MTV Unplugged is a mixed bag of sorts. It always has been like that. While some episodes and artists stand out among the rest, some are plain mediocre, largely owing to the extra modifications made in the songs.
Song selection is the most important aspect here – one should know which songs will sound good on a live platform. Secondly, one should know how much to modify and where to stop. I agree it is a platform where musicians have full freedom to experiment, but one has to be sure of the fact that the vocal and visual output of their experiments should go well with the audience.
I usually don’t review episodes. I have reviewed an episode of “Unplugged” only once, and that was when A.R Rahman performed the first time. However, I simply couldn’t resist doing a detailed review of this outstanding episode.
I am a devoted fan of Sachin and Jigar. For me, it is more of a trio rather than a duo, with Priya Saraiya forming the essential 3rd member. As far as I remember, no other musician has excelled in both “Coke Studio” and “Unplugged”. However, these artists rocked in both the formats. While their previous outing with “Unplugged” was a heady mix of melody and masti, they were even better in “Coke Sudio” where they gave us the BEST composition of the entire Indian Coke Studio format – “LAADKI”.
And so here they are once again. I went in with dallops of expectations, and I came out fully rewarded, exhilarated and proud.
They start off with one of my personal favorite songs composed by SJ recently.
“CHUNAR” is always a solid composition. It was a highly underrated song in my opinion. The video too focused too much on Varun Dhawan’s dancing skills, thus diluting the effect of the beautiful track.
SJ dedicate this song to Gurdas Mann saab’s mother. Instead of Arijit Singh, we have Sachin himself on the vocals, and he does a superb job, even at par to the original rendition.
The song kicks off with some addictively haunting sitar (Ravi Chari) by who is joined by Kalyan Baruah on the guitars.
Sachin’s rendition is flawless. The poignancy he infuses into the song moves you. Watch out for those Punjabi lyrics in the end – he is brilliant in both high as well as low notes.
All the instruments used are fabulous – be it the pakhawaj in the interlude or the piano (Rinku Rajput). They are effective additions to the two main instruments.
It is a pleasure watching Jigar as he fills in silently by playing the manjira in the background during the first half of the song and waves his arms at times as if instructing the orchestra. I loved that “khanjari” he uses towards the end. It is a small instrument but it sounds so good.
Things get a bit lighter with “MILEYA MILEYA”. “Happy Ending” has been an album which I listen to even today. It is that kind of album which puts you at ease and which you never get tired of listening to.
“Mileya mileya” showed us a different side of Rekha Bhardwaj. It was a breezy track then, and it is equally fresh even today.
The guitars and the saxophone (Shirish Malhotra) mark the beginning as Jigar begins in a very mellowed and soft voice. Priya backs him very nicely. I loved her rendition of “Phir te main bhuleya sabhi.”
The chorus here is super effective. (Dawn Cordo, Shambhavi Singh, Daniel Rebello)
The antara sees some changes as the composers bring in a slightly new tune with some modifications. The “Chhutey na chhutey na” variation is very good.
What was good about the entire song was that everyone seemed to be enjoying. Sachin animatedly raises his hands, Jigar seems to be moving in sync to the rhythm. The sax player is having a ball. And we certainly did have a great time too.
The fact that “JEENA JEENA” means a lot to Sachin – Jigar is evident. The small intro they give prior to the song sums it up. At times, songs that were never meant to happen, happen and create wonders. This is one such song.
This one is pure bliss as both the composers come behind the mic. As the chorus and the flute create magic, Sachin and Jigar take turns to sing, simultaneously swaying to the beats.
Once again, we get to hear some absolutely gorgeous sitar during the interlude with some lovely tabla. The antara is one unheard before. If I remember correctly, Jigar had posted this stanza on his facebook page a long time back, stating it to be the unused antara of the song. I am glad they used it here.
Towards the end, they again bring in a new tune. There is this portion called “O mere maahiya” which sounds lovely, before they hop back to the original song. They end the song like true rockstars, with Jigar doing an elongated aalap.
This was a "performance" in the truest sense. It was an awesome pepped up version of the original.
Finally comes the song which I was waiting for. Everything about “SUN SAATHIYA” was a winner right from the day the song first appeared as a tiny version in ABCD and then as a full fledged song in ABCD 2. For me, it was a song which should have fetched Priya Saraiya an award for the best playback singer.
However I was eager to know how this song would sound if performed live. And I must say I was rewarded handsomely.
The song begins with guitar and some melodious harmonium played by Sachin. Priya does a variation with some new lyrics and tune before starting off the original one. The tabla (Rajesh Salvi) only enhances the flawless singing by the lady. The interlude is a wonderful feat by the choral singers and the flutist. Sachin and Jigar join midway and are too good in the antara. The way the song ends is again commendable as the same portion from the beginning is repeated.
Priya’s singing is impeccable; her diction is flawless; her murkiyaas are brilliant. She kills it. Literally.
Two years ago, when Sachin and Jigar did their first episode for Unplugged, they performed their most popular song till date – “SAIBO”
However, midway Sachin had given us a surprise with a short new stanza in gujarati. I still recollect getting goosebumps that day. Even today, I often listen to that song just for that portion.
And so, as if answering every Gujarati’s requests, they bring to us an entirely new version of “saibo” in Gujarati. What follows is sheer magic. Both Sachin and jigar ace this one. With lovely lyrics written by (?) Priya Saraiya, this is soon going to be a rage in my state, as well as elsewhere. Everything about the song is beautiful. It is 4 minutes of pure, unadulterated goosebumps. (Whatever that means!)
I was damn sure that they will sing a Gujarati song this time. I was expecting “Satrangi re”, but they gave me something even better.
If Rahman can sing in his mother tongue (Yeh Jo Des, Nenjukulle, Urvasi), why not Sachin – Jigar?
Enough of all this. Now for some fun.
I never LOVED “BEAT PE BOOTY” more than normal. It made good viewing but never good listening. I felt it was a bit too techno for repeated hearings. However, the way these guys performed it, I developed a new found liking for the song. Sachin is in top form as he sings majority of the song’s portion. The dholak (Rajesh Salvi aka Rajubhai) here is refreshing, and its combination with the sax sounds novel.
Tempos change and the guitar makes way for the second half of the song which is “G PHAAD KE” from "Happy Ending. The song itself is originally so wacky, similar to the songs of "Go Goa Gone".
They go for an abstract arrangement – they start the song directly from the “Gaane ka hook” instead of the sthaayi. However as soon as Sachin shouts “G phaad ke”, there is a change in the rhythm and immediately we are transported to a Navratri setup with garba being played.
The antara is even better as Priya joins the bandwagon. From there on, the three are unstoppable. Together, they deliver three minutes of pure fun and madness. However, no one can chant "nacho saare G-phaad ke" the way Divya Kumar does in the original song.
As the end credits roll, I realize that this episode deserves a standing ovation. If we consider all the six seasons of Unplugged, this episode would feature among the best 3 episodes, the other two being A.R Rahman’s episode (Season 2) and Sachin Jigar’s own previous episode. However I personally loved this episode more than their last one.
The USP of the episode was the fact that the performers themselves were having a ball. Their mere presence and attitude exuded so much positivity. It was as if they had come on stage not to perform but to just get lost in their own music and enjoy. And that enjoyment was clearly visible. It was this positive vibe, down to earth nature and humbleness of the artists which made it such a beautiful experience even for us – the viewers / listeners.
Do come back a third time, Sachin – Jigar – Priya. We would love to hear more of you.
P.S – Sachin and Jigar – you both need to sing more. Period.
Also, MTV / Voot needs to do something about providing individual songs for download. I mean come on, we aren’t going to open your app everytime we feel like listening to a song. Either upload the songs on youtube or allow them to be downloaded in both video and audio formats. And if you have so much of a problem, make them available on itunes. We’ll pay for them, but atleast we’ll be able to get quality stuff without hassle.