Music composer and singer A.R. Rahman performs at IIFA Rocks, July 14, at the MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey during the 18th International Indian Film Academy (IIFA) Festival. (Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images)
A.R. Rahman came, he performed but some of the Hindi-speaking concertgoers were not impressed as they targeted him for being language-biased saying he sang too many Tamil songs. But the organizers and Rahman’s sister A.R. Raihanah refuted the claims. Meanwhile, A.R. Rahman’s IIFA Rocks concert, which saw the crowd groove to the Oscar and Grammy winner’s popular Hindi and Tamil tracks, was proof that music trumps all language barriers.
The “Netru Indru Nalai” (Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow) concert at Wembley Arena on July 8 attracted hundreds to what was described as a celebration of the Chennai-born star’s 25- year musical journey.
But a few concertgoers claimed on Facebook and Twitter later that they had walked out over the lack of Bollywood tunes from Rahman’s repertoire.
Some of the users on Twitter complained that they felt duped by the organizers, as they were promised the performances would be in Hindi and Urdu.
“#ARRahman concert: Never seen so much #disappointment & #masswalkouts. Approx one per cent of songs in Hindi.
#ssearena filled on #falseadvertising,” one of the users tweeted.
Another tweeple expressed his displeasure that the show failed to impress the fans and how he felt let down by Rahman.
“#ARRahman very disappointed with the concert tonight in Wembley. Waited for a very long time to be disappointed. Not expected from a legend,” he wrote.
The criticism prompted the organizers—HueBox Entertainment and Hamsini Entertainment—to publish the complete song list from the concert to highlight the balanced nature of the show.
“Hi London, thanks for the tremendous support and response, however we have been getting few complaints on language bias which is rather unfortunate as this was an Indian show and music doesn’t have any barriers,” said a statement from the organizers on the official A.R. Rahman Live – UK Facebook page.
“Nevertheless, we have posted the track list performed at the SSE Arena Wembley to prove that there were 16 full tracks in Hindi, 12 full Tamil tracks and 1 Medley with a mix of Tamil and Hindi,” they added.
In an interview to a TV channel, the Oscar-winning composer’s sister Raihanah also said there was a decent number of Hindi songs in the set list and she did not spot any audience leaving in middle of the concert.
“We did have pretty good number of Hindi songs. There were some songs sung in Hindi like ‘Humma Humma,’ ‘Enna Sona’ ‘Dil Se Re’ and ‘Dil Hai Chota Sa.’
“I think we are Indians. We should not think small. We should think as Indians. It’s an Indian language. So, we should think beyond boundaries. Music is all about love and harmony,” she said.
Many celebrities and singers also came out in support of Rahman.
“That is rude. I don’t have knowledge about it, so I can’t comment further. All I will say is that it was rude,” Priyanka Chopra said.
South Indian singer Chinmayi Sripada also took to Twitter to support the award-winning composer by tagging the outrage by the fans as another show of intolerance and double standards.
“When Rahman sir wins 2 Oscars and creates history, he is ‘An Indian,’ but 7-8 Tamil gaane kya gaa liye aap naraaz hote ho (all this furor over playing 7-8 Tamil songs?). What yaar? The show was called ‘Netru Indru Naalai,’ had 65 percent, 6 Hindi songs (Set List is out there). Music knows no boundaries/ language.
“Chase the American dream, your kids can (speak) Spanish; Live in the UK that once colonized India – but cry foul when you hear Tamil songs,” wrote Sripada, who has sung “Tere Bina” from “Guru” in which Rahman gave the music.
Mocking the Hindi-speaking crowd, stand-up comic Aravind SA did a wordplay on the line from Rahman’s Academy Award- accepting speech, where he thanked The Almighty for his win.
He wrote, “If A.R. Rahman won his Oscar today, I’m pretty sure some people would have wanted him to say – ‘Sab Pugal Bhagwan ke liye’.”
A.R. Rahman Weaves Musical Magic at IIFA Rocks
Rahman brought the audience to its feet with his Tamil hits “Urvasi Urvasi” and “Humma Humma,” a scene so different from his recent UK concert for which he was trolled on the social media by concertgoers who felt there were too many Tamil songs.
There was a demand for an encore even after he regaled the crowd for almost two hours.
“What? Once more… I can’t hear you… Isn’t it too late?,” Rahman said on the stage before taking up the mic again to sing “Humma Humma.”
He performed his Oscar-winning hit track “Jai Ho” as the lighting on the stage changed to orange, green and white.
“I am thankful to you all for coming and supporting the concert… love you,” he said.
The musical extravaganza, which is part of the International Indian Film Academy (IIFA) awards events, celebrated 25 years of Rahman’s glorious journey that began with the success of “Roja” in 1992.
Rahman, 50, was joined by Diljit Dosanjh, Benny Dayal, Javed Ali, Neeti Mohan, Jonita Gandhi and Haricharan Seshadri at the MetLife stadium.
The music maestro teamed up with Mohit Chauhan to croon “Nadaan Parindey” while Neeti Mohan and Hariharan joined him for a duet on “Bin Tere Kya Jeena” and “Mere Paas Hai Tu,” respectively.
The other hit numbers from his vast repertoire were “Dil Hai Chota Sa,” “Agar Tum Saath Ho,” “Aye Hairate,” “Tere Bina” and “Tanha Tanha.”
Punjabi star Diljit’s songs “Ek Kudi” and “Patiala Peg” and Mika Singh’s energetic performance brought the audience to their feet.
“I am feeling very happy and proud that he (Rahman) called me here. Make some noise for Rahman sir. Love you all,” Mika added.
“I thank him for being an inspiration. I am honored to be here,” Jonita said.
Rahman, who recently composed the music for Sachin Tendulkar’s biopic, asked the crowd, “do you like cricket … do you like Sachin?,” before singing the title track of the film as the master blaster’s photograph was displayed on the screen.
– Komal Panchmatia