India’s Got Talent

The costumes may be Day-Glo trippy, but it’s the swirling, seductive soundtracks that make Bollywood movies so irresistible. After all, the impeccably crafted songs, pumping with exuberance and emotion, drive the eye-popping musical numbers. Ah, but who’s the fairest composer in the land? Bay Area music educator and tabla player (and Fulbright scholar, while we’re at it) Robin Sukhadia sets up an old-fashioned throwdown with Battle of the Bollywood Maestros: R.D. Burman vs. A.R. Rahman. In the last installment of 3rd i’s summer speaker series, Sukhadia spins five tracks by each giant, throwing it to the crowd to vote for the top tunesmith. The dauntingly prolific Burman updated and electrified Hindi movie music in the '60s and '70s, propelling Western themes into the mainstream until his premature death (from overwork, perhaps) at 54 in 1994. Rahman came to prominence in the '90s with pop-inflected scores that turned subsequent epics such as Lagaan and Rang de Basanti into global crossover hits. Rahman has become an international star himself — after his Oscar for the Slumdog Millionaire score, he launched into a world tour, which touches down at Oakland's Oracle Arena on Sept. 12. We have to give him the edge over Burman, if only because the living have an advantage on the departed.
Sun., Aug. 15, 5 p.m., 2010

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