SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Bollywood music composer trio Shankar Mahadevan, Ehsaan Noorani and Loy Mendosa charmed more than 4,000 Bay Area music fans during “Shankar Ehsaan Loy with New Generation,” a benefit concert for the Sankara Eye Foundation held at San Jose State University April 29.
With music that was full of spectacle and magnificence, the musical powerhouses rendered the evening a memorable one along with helping to raise vital funds towards fulfilling SEF’s “Vision 20/20 by the Year 2020” goal. With a mission to eradicate curable blindness in India, the foundation aims to build at least 20 eye hospitals across the country by the year 2020 under its Vision 20/20 project.
Mahadevan’s son, Siddharth Mahadevan, opened the night with “Malang” from “Dhoom 3” and followed it up with more upbeat songs such as “Har Kisi Ko Nahi Milta” from the Akshay Kumar starrer “Boss.” The 23-year-old talented singer showcased his vocal prowess on his debut U.S. tour with songs like “Kabira” from “Jawaani Deewani” and “Zinda” from “Bhaag Milkha Bhaag.”
Young music stars Sukriti and Prakriti Kakkar backed Mahadevan on duets like “London Thumakda,” “Tukar Tukar” from the Shahrukh Khan-Kajol film “Dilwale,” and “Kar Gayi Chul” from “Kapoor & Sons,” setting the tone for the rest of the show.
Then came the main attraction for which the fans were waiting with bated breath. Mahadevan began with the scintillating “Shri Ganeshay Dhimahi,” an invocation to Ganesha, from the film “Viruddh,” which got him a standing ovation. The singer was overwhelmed with all the appreciation coming his way right at the beginning of the sold-out concert. Expressing his gratitude, he told the crowd, “This is amazing. I have got a lot of standing ovations but never at the beginning. I am truly humbled.”
His exuberant performance enthralled the capacity crowd consisting largely of Indian American fans, patrons and volunteers.
Accompanied by singer Raman and flautist-singer Rasika Shekar, Mahadevan put up an electrifying show with foot-tapping numbers that included “Dil Chahta Hai,” “Rock On” and “Locha-E-Ulfat.”
One of the highlights of the show was Mahadevan and Shekhar engaging in a duet in perfect harmony with each other, which elicited gasps of admiration from the fans.
Ehsaan and Loy, too, were on fire, and the duo along with the connoisseur singer rocked the arena for close to four hours rendering high-tempo numbers like “Jhoom Barabar Jhoom” and “Pretty Woman” between incessant cheers and claps. The show, though heavy on high-energy songs with throbbing beats, also featured heart-tugging songs like “Maa” from “Taare Zameen Par,” where the audience members held their cellphones up to illuminate the arena.
There was also room for a few classic golden melodies from the repertoire of music maestros S.D. Burman and R.D. Burman.
One of the night’s best moments was an unplugged session, where they sang the opening chords of many of their evergreen hits, prompting most of the fans to dance along.
Though the fans were treated to all incarnations of the musical geniuses, the audience made the most noise when Mahadevan crooned his infectious “Breathless,” his first album through which he gained a strong foothold in the Indian music industry.
With just a couple of minutes to go before their time ran out, the singer quickly squeezed in a few tracks which included “Mitwa” and “Mast Magan.”
“Mahadevan has visited our hospitals and if you see his videos, he talks with passion about the organization and the passion only comes if you feel connected to the organization,” Divyogi Patel, an SEF board member, told India-West.
“Last time we did three concerts of Sonu Nigam in San Jose, Los Angeles and Seattle. Then we brought in Shaan. Those were great success for the organization,” said Patel, further adding, “Events kind of supplement what we do. Our fundraising style is of grassroots momentum and events are a way of getting out the word to many people in one shot.”
The San Jose concert, which aimed at raising money for various SEF’s initiatives, was part of a five-city tour for the musicians. The other stops were Seattle, Wash., April 30; Dallas, Texas, May 6; Austin, Texas, May 7; and Newark, NJ, May 14.
India’s blindness challenge is huge, with an estimated 55 million people being visually handicapped while another12 million are totally blind — one-fourth of the world’s blind population — and 80 percent of the blindness is easily curable, according to SEF.
SEF has played a pivotal role in increasing the number of free eye surgeries provided annually for the economically disadvantaged in India — from 8,000 in 1998 to over 164,566 surgeries and counting today.
The organization has so far conducted more than 3.6 million adult vision screenings, over 5.1 million children screenings, performed 8,145 pediatric surgeries and distributed over 107,000 free eye glasses, all free of cost.
Eight fully functional super-specialty eye care hospitals are currently in operation and three more in the states of Telangana, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan are in the pipeline, the construction of which will start sometime this year.
“This event is a combination of fund-raising and awareness building about Sankara Eye Foundation,” Anil Lal, board member of SEF, told India-West. “Rajasthan is pretty close to being funded. Indore and Telangana need help.”
“We do about 170,000 free eye surgeries every year, so we are totally focused on providing service,” Lal added.
These super-specialty eye care hospitals equipped with Lasik facilities treat not only cataract, which is a major cause leading to blindness in India, but also offer a full range of comprehensive eye care services, including ocular oncology and preventive care services.
SEF’s screening program, called Rainbow, caters to school children while Maithri and Swagatham reach out to preschoolers and newborn children.
The uniqueness of Sankara’s social enterprise lies in its replicable and sustainable model of 80/20, wherein 20 percent of patients pay for the free treatment that the 80 percent poor receive.
SEF, a non-profit, has earned a coveted four-star rating from Charity Navigator for its fiscal management practices and commitment to transparency.