What went wrong at AR Rahman's Chennai concert? A concertgoer reveals

Ayaan Paul
Ayaan PaulSep 11, 2023 | 17:14

What went wrong at AR Rahman's Chennai concert? A concertgoer reveals

Oscar-winner AR Rahman's recent Chennai concert, 'Marakkuma Nenjam', has steadily become a masterclass in how not to manage a concert. Here's an insider's version on what went wrong.


  • The concert, held at Chennai's Adityaram Palace City on September 10, drew a staggering crowd of over 45,000 people.
  • The chaos outside the venue was evident, with long queues, traffic jams, and mismanagement of ticket holders. 

Many fans who held valid tickets were left frustrated and angry, while some engaged in disputes with law enforcement and the event organisers, ACTC Events.

A concertgoer speaks

Ashwin, a 26-year-old attendee at the event, painted a vivid picture of the chaos and shortcomings that plagued the event.

His firsthand account shed light on the series of mishaps that unfolded.

"The venue was inadequate to handle the crowd that had tickets. Entry was stopped, leading to complete chaos and uncertainty at the entrances."
  • He added that inside the venue, the lack of an organiser crew to guide people to their allocated sections based on tickets only compounded the confusion.
  • This resulted in people bypassing barricades and shifting sections freely, adding to the pandemonium.

Rahman, in his post-concert interview with The Hindu, confessed that he was blissfully unaware of the mayhem outside.

  • He thought his only concern was hoping it wouldn't rain during the performance.
  • Ashwin highlighted issues with something as fundamental as speaker array setup, which proved insufficient for the crowd's size and distance from the stage, which severely hampered the overall sound quality and experience for attendees.

What AR Rahman said

The iconic musician expressed his dismay at the situation, stating that he had focused on delivering an exceptional performance but assumed that everything else would be handled adequately. 

  • He even shared his surprise at the "tsunami of people and love" that his concert attracted and promised to "surprise fans with something soon," which we hope involves a lesson in event management. 
  • Safety, particularly for women and children, was a concern amidst the chaos. Rahman wisely refrained from pointing fingers, opting instead for a philosophical reflection on Chennai's expanding passion for music and art.

It seems the city's love for Rahman was just too immense for anyone to handle.


The concert had already faced a last-minute rescheduling from August to September due to the weather gods' disapproval.

  • Rahman claimed this change was made to ensure fans' safety, but it seems even divine intervention couldn't prevent this concert from becoming a logistical nightmare.

Despite Marakkuma Nenjam being one of India's highest-selling shows, overselling tickets and crowd mismanagement turned it into a comedy of errors.

  • Rahman explained that the organisers had set up around 46,000 chairs, but some sections remained sparsely occupied, leading police to wrongly assume the venue was full and close its gates after the show had begun.

Ashwin noted another point of contention within the sections themselves: "Even within sections, the people in the front stood over chairs enraging those at the back, leading to throwing of bottles.

Adding to the list of issues, he pointed out that the seating arrangement wasn't aligned with the stage's centre, with temporary food tents occupying valuable space, which likely impaired the audience's view of the performance.

  • The Tambaram City Police even had to launch an inquiry into the chaos, with Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin's convoy caught in the crossfire of the traffic.
  • To make matters even worse, the organisation's shortcomings extended to exit and entry points, causing attendees wanting to leave to get stuck in bottlenecks.
  • The parking situation was equally dire, with inadequate facilities causing traffic snarls on ECR. What should have been a short drive turned into a 20-25 minute ordeal for many. 

Event management slammed

In the aftermath of the concert, social media was flooded with complaints from ticket-holders who couldn't enter the venue despite having valid tickets.

They pointed fingers at the event management company for overselling tickets and failing to accommodate those with legitimate tickets.

While Rahman has promised refunds, Ashwin expressed scepticism about the execution and implementation of this process. He also noted that Rahman's initial post addressing the situation lacked a heartfelt tone. 

“Even though the artist is not expected to take care of the operational aspect of such events, people get drawn to the brand of ARR. As such, it should be his and his team’s responsibility to partner with experienced organisers, especially drawing from their experiences of having conducted such shows abroad successfully.”
Last updated: September 11, 2023 | 17:14
    Please log in
    I agree with DailyO's privacy policy