The Old GMC Complex in Goa is all set to resound with some old tunes, taking one back to the 1960s-80s. A unique performance called Chitrahaar Live is stringing together the best of retro film songs in Hindi and Tamil. Each tune resonates with a personal memory of the performer, Pavithra Chari, and she hopes to convey this same sense of nostalgia to the audience as well. The performance has its roots in an Instagram series which began in the middle of the covid-19 pandemic. Even before the lockdown, Chari had been toying with the idea of creating something on social media, but just hadn’t been able to find the right time. “As the pandemic hit and we all found ourselves with a lot of time on our hands, I started a small series about song covers. Very soon, we started getting a lot of love and support for it,” says Chari.
She thought of expanding on the series and giving the aural-visual aesthetics a lot more thought. She was in touch with a team led by Nirmika Singh of the Rolling Stone India, who is also a poet. “We ideated on a project called Chitrahaar. My love for classic retro music is best expressed through the series,” she adds.
All of the songs on Instagram were shot in her living room in Delhi in a span of two days after the first phase of the pandemic had subsided a little. Though Chari wasn’t aware of the much-loved television series, Chitrahar, while growing up, both she and Nirmika thought the word itself was so beautiful. “A garland of images….that’s exactly what we wanted to achieve as a series. After that, of course, I looked up the series. I thought our initiative would be a wonderful way to pay a tribute to the original while also creating something independent and new,” elaborates Chari.
While the Instagram series featured just two musicians—Chari and her partner, Anindo Bose, on the keys—for the live event at the Serendipity Arts Festival 2022, a live band from Delhi is accompanying her. So there is Yashkrit Singh on keyboards, Pronay Roy on guitar, Sonic Shori on bass and Sarthak Pahwa on drums and tabla. “Now that everyone is mostly out of the pandemic, we wanted to bring back that energy of live events to the audience,” she says.
When one watches the Chitrahaar Live series on Instagram, there is still a screen between the viewer and the performer—mimicking the television-like feel of the older series on Doordarshan. However, it is interesting to see how the dynamic changes in a live performance. Chari and her team have given a lot of thought to this. “We are trying to recreate some elements of home and my childhood in the stage performance. A lot of songs from the Instagram series are being recreated as longer versions. So there are many Ilaiyaraaja songs, tunes by RD Burman and SD Burman. We are trying to curate different genres within this set to bring in as much diversity as possible,” says Chari.
Chitrahaar Live will take place at Serendipity Arts Festival on 18 December, 9 pm onwards