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Gopal Bhatia and his team have once again proven their prowess in delivering an unforgettable musical experience with their latest production, ‘Yeh Jo Mohabbat Hai,’ before a sold-out crowd at the Skycity theatre in Auckland last Saturday.

This mesmerising show was a tribute to India’s first superstar, Rajesh Khanna, and the timeless songs he sang on the silver screen during one of the golden eras of Indian cinema from the 1960s to the 1980s.

The concert was a fund raiser for the Roopa Aur Aap Charitable Trust, which has been delivering yeoman service to the Auckland community related to family violence and other family crisis situations for the past several decades. A number of dignitaries from the Indian community as well as NZ Government Minister Marama Davidson, representatives of the NZ Police and other organisations were on stage to support the fund raising appeal along with trustees Roopa Suchdev and Jeet Suchdev and other board members.

Bhatia, a consummate entertainer, has consistently delighted New Zealand audiences with his exceptional shows, and last Saturday’s performance was no exception. From the moment the curtains opened, the stage came alive with a burst of colours, energy, and an aura of nostalgia that transported us back to an era filled with romance, emotion, and unforgettable melodies.

The attention to detail in ‘Yeh Jo Mohabbat Hai’ was simply excellent. The content on the backdrop beautifully recreated the essence of the iconic films of Rajesh Khanna’s era. The playlist too was meticulously crafted, capturing the essence of the many moods of the superstar from those timeless films. It was evident that Bhatia and his team spared no effort in ensuring an authentic and visually stunning experience for the audience.

But the heart and soul of the show lay in the music itself. Beginning from the song selection (which is a most difficult task – what to select and what to leave, as Bhatia himself said on stage). The talented performers flawlessly rendered the Khanna’s hit songs, showcasing their exceptional vocal range and ability to convey the depth of emotions embedded within those melodies. The audience was captivated as they belted out some of the more memorable classics of the era, their voices resonating with the passion and romance that made these songs legendary.

What truly set this show apart was the way Bhatia seamlessly integrated innovative elements like Auckland’s well-known pianist Ben Fernandes playing a few solos and accompanying Bhatia on a few select songs. There was also a solo performed by talented flautist Daniel, that added to the allure of the concert. Through brief narratives and anecdotes, the performers shared fascinating insights into the life and times of Rajesh Khanna, taking us on a journey through the superstar’s illustrious screen career. It was a delightful blend of music, nostalgia, and storytelling, which left the audience both entertained and enlightened.

Singers Jaysree Sitaraman, Arpita Chanda, Kapil and Varun Bhagat joined Bhatia in bringing to life the songs of a bygone era with great finesse, accompanied by a team of excellent musicians including guitarist Vijay Murthy from India, Hemant Thakar on keys, Shalen on the tabla and the rhythm veteran Araad on digital rhythms and ‘samples’. Samples are pre-loaded sequences of orchestration produced by acoustic instruments that are not available on stage at the performance. In this case, Bhatia collaborated with a US based compny to incorporate these pieces.

The chemistry between the performers was palpable, as they effortlessly complemented each other on stage, creating a harmonious and captivating ambiance. The energy and enthusiasm emanating from the performers were infectious, and it was impossible not to get swept away by the sheer joy they exuded.

“Yeh Jo Mohabbat Hai” was a magical experience that transported us to a bygone era of timeless music and romance. Bhatia’s passion for his craft, combined with the exceptional talents of his team, made this show an absolute delight. If you have a love for Indian cinema and the mesmerizing songs of Rajesh Khanna, this musical extravaganza is an absolute must-see. The lighting and the sound balancing were near-perfect.

Dhansukh Lal, President of the Auckland Indian Association announced the organisation’s 100th anniversary musical concert titles ‘Chookar Mere Man Ko’ as taking place on September 30 at the Victory Convention Centre, in association with Gopal Bhatia and his team themed on the superstar of the century Amitabh Bachchan and the timeless voice of Kishore Kumar. The audience reacted with lusty applause in anticipation of the mega event that was announced, which will have artistes both from NZ and India, with “many surprises” according to Lal.

First appeared in the Indian Weekender dated 27 may 2023