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“Saaz Aur Awaaz” Music Show Packs Punch And Delights Bollywood Music Lovers!

Shuchita Rao

The “Saaz aur Awaaz” musical extravaganza was a tribute to five decades of Bollywood music by Boston based singer Smt. Anuradha Palakurthi, renowned, internationally recognized Bollywood singer Shri Suresh Wadkar and the talented Indian singer-composer Shri Mithilesh Patankar. A live orchestra of 16 accomplished musicians led by Shri Kamlesh Bhadkamkar and a professional sound recording engineer Shri Vijay Dayal, traveled from India to stage two “Saaz aur Awaaz” shows – the first one held at Columbus, Ohio on Friday, September 23 and the second one at Norwood, MA on Sunday, September 25.  Featuring 30 songs sung originally by two dozen Bollywood singers over the decades such as veteran singers Mubarak Begum, the Mangeshkar sisters Lata and Asha, Geeta Dutt, Runa Laila, Mohammed Rafi, Manna Dey, Talat Mahmood, SP Balasubramaniam and Bappi Lahiri as well as contemporary singers Sonu Nigam, Shaan, Alka Yagnik, Sunidhi Chauhan, Shreya Ghoshal and Chitra, the 3.5 hour long no-intermission production enthralled Bollywood music lovers from start to finish.

“There was a time when no one cared about the actual singer in the film song. Their names were never announced” said a voice from behind the curtain as a way of introducing the theme of the “Saaz Aur Awaaz” show. The evening’s performers went on to breathe life into the forgotten melodies that were created by gifted music directors of yesteryears and rendered by golden voices, supported on a variety of instruments by brilliant musicians some of whom seemed to spin out interlude after interlude from memory. The symphonic orchestral texture of the music band was one of the best Boston has ever heard live in performance. The same band had assisted Anuradha last year for the R. D. Burman show but this year, they outdid themselves. The saxophonist, the flautist, the sitarist, the violinist, the brilliant percussion team and all the other band musicians and director deserve special mention for their unique contributions.

Endowed with a supple and attractive voice, a sound sense of rhythm and pleasing stage presence, Anuradha was the undisputed queen of the “Saaz aur Awaaz” show.  Such was the magic of the Yashraj films recording engineer Shri Vijay Dayal’s audio management skills, that he dynamically adjusted the sharpness and density attributes of each singer’s voice to make it come very close to the original singer’s voice. Anuradha sounded like Lata Mangeshkar in the Lata numbers, like Asha Bhosle, Runa Laila, Mubarak Begum or Alka Yagnik in the songs originally sung by each of those singers. Shri Patankar, whose ability to enjoy himself while singing on stage was infectious, sounded like singer Shaan, Talat Mahmood at different times and like Amitabh Bachchan in “Khaike Paan Banaras Waala” song. Informative audio and video snippets (sound bites) set the historical context before each Bollywood genre (pop song, classical, item song, folk song) was presented, the creative use of stage lights altered the atmosphere for the songs,  and a couple of Rajasthani folk dances added a splash of color to the evening’s presentation. Shri Suresh Wadkar’s inimitable, emotion laden voice and interaction with the audience stole the hearts of everyone on and off the stage.

The show began shortly after 4pm with a welcome speech by the producer and visionary entrepreneur, Shri Prashanth Palakurthi. “Life was mostly about business and children until now. Anuradha’s Guru, Vidushi Smt. Arati Ankalikar-Tikekar is the architect of a new dimension in our family’s lives - MUSIC!” he said to the audience. Next, he introduced and welcomed the special guests of the evening, Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, famous drummer Sivamani,  Paul Deveno of the Home Depot foundation, Vincent Perrone and Denis Leary, executives from Veterans, Inc, a non-profit organization devoted to charitable programs and services for war veterans.  Guest speeches were evocative and reminded the audience for the need for appreciation and community support for war veterans who may have fallen on rough times while serving their country’s needs and invited donations to help the cause.

Anuradha opened the show with the song “Parde mein rehne do, parda na uthao”.  In a clever act of program direction, the dark velvet curtains hesitated for just a bit before they opened to show the musicians on the stage.  The opening song was greeted with warm applause. A black backdrop with dozens of gold tinsel strings and glittering lights added a glamorous touch to the stage. Anuradha dressed in a pale green silk sari with gold thread embroidery, her hair done up in a tight bun with white flowers adorning it, looked calm, collected and beautiful. Flanked on either side by 16 musicians wearing shades of sun-burnt orange and green ethnic attire, sitting on tiered platforms decorated with cream and bright red fabric, Anuradha stood next to the elegantly dressed orchestra conductor, Shri Kamlesh Bhadkamkar who faced his orchestra.

“1 2, 1 2 3 4” Shri Bhadkamkar would say at the start of each song and the professional film orchestra supporting the singing voices would come alive to fill the cavernous auditorium packed to capacity with the glorious tunes of popular Bollywood hits. Kishore Musale and Archis Netke on dholak, Vinayak Netke on tabla, Nilesh Parb on Congas and thumba, Sidharth Kadam on octopad and Bisaji Tawde on western drums created fantastic rhythms. Satyajit Prabhu and Ashwin Rokade on keyboard synthesizer, Amar Oak on flute, Prasad Gondkar on sitar, Kishor Naikhede on guitar, Robin Fargose on trumpet, Suresh Yadav on Saxophone, Shruti Bhave on violin and supporting vocals were the other instrumentalists who made the evening special with their talents. Shri Manish Kulkarni assisted in the music coordination. The audience learned that many of the instrumentalists were musicians who had recorded background music for the original songs created in early 60s and 70s. Saxophone player, Shri Suresh Yadav, for instance, had played with yester-year composers such as C. Ramchandra.

Anuradha’s Guru, the eminent Hindustani classical vocalist Smt. Arati Ankalikar-Tikekar spoke about Anuradha’s hard work in preparing for the show and her excellence in balancing the roles of a music student, friend, wife, mother, daughter and daughter-in-law. She also praised the couple Prashanth and Anuradha for their love and caring attitude toward each other. She then introduced the Bollywood star Shri Suresh Wadkar as “Gavaiyyon ka Gavaiyya” (singer among singers) and invited him to the stage. Shri Wadkar gave a splendid performance despite being unwell, having been recently diagnosed with a hairline fracture as a result of whiplash. Ignoring his doctor’s advice to give rest to his body, he delivered a variety of solo songs and duets with Anuradha and Mithlilesh Patankar. The Kalyanji Anandji composition “Aur Is Dil Mein Kya Rakkha Hai, Tera hi Dard Chchupa rakkha hai” Shri Wadkar portrayed the sadness of heartbreak very effectively. “I feel the pain of a sensitive heart through his music” said Sharon high school senior Radha Rao. Shri Wadkar’s delivered his solos, an Ilaya Raja composition “Ae Zindagi Galey Lagaa Lay”, the Mohammed Rafi song “Tum jo mil gayay ho” and “Main hoon Prem Rogi” with uncanny command and the smooth finesse of an experienced musician. His duet with Anuradha “Megha Re Megha” and the duet with Mithilesh Patankar “Chappa Chappa Charkha chaley”  were received extremely well by the audience.

Each song rendered in the “Saaz aur Awaaz” show offered a unique feel. Of the 30 songs presented, some were lilting melodies (Main na bhooloonga, main na bhooloongi by Anuradha and Mithilesh, Saawan ka Mahina by Anuradha and Suresh Wadkar), some foot-tapping numbers (Hothon main aisi baat and Laal mori puth by Anuradha, aaj kal tere mere pyaar ke charchay by Anuradha and Mithilesh, Ye mera dil pyaar ka deewana by the orchestra and Sapnon mein milti hai by Shri Wadkar, Shri Patankar and Anuradha) raga based songs (Huzoor is kadar bhi na itrah ke chaliye by Shri Wadkar and Mithilesh, Palkein na moondon by Anuradha, instrumental melody Kuhoo Kuhoo bolay koyaliya) and folk based melodies from Rajasthan to which local dancers Shikha Bajpai and Purbi Rana danced with verve and abandon.

Some songs required a rough timbred voice (Cholee kay peechay kya hai by Anuradha and Shruti Bhave, Chal chaiyyan chaiyyan chaiyyan by Anuradha and Mithilesh) while others required a more rounded and sweet voice (Megha Re Megha, Tere bina zindagi mein koyi). Rapping skills were needed in one song while the exact opposite, the ability to hold a note for a long time was needed in others (Palkein na moondon). It was apparent that the judgement of when to project with a full-throated voice (Subhaan allah subhaan allah), when to tone it down a bit (saawan ka maheena) and the appropriate ornamentation for each of the songs was carefully considered and practiced to perfection as part of the preparation for the concert. Telugu and Marathi members in the audience were delighted by a song in Telugu and another in Marathi presented by Anuradha and Shri Wadkar.

“Saaz aur Awaaz” was a well-coordinated musical production with competent mixing and subtle balancing of sounds, quick entry/exit of the performers and the thoughtful sequencing of songs. Imaginative music, competent singers, an excellent band along with deft program execution by a team of volunteers with strong management skills led to the success of the show. There was just one technical glitch, which was the temporary failure of Anuradha’s music listening device pinned to her waist. She sang well despite the snag and the problem was fixed promptly. One suggestion for the next program would be to reduce the length of the program as listener fatigue had begun to set in after about two and half hours.

“Pinjre waali mooniya was my favorite song in the show” said Ram Gupta, a concert attendee with a sparkle in his eye. ”I loved the way she held the high Sa note for a long time in the classical number” said Satyavati Rao, another concert attendee. A delicious vegetarian dinner catered by Masala Art restaurant followed the musical event.

In a moving finale, Anuradha, standing next to her husband Prashanth, thanked her Guru, her family, her co-singers and accompanists, the “Saaz aur Awaaz” organizing team for their efforts and the audience for their presence. “Thank you Boston” she said with tears in her eyes. Judging from the smiles of the concert attendees and the congratulations messages pouring into “Saaz aur Awaaz” facebook page, it was clear that Anuradha, Shri Wadkar and Shri Patankar met audience expectations with the fine selection and delivery of an impressive range of Bollywood hit songs spanning five decades. Bollywood music lovers in Boston have enjoyed three musical productions presented by the Palakurthis and eagerly await the next one.

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