AR Rahman came, he performed but some of the Hindi-speaking concertgoers were not impressed as they targetted him for being language-biased saying he sang too many Tamil songs. But the organisers and Rahman’s sister A R Raihanah refuted the claims. The “Netru Indru Nalai” (Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow) concert at Wembley Arena on July 8 attracted hundreds to what was described as a celebration of the Chennai-born star’s 25- year musical journey. But a few concertgoers claimed on Facebook and Twitter later that they had walked out over the lack of Bollywood tunes from Rahman’s repertoire. Some of the users on Twitter complained that they felt duped by the organisers, as they were promised the performances would be in Hindi and Urdu. “#ARRahman concert: Never seen so much #disappointment & #masswalkouts. Approx one per cent of songs in Hindi. #ssearena filled on #falseadvertising,” one of the users tweeted. Another tweeple expressed his displeasure that the show failed to impress the fans and how he felt let down by Rahman. “#ARRahman very disappointed with the concert tonight in Wembley. Waited for a very long time to be disappointed. Not expected from a legend,” he wrote.
The criticism prompted the organisers — HueBox Entertainment and Hamsini Entertainment — to publish the complete song list from the concert to highlight the balanced nature of the show. “Hi London, thanks for the tremendous support and response, however we have been getting few complaints on language bias which is rather unfortunate as this was an Indian show and music doesn’t have any barriers,” said a statement from the organisers on the official AR Rahman Live – UK Facebook page. “Nevertheless we have posted the track list performed at the SSE Arena Wembley to prove that there were 16 full tracks in Hindi, 12 full Tamil tracks and 1 Medley with a mix of Tamil and Hindi,” they added.
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In an interview to a TV channel, the Oscar-winning composer’s sister Raihanah also said there was a decent number of Hindi songs in the set list and she did not spot any audience leaving in middle of the concert. “We did have pretty good number of Hindi songs. There were some songs sung in Hindi like ‘Humma Humma’, ‘Enna Sona’ ‘Dil Se Re’ and ‘Dil Hai Chota Sa’. “I think we are Indians. We should not think small. We should think as Indians. It’s an Indian language. So, we should think beyond boundaries. Music is all about love and harmony,” she said.
Many celebrities and singers also came out in support of Rahman. “That is rude. I don’t have knowledge about it, so I can’t comment further. All I will say is that it was rude,” Priyanka Chopra said.
South Indian singer Chinmayi Sripada also took to Twitter to support the award-winning composer by tagging the outrage by the fans as another show of intolerance and double tandards. “When Rahman sir wins 2 Oscars and creates history, he is ‘An Indian’, but 7-8 Tamil gaane kya gaa liye aap naraaz hote ho (all this furore over playing 7-8 Tamil songs?). What yaar? The show was called ‘Netru Indru Naalai’, had 65 per cent, 6 Hindi songs (Set List is out there). Music knows no boundaries/ language. “Chase the American dream, your kids can (speak) Spanish; Live in the UK that once colonised India – but cry foul when you hear Tamil songs,” wrote Sripada, who has sung “Tere Bina” from “Guru” in which Rahman gave the music.
Mocking the Hindi-speaking crowd, stand-up comic Aravind SA did a wordplay on the line from Rahman’s Academy Award- accepting speech, where he thanked The Almighty for his win. He wrote, “If AR Rahman won his Oscar today, I’m pretty sure some people would have wanted him to say – ‘Sab Pugal Bhagwan ke liye’.”