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An evening with Adnan: Exclusive interview

SUSANNA MYRTLE LAZARUS: There was music, dance, entertainment and more at the concert in Chennai, the singer’s first after becoming an Indian citizen

Adnan Sami during his Chennai concert. Photo: B. Jothi Ramalingam

Love was in the air at the University Centenary Auditorium in Chepauk on Sunday night. But it wasn’t just because it was Valentine’s Day; it was one big celebration with singer Adnan Sami and his fans. “I love you!” screamed a young man from the balcony of the auditorium, to which Adnan replied, “I love you more!”

It was a very special evening for Adnan, as it was his first concert after being granted Indian citizenship. “I was born in England, but India is the only place I feel at home. I’ve lived here for 17 years; I belong here. Almost all of you here got citizenship automatically, because you were born here, so value it,” he said. Incidentally, this was also his first time performing in Chennai after a decade, and the proceeds of the concert, organised by RI District 3230, would go towards flood rehabilitation.

He took to the stage in a dapper suit with hair slicked back, and instantly energised the crowd with a rendition of ‘Mehbooba Mehbooba’. And nothing could come between Adnan and his audience, as he belted out his hits: even the camera jib operator was chased away when he went in for a close-up shot. The singer was clearly uninterested in playing to the cameras. He teased and cajoled the crowd into responding, singing and clapping along, even saying, “Aiyoyo,” when they did not respond as loudly as he wanted them to.

Keyboard magazine named Adnan the fastest keyboard player in the world, and it was evident why. His fingers were a blur, as he played intense pieces effortlessly; eyes closed and head thrown back. Watching music being played like that was quite ethereal.

The 42-year-old was an all-out entertainer, moving around the stage, engaging in musical banter with percussionists, and sharing quips about his life. And while requests for ‘Bheegi Bheegi’ were made repeatedly, he promised that every request would be fulfilled. “Understand that it is you who make us, and we are at your command,” he said.

He also took the opportunity to talk about his weight loss. “I was 230 kg, with a size 81 waist. I couldn’t buy anything off the shelf, and needed more than one tailor to measure and stitch my clothes. The doctors gave me an ultimatum: if I didn’t do something about it, my parents would find me dead in a hotel room within six months. My father’s insistence, and knowing that I wanted to be around to hear the applause of my audience, helped me through the tough days,” he said, adding that it was only due to diet, determination and exercise that he lost 167 kg, and not through bariatric surgery or liposuction.

As a singer, Adnan was mesmerising, and as an entertainer, he was endearing. One did not need to know his music to enjoy the concert, but he probably gained a few fans that evening.