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Shankar Ehsaan Loy hold Chennai ‘Breathless’ at The Shakti Foundation’s annual concert

There are a few fundamental truths we learn as we move along in life. One of them, as the audience at The Music Academy learnt over the weekend, is that you don’t attend a Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy concert sitting down.

Music composer trio Shankar Mahadevan, Ehsaan Noorani and Loy Mendonsa performed at The Shakti Foundation’s Gurucarana concert, which marked 30 years of the NGO’s work in catering to the medical needs of people with physical or financial challenges in the rural sector.

Every year in February, The Shakti Foundation holds a fundraiser concert with musical greats. For Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy, this association with the foundation is a long-standing one. Incidentally, this year is an important one for the trio too — this is its 25th year in the music industry.

At the Gurucarana concert, Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy played its crowd-favourites, starting with the piano solo of ‘Kal Ho Na Ho’.

Loy’s delicately wistful tune has become a pop culture staple, heard everywhere from toy cell phones and cars reversing to wedding receptions and amateur keyboard players playing with one index finger.

Thereon, the trio moved on to groovier numbers including ‘Rock On’, ‘Pretty Woman’, ‘Senorita’, ‘Mast Magan’ and of course, ‘Breathless’, prompting the audience to get up and dance. Enthused, an elderly lady got up as well, hobbled up to the front rows, and danced with her walker as a prop.

While the chemistry between the trio needs no description, it is the chemistry between Shankar and the audience that always stands out. Talented musicians can seem imposing, creating a divide of respect between the stage and the listeners. But Shankar Mahadevan is a performer through and through, making the 1,000-plus-seater hall of The Music Academy seem like an intimate house party.

He invited the audience to sing with him, creating a jugalbandi with them, challenging them to keep up with him as he unleashed harkat after harkat during his rendition of ‘Locha e Ulfat’. He responded in good humour to what would seem like heckles in more serious performances. In fact, he did not shy away from some good-natured ribbing from his side, either. “I find that the energy level of the audience is inversely proportional to the amount of money they have paid for the seats,” he remarked, teasing the VIP section of the audience to cheers from the back.

Well-meaning bonds

This stage presence is perhaps what makes them returning invitees at The Shakti Foundation, combined with their mutual passion for doing their bit for people in need of medical help.

“Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy have never said no to us,” said Vasanth Raghuvir, chairman of the foundation and organiser of this event. “When celebrities like them speak for us, it gives our cause a lot of credibility.”

The Shakti Foundation was established in 1992 by Vasanth’s son, Velan Raghuvir. After Velan lost his life to Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy in 1998, his parents decided to continue his work, raising awareness about the needs of people with conditions similar to Velan’s. From there, they moved on to helping the rural sector with medical challenges, identifying Adhiparasakthi Medical and Research Hospital as a means for this.

While Shankar is generally the mouthpiece for the trio, the reticent Loy, called upon to speak about their association, summed it up with an aptly pithy, “It is not what you say, it is what you do.”

The trio left the audience to a standing ovation, but not before performing Vishwaroopam’s ‘Unnai Kaanadhu’.

As Ehsaan had put it in an earlier interview to MetroPlus, “It is not possible for Shankar to come to Chennai and leave without performing his Tamil songs.”

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