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The much-anticipated Dil Chahta Hai Returns show at the Dorothy Winstone Centre on 7 October was a musical spectacle that lived up to the high expectations set by the first edition last year. Designed by the gifted singer Rachit Bhatia, who also led a quartet of Auckland’s talented vocalists, including Kapil, Arpita, Ankita, and Ritika, the show was a perfect blend of entertainment and melodious nostalgia.

Rachit, with his versatility and vocal prowess, was the driving force behind the evening’s success. He effortlessly transitioned between songs from various genres and by singers both past and present. From classics by legends like Rafi (“Ehsan Tera” and “Chaudhvin Ka Chand”) and Rehman (featuring several of his iconic hits) to contemporary favourites by Arijit Singh and timeless gems by Lata Mangeshkar and Kishore Kumar, Rachit showcased his impressive range and musical nous.

The ensemble backing Rachit and his fellow vocalists, consisting of Tomomi, Everard, Dilanta, Cloyd, Nigal, Hemant and Prashant, provided exceptional accompaniment throughout the performance. Cloyd surprised the audience with his remarkable cameo vocal abilities (unobtrusively providing vocal intros at least to a couple of songs). I for one would love to hear more of him in future. Nigal’s mastery of the drums and his rhythmic precision places him among the best on Auckland’s percussion scene. Chaitanya’s sound engineering was flawless, ensuring that every note and lyric reached the audience in perfect harmony.

One of the standout moments of the evening was the execution of duets with finesse, as exemplified by the rendition of “Haal Kaisa Hai.” The chemistry between the vocalists and their harmonious delivery captivated the audience, leaving them swaying to the enchanting melodies.

A notable highlight came post-interval, with Rachit’s performance of self-composed songs. Though very original, it did seem to me that there was some inspiration from the early creations of the Shankar Ehsan Loy trio. The first number, redolent of the musicscapes of “Dil Chahta Hai,” brought back cherished memories, while the second, a jazz-inspired composition, showcased Rachit’s creative depth. Dilanta’s mastery of the electric guitar was exquisite, adding a layer of richness to the performance.

What truly resonated with many fans of the 1980s-90s music was the revisit to the then-nascent experimentation of young musicians with avant-garde genres. The rendition of “Dooba Dooba Rahta Hoon” brought nostalgia flooding back, reminding the audience of the time when music was being redefined. Rachit and his ensemble masterfully captured the essence of that era, leaving the audience with a sense of sentimental longing for the ’90s.

A special mention must go to Rachit’s brother, Sanchit, who made a remarkable comeback to the stage after many years. His rendition of “Na Tum Jano Na Hum” signalled him as the comeback kid. His powerful vocals belied the fact that he had been off the performing stage for such a length of time. It was a reminder of the incredible talent that often lies hidden within the folds of memory, waiting for the perfect moment to resurface.

Dil Chahta Hai Returns was a musical journey through time, skilfully designed and delivered by Rachit with a bunch of vocalists –some excellent, some who could do better– and a bevy of very fine musicians. The entire event itself was flawlessly packaged, sold, managed, and executed.

The show was a testament to the enduring charm of classic melodies and the ability of music to transport us to different eras. It was an exquisite ode to the past and a delightful celebration of the timeless beauty of music.

First appeared in the Indian Weekender issue of 11 October 2023
https://www.indianweekender.co.nz/Pages/ArticleDetails/34/22613/music/a-delightful-celebration-of-melodies-old-and-new