LAWNDALE, Calif. — The Dakshini Bengali Association of California organized its 34th Durga Puja cultural celebration Oct. 12-14 at the Centinela Center for the Arts here with melody queen Padma Shri Kavitha Krishnamurthy Subramaniam performing Oct. 13 evening.

Dakshini fosters lifelong friendship, social network and cultural enrichment among its diverse members. Before the show started, there was a video presentation introducing the Indian American youth centered-activities of Dakshini such as its Youth Scholarship Program, Youth Forum and science events as well as the NGO’s initiatives supporting five different organizations. Dakshini also supports the Academy of Arts and Cultural Exchange with 48 kids participating in 2018 kids’ drama program.

Before Krishnamurthy came on stage, her journey, from a budding teenage singer in the ‘70s to the formidable Bollywood playback singer of the ‘90s, was shown on the screen. Her student Raju, a software engineer by profession, opened the concert with the melodious hit, “Ek Haseen Shyam Meh Dil Mera Koh Gaya,” and ended with the “Breathless” song, popularized by Shankar Mahadevan.

Wearing a blazing orange silk saree, the humble artist walked onto the stage without much fanfare. She started the program aptly by singing a Bengali couplet on Goddess Durga.

She shared with the audience that her original name was ‘Sharada’ and since there was already a famous singer with the same name, legendary music director/singer Hemant Kumar suggested that she change her name to Kavita. She talked about her humble beginnings in Bollywood, as a dubbing artist from 1978 to 1985, where she would be called to sing songs that would later be recorded by the great Mangeshkar sisters.

Then, in 1986, she recorded a fun song, “Hawaa Hawayee,” which she thought started with a string of meaningless words that was later to be recorded by Asha Bhonsle. But destiny had other plans as Krishnamurthy’s version was retained and the song – which was picturized on Sridevi – became a chartbuster, making her a singing sensation overnight. After that she laughingly said that she was ready to sing innumerable item songs in the industry.

Displaying her versatility and range, she presented the melodious song, “Dheeme Dheeme Gaoon” from “Zubeida.” Paying tribute to the super talented Pancham da, she presented a romantic duet, “Rim Jhim Rim Jhim” from “1942- A Love Story.” She also sang the Rajasthani folk influenced ever popular “Nimbuda” from “Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam.”

She said of late nobody sings with an orchestra anymore and that technology covers up a singer’s mistakes, before presenting a memorable song, “Kya Jaanu Sanam.”

In the second half, Krishnamurthy and Raju presented the peppy duet, “Bole Chudiya” from “Kabhie Kushi Kabhie Gham,” which prompted the audience to get up and dance energetically in the aisles.

Praising yesteryears’ lyricists and composers, she presented the next song, “Aaj Mein Upar Aasman Neeche” from “Khamoshi.” She urged the audience to listen carefully to the exuberant expression of teenage love written by veteran Majrooh Sultanpuri, who was in his ‘80s when he wrote the song. Saying she couldn’t do justice to Hariharan’s rendering of the song, “Tu Hi Re,” she just sang her portion of the memorable song.

Sharing an anecdote from her interaction with A.R. Rahman, she recalled how he coaxed her gently to sing “Pyar Yeh Jaane Kaise Hai” in Z scale which is quite difficult to sing. She followed it up with a medley of her mega hits that included “Mera Piya Ghar Aaya” and “Dola Re.”

In the two-hour concert, she also rendered several soulful, devotional and fun Bengali songs to the delight of the predominantly Bengali audience. As she closed the concert with the song, “I Love My India,” she humbly thanked the audience for their love and support and wished them a happy Navratri and a beautiful year ahead.

This concert was very refreshing because the songs were sung in their entirety and the focus was on the artists and music rather than fast tracks, background dancers and fancy stage lights.

Before the intermission, plaques were presented to the sponsors and volunteers as well as the artists. Interestingly, the seven-piece orchestra members who ably supported the singer, were all local artists and professionals settled in various cities of the U.S. except for the base guitarist who is a veteran of the Bollywood music industry.

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