Zee Bollywood Rockstars with Pritam. Interestingly, Zee TV UK’s Pritam night at Wembley Arena began with an A R Rahman song! I had not heard of Jasraj Joshi until the announcement of this show last week; and on searching him up had found some impressive performances on Saregamapa, that he won in 2012. And it was this man who set the ball rolling in style with a finely nuanced performance of ARR’s Maa Tujhe Salaam fused with the original desh raag based composition. Jasraj’s opener show might have lasted just under 30 minutes, but that was enough for the singer to stamp his versatility. While on the classical side he followed up Vande Maataram with Kailasa’s Teri Deewani; at the other end of the spectrum were an imaginative mashup of Urvasi Urvasi, Maiyya Maiyya and Humma Humma. And the short performance ended with Vishal Bharadwaj’s Dhan Te Nan.
Which brought to stage the man of the evening, Pritam Chakraborty, singing Tujhko Jo Paaya. A decent performance, not without flaws. Then again, Pritam didn’t become famous for his singing. People were there to listen to his compositions. Of which there were loads to follow! First of the singers to be introduced was Soham Chakraborty, with the song that was his ticket to limelight, In Dino. The man sang it beautifully here too, with some onstage improvisations. Pritam then went on to say how the pioneering Bengali rock band Mohiner Ghoraguli (whose reunion concert I had the privilege of attending in Bangalore in 2007) was a rage during his college days, and how he decided to do a tribute to the band in the movie Gangster. The man also sang some parts of the Bengali original Prithibi before Aditi Singh Sharma made her entry with a sprightly rendition of Bheegi Bheegi. The 2010 Indian Idol winner Sreerama Chandra (not Sriram Iyer as was advertised earlier) was next up, with O Meri Jaan, also from Life in a Metro. Having aced a stage performance based competition, it was no surprise that he did good on this stage as well. One of Pritam’s biggest hits from last year, Kabira, was performed next and with it came Harshdeep Kaur, in her trademark sufi attire. Another established performer, she carried off the song very nicely. Pritam then introduced the Serbian accordionist Milos Milivojevic (who played those lovely accordion parts in Barfi, and also in songs like Lat Lag Gayi), on how he discovered him on youtube while on the search for an accordionist for Barfi. The song that followed was Aashiyaan, sung by Nikhil Paul George. Nikhil has said in interviews in the past that he isn’t really a singer. And his singing was with imperfections as expected, but together with Milos’s performance, it was quite enjoyable. The moment Benny Dayal got onto the stage I could hear shouts for Badtameez Dil from the crowd. That came much later though, he started with a song that wasn’t his, Ilahi.
After that first round of introduction, the stage was given to Harshdeep for a short sufi session, during which she sang Jugni that Pritam had adapted for Cocktail, Challa that had an adapted version in Crook, and the ever popular Mast Kalandar. And then there was a Dhoom-based medley from Aditi, the lady singing a string of songs from across three editions of the movie. Another ARR moment of the evening happened when Pritam came back on stage to wish the audience a happy Baisakhi and got Harshdeep to sing Ik Onkar (yeah I know it is a traditional song, but when it is Harshdeep and Ik Onkar, hard not to think of ARR and Rang De Basanti). After that short segment of mellowness, the octane levels were set to the maximum once again with Soham singing Nagada alone and then joined by Sreeram and Aditi for a dance medley that included Gandi Baat, Pungi, Agal Bagal and Dhating Naach, all of which went totally with the atmosphere in the arena.
Post a short interval came the unplugged session that had Pritam, Soham, Sreeram and Harshdeep singing some of the softer melodic pieces like Main Rang Sharbaton Ka, Subhaanallah, Teri Ore etc. One prominent absentee in the unplugged set was Raabta; I was later told that the song list had to be curtailed because of time issues. Really wish Raabta wasn’t among the ones sacrificed though. With the unplugged segment done, it was back to the live wires Benny and Aditi to take the audience through the home stretch with the peppier numbers. Once they had the crowd back on their feet with songs like Badtameez Dil and Lat Lag Gayi and Let’s Go Bananas, the other singers joined back in for the last handful of dance numbers, ending the night on a colourful high with Balam Pichkaari. It would be unfair to write a report of the gig without crediting some of the stars from the band – Blackstratblues man Warren Mendonsa and Krishna Prashan were fab on the guitars, as were Nirmalya Humtoo Dey on flute, Tapas Roy on the ethnic string instruments and Umang Doshi on keys.
So some minor glitches like the late start (the show was over a half hour late starting off) and the occasional sound issues aside, a thoroughly entertaining evening with a good mix of songs from across genres. Some of Pritam’s star singers may have been missing at the gig, but the ones who were present made up for that very well.