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The unlikely music mogul

NR Venkatachalam seems like the quintessential upper middle class south Indian in Mumbai. In 2000, at the age of 61, he retired as vice president of Crompton Greaves. Life pre-ordained a comfortable and sedentary retirement. But someone forgot to hand Venkat the script.

He reminisces, “After retirement, I began to work with an NGO based out of Powai — Mutually Beneficial Activities (MBA) Foundation. We worked with mentally and physically challenged children, providing them with early intervention and daycare and life care facilities.”

During the foundation’s initial days, finances were a major problem. To procure some funds, Venkat devised a plan that called into action another life passion — music. “In December 2004, I got together some talented singers to perform a one-hour slot of songs from the golden era of Hindi film music, in IIT’s fest, Mood Indigo. I was apprehensive about whether it would work for an audience that comprised young students. But they loved it so much that our slot got extended to three hours. That’s when I thought of making this a medium to generate funds for NGOs across the country, and Klub Nostalgia was born.” 

Midway through his journey, Venkat found an ally in Prem Kumar, director of Unitech Automobiles. Over the past seven years, they have organised 150 shows across the country and raised several lakhs of rupees for several NGOs. The families of musical stalwarts like Mohammed Rafi, Naushad and Ravi often visit Venkat’s concerts and are his close friends; a bond developed through the Klub.

Klub Nostalgia is also an opportunity to give back to the musicians who have inspired it. Manohari Singh was one of the country’s first ever saxophonist and had performed with iconic music directors like RD Burman and Shankar Jaikishen. Towards the fag end of his life, he required a dialysis surgery to survive, and could not afford it. Klub Nostalgia stepped in and organised an event to procure money to pay for his medical bills. Unfortunately, even their best efforts could not save him and Singh died in July 2010.

To prevent something like this from happening again, Powai-based Venkat hopes to galvanise Klub Nostalgia into a revolutionary establishment. “Klub Nostalgia now has more than 2,000 members who frequently attend our programmes and donate for our causes. What we now hope to achieve is to transform Klub Nostalgia into a musical movement.”  

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