed in front of us. What happened next was pure magic as Rahman gave an instrumental medley of his biggest hits such as Humma Humma (from the film Bombay) and Chaiyaa Chaiyaa (Dil Se). His each note was met with multi-coloured psychedelic lights flashing across the stage and carefully-timed fireworks going off on stage.

Anyone who worried that the musical genius would opt for a muted celebration, just like his low-profile personality, felt their fears dissipate. His concert in Dubai was a Bollywood spectacle that would put director Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s love for opulence to shame. It was a polished production with heavy accent on laser displays and fireworks that went off based on the rhythms being played.

But the best part about this concert was that it wasn’t all sheen and glitter. The hero of the night was Rahman and his talented troupe comprising singers such as the brassy Neeti Mohan, the pleasing Jonita Gandhi, the attitude-soaked Benny Dayal and the millennial idol Armaan Malik.

They were all on top of their games. It was a concert that had a heavy dose of nostalgia.

“Remember those songs which you listened to on radio — when you fell in love or whatever happened in life good or bad — these song takes you through those memories,” said Rahman.

Jonita Gandhi then went to sing the incredibly romantic Kehna Hi Kyaa (Bombay) and Javed Ali belted out Jashne Bahaara (Jodha Akbar). Neeti Mohan was a wonderful fit for sensually-charged numbers such as Chandralekha, while Rahman made spines tingle with his rendition of Dil Se and Muqabla.

MELLOWED MOOD

The first half of the concert featured the Mozart of Madras’ chart-toppers that warmed up the crowd with snazzy songs and snazzier outfits, but the second half began with a Sufi symphony. Hearing Rahman sing Khwaaja Mere Khwaaja was trance-inducing. This was a concert that stood high on content and collective display of raw talent. Those lone dancers, who were on call to bolster the glamorous quotient, felt excessive. Why do you need a distraction of gyrating hips, when the songs have enough steam?

Malik’s version of Satrangi Re (Dil Se) and Masakalli (Delhi 6) were standouts, while Benny Dayal and Haricharan made every Malayali happy as they sparred playfully onstage with a song from Mohanlal-starrer Yodha. Their musical play-off lit a proverbial fire in our hearts.

But the concert reached a crescendo when the prolific music composed wished his Indian fans a belated Happy Republic Day and stoked the patriot in us with a soulful delivery of Vande Maataram. The stage was bathed in Indian flag colour lights and everyone stood up as a mark of respect for their native land and the biggest musical talents that India has produced. It was a watershed moment for the concert as every Indian expatriate gathered there felt incredible pride and reflected glory.

While the production and the concert was flawless, the post 1am finish meant that the night was long and chilly. “But you have warmed us,” said Rahman. And frankly, we could say ‘right back at you’.

While the musical part of the evening was pitch-perfect, getting back from the venue to the parking lot proved to be cumbersome. Trams that promised to ply us from the venue spot to our cars weren’t operational, sparking chaos. The lack of guidance did not help matters.
When contacted by Gulf News tabloid!, concert organisers, Brothers Incorporated, expressed their apology.

“We were pleased to see so many people enjoying the great concert last night. We apologise for the delays with transportation caused by heavy fog and low visibility. Extra precautions had to be taken as the safety and wellbeing of our guests remains our utmost priority,” said company directors Ninad Shah and Rahul Tuljapurkar in a joint statement.

However, if we were to size up the evening based on Rahman and his supremely talented singers, then all of them should take a bow. Twenty-five years in the music business has made Rahman a showman of incredible heft. And which city better than Dubai to throw a glorious bash?

Article Credits: Manjusha Radhakrishnan from Gulf News