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Quite expectedly, popular Auckland singer Rachit Bhatia’s ‘Dil chahta hai – Unforgettable melodies to modern classics’ left a rapturous audience asking for more last Friday (24 Sep) at the Dorothy Winstone Centre.

Featured regularly in most Hindi film music concerts over several years now, this was Rachit’s maiden gig under his own banner Rachit Music. It was a dream first gig: a sellout, as it should have been, given both the superb quality of the product (Rachit) and the packaging (the slick promos). It marked the twentieth anniversary of Rachit’s first stage performance.

The show had a lot going for it. The repertoire, which aimed to cover six decades of popular melodies, was an excellent mix representative of the varied flavours of different eras, composers and singers. Selections from the decade of the 1990s resonated particularly well with the audience, given the dominant demographic at the event.

Blessed with an incredibly versatile voice, the ever-smiling, thigh-slapping, cavorting and prancing Rachit has an alluringly energizing stage presence that would be the envy of many an entertainer. He is equal parts singer and entertainer; the complete audio+visual package.

He straddles the stage with the same ease, dexterity, energy and finesse as he traverses through a range of musical genres. His excellent rendition of just one iconic but extremely complex number proved his awesome talent beyond doubt: Ek chatur naar from the popular 1968 film Padosan.

This R.D. Burman-composed song, sung by the legendary Manna Dey and Kishore Kumar, is not only fast-paced but is a raagmalika of four classical raags – Khamaj, Bihag, Des and Chhaya Nat in sequence. What’s more, it’s sung in both the Hindustani and Carnatic styles in quick, alternating sequences by Dey and Kumar with all manner of voice inflections. Rachit nailed it exceedingly well singing for both the original voices – something not for the fainthearted.

While ‘unforgettable melodies to modern classics’ gives one a very broad canvas to choose songs from, picking the right mix would have been a daunting task and Rachit’s team did an excellent job of it. The selection was both popular and eclectic from a range of eras and composers. A particularly clever way of extending the range of selection was through medleys, of which there were at least three – all executed with aplomb and with multiple singers.

Though designed primarily around Rachit, Dil Chahta Hai afforded generous billing to Auckland’s talented voices Ankita Ghatani and Arpita Chanda who contributed handsomely to the show’s overall appeal. Ankita is clearly a rapidly rising star on Auckland’s musical horizon. Arpita excelled herself on the night. Raul Cardoza, who completed the quartet of singers, performed adequately in his comparatively narrow range of less-melody-more-rhythm type numbers.

As well as Rachit’s dynamism on stage complemented by Raul’s own energetic manner, the show was a visual delight with frequent and interesting costume changes by the four singers against Chai Rajapurkar’s quick-changing digital backdrops.

The complement of musicians was exquisite, praised by Rachit throughout the show. Don Dilantha’s violin and guitar electrified the interludes while the experienced and talented Hemant Thakar and Cloyd D’Mello’s keys suffused the soundscape. Deeksha on her Saxophone was excellent and so were the percussion duo Nigel and Kris.

The characteristic resounding richness of the tabla and dholak wielded by the super-talented Navneel, though, sounded rather subdued by the louder and flatter sounds of the drums. Unlike several recent Hindi film music shows, the sound at Dil Chahta Hai was superbly balanced.

Junoo was the show’s MC.

Those who left Friday night’s show wanting more, take heart. Rachit has announced another show in early 2023.

First appeared in the Indian Weekender of 27 September 2022