I don't think we need any explanations on why 'Rahman Rocks'. I feel inadequate to use adjectives to describe his compositions. But, I cannot resist mentioning that he is just an awesome singer.
His performance of "Khwaja" (Jodha Akbar), "Arziyan" (Delhi 6), and of course "Jai Ho" (Slumdog Millionaire) were brilliant. He also played a wide range of snippets from romantic numbers on the piano. The highlight of the show was the medley of tunes created by Rahman, scratched and brilliantly mixed into one long piece.
So, yes the concert in terms of performances was enjoyable.
BUT, there had to be a 'but'...there was nothing else, absolutely nothing else added to the audience's pleasure. The first let down was the entry to the venue. No, I'm not talking of the haphazard parking issues and hideous traffic management. As a friend put it, 'management' is too big a word to be used in this context.
I was completely put off by the ground on which the show was organized. The passes and the website mentioned "Balewadi Stadium" or "Balewadi Stadium Complex" as the venue, which implied that the show would be at the stadium. Else the complex is known as "Balewadi Sports Complex" or "Sports City". To quote the same friend - the venue should have read "off Balewadi Stadium". Oh well, looks like I missed some finer print.
So, there was this mega-rectangle of a ground accommodating over 20000 people, and the stage was at one of the shorter edges. Then there was some comfortable seating for the VVIP section and the higher priced seats. And yet I don't think anyone after the 10th row had a clear view of the stage. We were at this 'stadium' with no stadium sitting. I was in the Rs. 1000 section which was rows after rows of plastic chairs. Utter chaos with people piling chairs on chairs to gain height, or worse, standing on the chairs. . I'm sure the stage was a dot to the standing passes which cost Rs. 450 per head.The least the 'organizers' could have done was to have screens spread evenly across the ground. A better sound system that was tested for acoustics would have been nice too.
Well, maybe it was a game of expectations. But, seriously, had I known that I'll be shelling Rs. 7000 for my family of 7 to have a intermittent view of the stage punctuated by towers constructed to hold speakers and the likes, I would certainly have reconsidered.
Add to this the near-zero interaction between the performers and the crowd. Earlier I've attended a few live shows - shows by Lata Mangeshkar, Asha Bhosle, Sonu Nigam, Kunal Ganjawala and Palash Sen. All of them had an awesome connection with the audience. Yes, even Palash Sen, though I didn't quite enjoy the songs. Though Lata Mangeshkar herself is not peppy and bubbly and likes to focus on her singing, she had a couple of other performers who filled that gap and her talks between the songs would engage the audience. I digress.
The second huge let-down were the compères. Of all the people, RJ Aditi and RJ Shrikant!?!? Yikes. I felt like apologizing on behalf of Pune to all the non-Puneites in the audience. Was A. R. Rahman not given an opportunity to audition them? Did he not listen to a single line from one of their Radio shows? They very obviously no script ready, so of course they hadn't anything to rehearse. They were absolutely unprepared and looked like they were snatching attention from each other. I can understand that they were flabbergasted to be on the same platform as A. R. Rahman and Lata Mangeshkar. But, isn't an MC supposed to get over that, like quickly? Maybe there's a reason they are called MCs. Enough said.
Then there were the beneficiaries who shamelessly took too much of what could have been Rahman-time. This of course provoked a lot of 'boos'. No audience must have clapped so hard in the second line of a speech implying, "dude, we are done with your talk". This is the first time I saw a speaker cut his address short because of audience reaction. So much so that, Lata Mangeshkar who was the next speaker started with, "Will you listen if I talk?"
Sure, overall the concert was disappointing. But, I wanted to go to this one for my kids. And my son enjoyed every bit. As far as I'm concerned, with no view, and no back and forth with the artists, I decided to close my eyes and focus on Rahman's compositions and the wonderful voices. And that was immensely satisfying.