The day that I came to know that the concert was going to be held in Hyderabad, I called up my uncle to book my ticket for me. As I have stated in the messageboard, this was a dream that HAD to come true. Luckily the venue was close to my Uncle's place. When I arrived at 6:00 for the concert that was to begin at 7, the stadium was nearly half full. With the inflation rate and recession, I was not really sure whether the stadium would really reach its capacity. Keeping to its name of being a laidback city, a quarter of the audience of 55,000 trooped in late because of which the programme started at 7:30. The Lady, I hear is a stickler for timing. And if she was not pleased with the change in timing, she did not show it at least. But when she started off, there was not a single seat empty.
After a brief mourning for the speaker Mr. Balayogi, Mr. Harish Bhimani started the program with his introduction.
Then, the voice that launched a hundred heroines (or is it more...) cut the air....the bhagvad shloka followed by Meri aawaaz hi pehchaan hai...sending goosepimples on my skin. But where was the lady herself? It was then I realised the significance. Meri aawaaz hi pehchaan hai....! As Harish Bhimani aptly put it, there was no need to add the ...gar yaad rahe...a hundred years later people would still be singing her songs!
Then the moment of reckoning. The ravishing Diya Mirza came on stage to invite the diva on to the platform. The high priestess of Indian Film Music descended barefoot on stage along with the chief minister Chandrababu Naidu and Subhash Chandra of Zee who presented the melody queen with a cheque of one crore for the Dinanath Mangeshkar hospital. Mr. Naidu spoke a few words of praise and let the Lady to continue with the job ahead of enthralling the thousands that had come to hear her.
The lady in front of me told her daughter -"Tumhe inke tarah banna hai". The girl, around six years old, looked up at the lady who would be her idol....really cannot say how much she understood the magnanimity of the task her mom expected of her.
Latabai then put in a few word of thanks to the chief minister Mr. Naidu and Mr. Ramoji Rao who had gone out of their way to help her. Mr. Naidu, I hear had given the newly constructed stadium free of charge.
She then spoke of the importance of communal harmony and how it pained her to see people fighting each other in the name of religion. I would have added that her voice had gone a long way in keeping the millions together, for when it comes to Latabai, music is the only religion people understand.
It did not take many guesses to know which song she was going to sing. "Allah Tero naam", Jaidev's immortal composition was listened to in rapt silence. I do not exaggerate when I say that no one on the road would have known the numbers assembled in the stadium.
Just as the atmosphere had got serene, she followed it up with the ethereal Ajeeb dastaan hai yeh...changing the tone from the religious to the romantic. Yeh raatein(Julie) continued the mood that the song from Dil apna preet paraye had set.
The reverie was broken with the "Mere Haathon mein(Chandni)"...which bowled the crowd. Imagine the 72 something singing "Mere peeche pade hai aaj das ladke!". Cute, very cute. And when she smiles when singing the lines, it is difficult to say which is more precious, the diamond studs that she wears or her smile!
After the phenomenal first round, Udit Narayan took over. Mitwa (Lagaan) somehow did not sound as well maybe because of the lack of complex sound that Rahman uses in his recording. Deewana tera hai(Koi mere dil se pooche)...was good .Not among his best songs definitely. Jo bhi kasme (Raaz)... is not something one would choose for a concert..yet it was rendered well. Fortunately "Main Nikla" from Gadar rounded off his innings.
Latabai then took stage with Udit to render the ephimeral "Tu Mere Saamne"(Darr) with Latabai sounding as exquisite when she says "Toot gayi toot ke main choor ho gayi!". I knew somewhere down the line there would be "Dil to Pagal hai(Title song)" and got proved right when it was the next number. Udit goofed up between lines but then, the lady smiled it over!
I do not know whether Usha does it often but when she took stage, she rendered Latabai numbers , "Yaadon ki baarat(Title song)", "Sultana Sultana"(Movie name I do not know), "Jaane kyon log(Same here)" and did a decent job of all of them. An eclectic mixture of songs but good enough to keep the mood going.
Roop Kumar Rathod who took stage went solo with "Sandese Aate hai(border)". Did a great job of it! Not many people had heard of the "Ungliyon mein pehen lo(Filhaal)", the song which was the black sheep of the album. Unfortunately, when Anu Malik does a good job, he goes unnoticed. Great rendition of the intricate lyrics although the audience was not so sure...Followed by Ae Jaate hue lamhon (border), not exactly my favourite but it enthralled the crowd though.
Usha Mangeshkar took her turn with Roop Kumar Rathod for "Pardesiya(Mr. Natwarlal?)". They lived up to the original.
No one can of course replace Mohammed Rafi to sing "Jo wada Kiya (Taj Mahal)" along with Latabai, but Roop Kumar Rathod managed to hold his own against the Bharat ratna. The everlasting appeal of the song was evident as the audience sang along. For how many songs of today can you say that?
Kabhie Khushi Kabhi Gham...that is actually how a Latabai concert is....u cry laugh and dance...the number although definitely not among her best was yet, mesmerising with the huge orchestra doing a great job.
A Latabai concert without a Madan Mohan gem is like the cake without the icing. When she sang "Lag jaa gale..", the tears were definitely not under control.
I do not know why the Lady is always anxious about singing "Kucch Dil ne kaha..." As usual, she asked the audience to clap if they liked the song. The audience did not wait for the song to start. The claps were like "Any song that you sing is good enough!". The diva has a nice sense of humor "Taaliya do tarah ki hoti hai..ek jo sar pe uthanewali aur doosri jo gaane ke aakhir mein bajaayi jaati hai, tareef ke. Mujhe pehlewala nahin chahiye!" When she was through with the number, the thunderous applause was testimony enough that she does not need crude lyrics and rhythm to hold her fans.
Udit joined Latabai on stage. He had changed his dress to which Latabai commented,"When I sing a concert, I am very superstitious about my dress, my earrings, if my first item goes well, I do not change my dress throughout the concert. But Udit is very confident...!"
They got together for the ever popular "Arre re arre...(Dil to pagal hai)" and "hum ko humise" (Mohabbatein). No faltering this time. Flawless rendition.
The next round of Udit was very gratifying. Ud Jaa Kaale Kaaga (Gadar), Dil Ne yeh kaha (Dhadkan), a telugu song, Jaadoo teri nazar (darr), Pehla nasha (audience request) and Radha chilkamma (telugu-audience request).
Just proved why he is the current star in male playbacksinging. Different songs, Different moods.
Usha Mangeshkar held her own with "Hamein aur jeene ki(Agar tum na hote)" and admitted, "Jab bhi main didi ke gaane gaati hoon to mujhe bahut darr laga rahta hai...usne ek ek gaane itne acche gaa rakhe hai..."
Everytime she came on stage there were murmurs ..."Ab mungda gayegi!" . For the connoisseurs it is not exactly what they want to hear, but the audience loves it and there it was...as usual she got an encore!
For the last lap of the concert, Latabai took stage with the less popular but more satisying numbers. "Ae Dil e nadaan(Razia Sultan)" was exactly what I was aching to hear although she forgot that immortal pause for "Kaisin uljhan hai.." It is hard to keep a dry eye for this song.
Jiya Jale followed next and the chorus goofed up twice. I was kind of anxious whether Latabai would take it off from there but she continued as though there was no problem at all. Incredible stuff, the Lady and her music!
Aate jaate (Maine pyaar kiya) was good enough.
Hridaynath then joined his didi for the classical "Ja Ja Re(Lekin)" and the queen of melody was put to test. No wonder all the sisters are scared singing with him. To say that it sent shivers down the spine would be an understatement of sorts. As usual, this was followed by Yaara Seeli Seeli and the lady sounded as good as she had a decade back with the high notes.
Everyone assembled on stage for "Vande Mataram" Fortunately, like most concerts, the audience did not have to be told to get up. Everyone stood up in unison to acknowledge the song and the singer.
But wait....where was "Aye mere watan ke logon...?" The audience refused to leave without hearing the song...and the Lady blushed and obliged. How many concerts have you seen where most of a huge crowd waits till after midnight and still cannot get enough? As usual very few dry eyes remained after the end of the song making Latabai remark," I am so thrilled that although I have come after 40 years, you people treat me as your very own". The Lady underestimates herself grossly.
The programme came to an end with the bursting of crackers and thunderous applause.
A Latabai concert I realised, is like no other. There are no dancers, no glamour....just soulful music. Music is religion and she is the high priestess. Humble, smiling and gracious, she is the epitome of the ideal singer. All euphemisms fail when you actually hear her. True, she does not sound like she did in her prime..who does...?but as usual the only yardstick with whom you can compare her is herself...she is way ahead of other singers at any point of time.
A fan went down on his knees asking her to sing "Niddura Pora tammuda" but she was not prepared for the telugu song.
The only sad thing about a Latabai concert is that her best numbers are given the go by to make way for popular taste. Hope she does a concert with "Seeli hawa chho gayi.." "Ae dil banjare" "Raat ki mehfil sooni sooni" etc..one day.
I saw and heard my God(ess)...and I will not forget the experience. Thanks Mr. Parulkar, Ajit and Vidya! I will be forever grateful. And Yogesh too....:)