Tag Archives: Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy

Eye-opening Concert by SEL+F

Who knew that it would be the memory of Sankara Eye Foundation (SEF) Founder Murali Krishnamurthy singing that would stay in my heart after the Shankar Ehsaan Loy and Farhan Akhtar 2018 concert?

“Jyot se jyot jagate chalo, prem ki ganga bahaatay chalo.” (Light another’s lamp with your own, let the river of love flow.)

During the event, Murali Krishnamurthy presented the progress of the organization to the event attendees. He thanked them for their support and announced that three hospitals in India have now become self-sufficient and two more are close to becoming self-sufficient. He also talked about extending capacity in India by partnering with highly qualified organizations to reach the remotest places in India. Together, SEF will be performing more than 200,000 free surgeries this year.

“It is always a pleasure to associate with SEF. Every time we meet people working for the cause, we feel so insignificant. They give us so much inspiration. Along with music, if we can be a part of this cause, we are looking at a bigger picture of what music can do.” Shankar Mahadevan spoke passionately about the association of Shankar, Ehsaan and Loy with SEF.

Credit: Rupali Gupta Photography for SEF

The SEL trio promised that the show will be a high-energy show and they did not disappoint. Their excitement to perform together for a noble cause was evident on their faces. Everything was bigger, grander, filled with energy, and a sight to behold as the crowds danced their hearts out. The concert was an eclectic mix of soul-stirring romantic songs and foot-tapping dance numbers. Songs from the movie Dil Chahta Hai were the clear favorites, but the poetry recital by Farhan Akhtar set the mood. His occasional narration of anecdotes from his life had the audience in splits. With every song, the atmosphere got better, brighter, and happier.

“San Jose! My engineering friends!” Shankar Mahadevan called out after commenting on the inverse relationship between the volume of the cheers and the distance from the stage. He was hinting at his own education as an engineer, before his love for music claimed him. The crowd roared as the call and response proceeded. Shankar Mahadevan was his effervescent self and brought his humorous side to the stage. The crowd was putty in his hands, as his musical virtuosity blazed through.

Loy played a beautiful rendition of the song ‘Kal Ho Naa Ho’. Ehsaan mesmerized with the guitar. A packed house came alive when Shankar sang the song ‘It’s the Time to Disco’ and ‘Galla Goodiyan’. Farhan Akhtar’s singing was not bad, but clearly he was sharing the limelight with musical giants of a much higher caliber. Curtains came down on the show with the trio performing with Farhan Akhtar and the audience came alive, even at the tail end of the concert. The atmosphere became celebratory when Shankar Mahadevan mentioned that the day marked the trio’s 22-year anniversary and thanked fans worldwide for supporting them and being instrumental in their success.

A few patrons shared their amazing experience at the SEF organized event. Madhvi Pratt, Nigel Pratt and Jay Visvanathan from Los Altos were there “for the wonderful music and to support Sankara Eye Foundation.”

Madhvi Pratt, Nigel Pratt and Jay Visvanathan at the concert.

Shamik Mehta was there to see Farhan Akhtar, whose films, he felt, were superb at depicting deep friendships. Raj Vakil from Santa Clara was hoping to hear ‘Gallan Gudia.’ Farhan Akhtar fan Neha Desai had eyes only for her ‘Farru,’ official eye candy of the show.

Volunteers Lata Malviya, Hema Rambia and Matha Tallam were handing out brochures with information about SEF.

SEF Volunteers

The last strain as I walked away from the San Jose State University event center was ‘Ay vatan,’ a nostalgic number from Raazi. Swaying concert attendees mouthed the words, singing along with their friends as the concert wound down and the performers took a bow.


Established in the Bay Area, SEF is a nonprofit organization that has been working for the past 20 years for the cause of eradicating curable blindness in India. Driven by this truly inspirational vision, SEF currently has 9 super specialty hospitals and is working on three new hospitals – in Hyderabad, Indore, and Mumbai. The tireless efforts by the SEF team since inception has enabled over 1.75 million people to receive the gift of vision, absolutely free of cost. The organization has maintained the top rating from Charity Navigator for sound fiscal health and commitment to accountability and transparency. SEF will host a Dandia extravaganza this year featuring Falguni Pathak.

Article cover photo credit: Rupali Gupta Photography for SEF

Soorma: For The Win

Diljit Dosanjh, who won acclaim for second lead roles, gets to play his first title role as international hockey player Sandeep Singh in Soorma (2018). The best thing about the actor is the softness about him, along with an endearing earnestness. Diljit adds quiet strength, finesse, and power to this ordinary-turned-extraordinary tale of a man who fought and conquered his paralysis.

Romance shadows the first half as Sandeep Singh is more set on doing somersaults for Harpreet (Taapsee Pannu) than hockey. It is love at first flick on the hockey ground as he croons Ishq Di Baajiyan. The song is lovely and Diljit works his magic despite the rough first-cut singing. In the movie, the first picturisation looks dreamy but is a distraction later in its multiple repetitions. There is also a bromance going on with his brother Bikramjeet Singh (Angad Bedi), also his mentor and part-time trainer. Although Sandeep’s sole motivation for playing hockey is winning Harpeet, he sets about making a name in the game for himself with the help of Bikram and coach Harry (Vijay Raaz) who is impressed by his drag flick. A shocking shooting accident pushes a roadblock on his way to success, and he loses his mobility.

The story is told with heart for sure, director Shaad Ali rightly chooses a linear format, co-writing with Suyash Trivedi and Siva Ananth. This works when the player is interacting with his family, but for the sport scenes, the sense of adrenaline on field hockey pitch isn’t captured as effectively. The hunger, and taste of victory is missing. Sandeep Singh’s recovery journey account on TED Talks, where he talks about being lonely in his rehabilitation, is better than the narrative here, which is a disappointment. It is rushed and stays in the sweet, tame zone. Shaad misses building and exploring the layers of Sandeep’s internal battle, leaving those painful moments out.

The movie picks up pace after he gets back with The Soorma Anthem, when he trains with his brother. It is the best inspirational song I have heard in recent times: the strings of my heart strummed higher with every thumping beat and Mahadevan’s booming voice. It is on my loop, and a definite top scorer for gym and running playlists. On the plus side, I loved the way Sandeep is shown wearing his heart on his sleeve, and Harpreet is shown as ambitious, and they resolve the love story without judging her. The authentic locations of Shahabad, Chandigarh, and Belgrade, are captured effectively by Chirantan Das. Farooq Hundekar does a smooth job with the editing.

Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy roll out the rest of the songs as superbly as the first two. Good Man Di Laaltain is fun, Pardesiya is soulful, and Flicker Singh is boisterous. Gulzar digs into his Punjabi roots to string innovative words like Ding Ding, Flicker Singh! and Padhariye. And of course, there is his quirky word play in Dhajji dhajji raat purani, chhed subah ki nayi yeh kahaani and Shaam aa jaaye toh, uth ke chaand ka maatha choom loon.

The real hero of this venture is the ensemble of rock-solid performances from one and all. It is a truism that good casting makes or breaks a movie. Here it saves it from falling into the average zone. Kulbhushan Kharbanda plays the sharp, supportive chairman, and lends his solid presence with excellence. Seema Kaushal is sincere as Daljeet Kaur. Satish Kaushik as his hopeful, weary, and proud father Gurcharan Singh is superb. Vijay Raaz lights up the screen with his natural penchant for splendid.

Taapsee Pannu balances the layers between her passion for sport, ambition, and love with a wonderfully sublime act. Angad Bedi conquers with his rawness, sincerity, and strong energy. Diljit Dosanjh absorbs the heart and quiet spirit of Sandeep with a superb performance. His own earnest personality merges with Sandeep’s to work perfectly whether at home, or on field.

This inspirational outing is definitely worth a watch for its authenticity, strong cast, and a story as incredible as it is admirable.

4 out of 5

Soorma (2018). Director: Shaad Ali. Writer: Suyash Trivedi, Shaad Ali, Siva Ananth. Players: Diljit Dosanjh, Angad Bedi, Satish Kaushik, Seema Kaushal, Taapsee Pannu, Vijay Raaz, Kulbhushan Kharbanda. Music: Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy. Lyrics: Gulzar. Theatrical release: Sony Pictures Networks India, C.S. Films.

Hamida Parkar is a freelance journalist and founder-editor of cinemaspotter.com. She writes on cinema, culture, women, and social equity.

This article was edited by Culture and Media Editor Geetika Pathania Jain.



Raazi: Spy on me

“Trust your instinct. It won’t fail you,” Khalid Mir tells Sehmat Khan, a college girl, as he prepares her for an exceptional journey she is about to take. The sound suggestion comes after training her for just a month. Her assignment? To spy on her husband’s family during the India-Pakistan war in 1971

Director Meghana Gulzar’s Raazi is mostly remarkable for the fact that she treats Sehmat as an ordinary girl caught in extraordinary circumstances. She doesn’t hesitate in making her flawed, human, and frail.  We are to understand that her horrific actions are side effects of her occupation rather than a choice.

Adapted for screen by Meghana and Bhavani Iyer, the film is based on an ‘incredible’ true story from Harinder Sikka’s book Calling Sehmat. It follows the journey of a woman who passed on crucial details about a sea attack that the Pakistani Navy was planning on their Indian counterpart.

Sehmat (Alia Bhatt) is cruising through her college education when her ailing father Hidayat Khan (Rajit Kapur), a spy himself, asks her to take on his baton after his death. And she does. Country before self, she says, without fully knowing the consequences of her decision. Khalid (Jaideep Ahlawat) does his best to prepare her within the time limit.

The first step is relatively easy. She must marry a Pakistani military officer Iqbal Syed (Vicky Kaushal) and gain access to the daily activities of his father, Brigadier Syed (Shishir Sharma), and brother Mehboob Syed (Ashwath Bhatt), both high ranking officers.The couple’s relationship develops slowly, but surely, and remains untainted for the most part except when they are on country duty.

The second bit is tricky as even though an informant, she doesn’t have the finesse to cover her activities like a pro. Communication systems weren’t as advanced at the time, and when Sehmat lands in trouble, she is left alone to save herself in crisis.

The success of Raazi lies in the muted tone of Meghana’s direction and the fact that she keeps it real. The focus quietly and subtly stays on Sehmat’s inner conflict throughout. It is remarkable that such a character actually existed, and reports spell out the traumatic effects of the experience on off-screen Sehmat. Her husband, in compelling contrast, is shown as transparent and earnest.

Though it is designed as a taut thriller, Meghana rightly resists the temptation to go overboard with the theatrics. Even in the final confrontation scene between the husband and Sehmat, she dials down the drama; he has an emotional reaction while Sehmat remains sensible in her survival mode. Ditto the scene where her father voices the conflict of his decision to his daughter. Or the scenes where she feels torn between humanity and survival.

The 1971 period setting is as strikingly genuine as Meghana’s treatment of the film. Production designer Subrata Chakraborty recreates Pakistan and India visuals of the time with spectacular accuracy and care. Cinematographer Jay I. Patel does an impeccable job of capturing the internal and external landscapes to stay within the pragmatic mood. The flow of the movie felt a bit jarring, am not sure if it was due to Nitin Baid’s editing or the writing.

Post the vivacious Mirzya (2016), Shankar-Ehsan-Loy team up Gulzar once more to create another rich album. Both versions of Ae Watan deliver on the spec of subtle patriotic fervour. The melodious Dilbaro envelops you right away with its lovely, delicate and warm sentiment. My favourite was the inspirational title song Raazi, where Arijit Singh sounds fresh and the song’s power lies in its resounding notes providing the right backdrop for Sehmat’s rigorous training.

The performances are fantastic across the board. Actors Rajit Kapur and Shishir Sharma play Sehmat’s father and father-in-law with conviction and grace, conveying their zealous love for country. Ashwath Bhatt is effective as the brother-in-law consumed by the mystery of Abdul’s murder, causing much stress to Sehmat.  Mother Soni Razdan replicates her real-life role on screen, making a significant impact despite her short appearance as Teji. Sanjay Suri makes a fleeting guest appearance. Arguably, Sehmat shares the most complicated and longest relationship with her mentor and boss, played by Jaideep Ahlawat with ample screen time. Restrained, layered and precise, he is a class act. Did we note a slight chemistry in their interactions?

Vicky Kaushal (of Masaan fame) returns with his trademark goodness and plays the husband with heartbreaking sensitivity. He even defends his wife after she escapes. Meghana treats his character with ample love.

Alia Bhatt embraces Sehmat in body and spirit, according her performance with the inherent grace and power only she knows. Her interpretation of Sehmat is superlative although you do see traces of Alia in some scenes. She dials down her body language and demeanour to suit that era, looks pristine and manages to hold her vulnerability intact as she goes about her business. The lovely face remains stoic as she slowly loses control of the situation. Definitely a thumbs up!

Kudos to Harinder who managed to trace the woman and write this book, making Raazi possible. Meghana tells her story delicately yet surely, without getting pulled into the emotions, making it a fine, compelling piece of work.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Raazi. 2018. Director: Meghana Gulzar. Writers: Meghana Gulzar, Bhavani Iyer. Players: Alia Bhatt, Vicky Kaushal, Jaideep Ahlawat. Music: Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy. Theatrical release: Junglee Pictures, Dharma Films.

Hamida Parkar is a freelance journalist and founder-editor of cinemaspotter.com. She writes on cinema, culture, women, and social equity.