An evening organized by the Jain Social Group with authentic Jain food, and Manhar
Udhas rendering his soulful numbers - a wonderful combination! But considering
that all the Gujarati I know amounts to "Soo chhe, saaroo chhe, danda leke maroo
chhe!", there was a certain empathy with the proverbial fish that jumped out of
water. The dinner managed to distract, but then my gills complained again of this
alien environment as I was just able to sputter out "Majje me chhe" to any inquiries.
With the program a full hour behind schedule, the press box started getting restless.
And then the music started.
While not as famous as his younger brother Pankaj Udhas, Manhar Udhas still has a reputation that is formidable in its own right. He's been in the film industry for some time now, and has many hit songs to his credit. Comparisons with the legendary Mukesh are only justified, as his voice and style do resemble those of the great singer.
He started off the evening with "Koi Is Tarah", a song that isn't very famous but is rather melodious. Then came the famous numbers from Janbaaz and Qurbaani. He then sang a few of Mukesh's best. Though he couldn't quite do justice to the poignant "Jaane Kahaan Gaye Woh Din", he made up with "Kahin Door" and "Saawan Ka Mahina". The audience was taken back to the golden era of music where the likes of S D Burman and Laxmikanth Pyarelal composed melodies that to date cause emotions to well up.
A surprise was in store as Sujata Trivedi, who has sung in movies like Taal and Thakshak, came in to give the star of the evening a break and later assist him in the duets. Her renditions of "Taal" and "Aaja Re Pardesi" were impressive as her voice managed to scale pitches that singers today rarely do. "Babuji Dheere Chalna" got the audience chuckling as the cheekily flirtatious number was rendered beautifully. She also struck the right note with the audience, getting them to join hands in rhythm with Rehman's famous beats in Taal.
The majority of the audience responded with polite applause to the Hindi film numbers, but roared their approval when Udhas decided to indulge them with a couple of melodious Gujarati bhajans and some shaayari. Though I couldn't make much sense of the lyrics, the bonhomie and the sprit of the crowd was tangible as wah-wahs punctuated the songs.
The orchestra accompanying Udhaas did a good job, especially with the violin and the keyboard carrying the melody pretty well. The tabla, though, was a disappointment, as, despite skillful rendition, the player's inability to distinguish between the playing styles in the anthra and the mukhda caused considerable harm to the overall melody. Sujata Trivedi could be seen making frantic gestures to the guy trying to give an indication as to what rhythm she was looking for.
The show went on till the wee hours of the morning, as neither the singers nor the audience seemed to tire of the unceasing chain of songs. The highlight however was "Saawan Ka Mahina", with "Har Kisi Ko Nahi Milta" coming a close second. There was perfect co-ordination between the singers, and the play on the word "Shor" too was followed faithfully as in the original. The long drive back into the city would hardly have been noticed as most of the audience must have hummed all the way back home.