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Last updateTue, 17 Mar 2015 2pm

Hariharan at Alchemy Festival 2013: "Bollywood or Bust!"

There is no doubt that Hariharan is one of India’s most versatile and talented singers: ghazal maestro, pop star (‘Colonial Cousins’) and ‘playback’ singer for films in various regional languages including Telugu, Tamil and Hindi.

Most ‘fans’ would know him from his Bollywood collaboration with the ‘Mozart from Madras’ AR Rahman who provided him with classic tracks from the groundbreaking ‘Roja’ and ‘Bombay’ soundtracks.

It was on this basis that this concert was pre-dominantly billed so audiences may have been left somewhat bewildered and disappointed at the proceedings.

After a fifteen minute delayed start (nothing by Indian standards), the ‘support’ duo of Sivamani and Bickram Ghosh kicked off the evening with some foot stomping musical peppy numbers.

The man himself appeared in relatively rapid succession and spent the next forty minutes or so singing tuneful numbers (one from ‘south India’, the dreamy ‘Dimmi Dimmi’ and painfully slow but sweet one from ‘Taal’).

He attempted audience participation by asking them to sing along to ‘ma ma sa ga’ but it was clear this audience wanted their ‘hits’. This was evidenced by a female member (drunk or excited? Or both?)  running up to the stage and demanding Hariharan to sing a particular number. He obliged. This turned out to be one of his popular ghazals which again did not gel with the Bollywood expectations of certain sections of the audience.

Perhaps aware of this, Hariharan soon rendered his ‘Roja Janeman’ number which evoked the necessary audience adulation. Alas, this track was almost ruined by Hariharan’s indulgent decision to sing it to a different tune rather than the original soulful beat.

One and a half hours in, Hariharan disappeared leaving the musicians to ‘entertain’ us with their ‘compositions’ which at one point involved hitting instruments at random.

Many audience members reacted by deciding to head to the bar!

In true gig fashion, the expected hits came at the end making the night a mixed bag really. It’s always great to see a living legend perform ‘live’ but sometimes the listening experience is often more rewarding by simply sticking their ‘greatest hits’ CD on your ipod.

- Anil Sinanan

Dr Anil Sinanan is a graduate of Oxford University and a specialist in European Law.  He is the Bollywood film critic for Time Out London and can be heard dissecting the latest Bollywood releases on the Nikki Bedi show on BBC London, every Friday at 10pm.    

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