Sunday, May 20, 2012

A.R. Rahman : Phenomenon, Institution and The Legend!

So much has been read, written and most importantly, listened about this genius that I wonder what am I supposed to do different here?  But I always wanted to write about him (and I am not getting paid for it so it’s a genuine selfless act). It’s not the chronological account of how Rahman has evolved throughout these years and who am I to talk about his evolution? The autobiography of A.R. Rahman by Nasreen Munni Kabir is already available. So this is an account of Amit Hiremath who claims to be one of the biggest fan of A.R. Rahman since the age of 13 (interchange the digits to find my age as of today J)
So the things started with my uncle playing “Kadhal Rojave” (Roja Jaanemann in Tamil) on his assembled stereo one afternoon. I could easily pick the note and relate it with the jingle of Garden Vareli sarees being aired on Doordarshan in the late 80’s. I couldn’t resist but to stop playing and listened to the song till it finished, understanding not a single word. It ended and started another song “Pudhu Vellai” (Yeh Haseen Vaadiyaan in Hindi) and it captivated me. After that day, it became an ordeal for me to go to my uncle’s room (he was a struggling young man those days) and listen to all songs of Roja. How many times does it happen to you? You don’t understand a word but you just can’t resist listening to these songs.
There is an amazing similarity in music and love. Both know no language, no boundaries, no colour, no war, no hatred, no anger. And as with love, there is nothing like good or bad, so is with the music. Okay, music is always good. It’s an instant detox, revitazlizer etc etc and if it is coming from the God of Music then you get a direct entry to heaven in a moment. No need to wait for millions of births (with due respect to Hindu mythology!)  
I became an ardent follower of Rahman from that period. I can speak about each and every song of Rahman and write a blog about it. But that is not the objective of this blog. Normally, a spendthrift guy, I started  saving money so that I can buy an audio cassette of OMPSTs of Rahman’s movies. Thankfully, my parents also developed liking for Rahman’s music. I was surprised at my father’s inclination towards Rahman’s music since he prefers listening to old songs. He liked Roja but he was clean bowled by the music of ‘BOMBAY’! I thanked my stars because there onwards raising fund was never an issue for me to buy an audio cassette of Rahman’s movie.
Before I move on with the story, a special mention for two scores of Rahman’s earlier days – Thiruda Thiruda (second project with Mani Ratnam) and Gentleman (the first collaboration with Shankar). As a fan if you have not listened to the score of Thiruda Thiruda, I guess there is a big vacuum in your collection. This score was a clear evidence that Rahman was 15-20 years ahead of the fellow musicians. I doubt if any of the budding musician can produce such a powerful score (Rahman was just 27 at that time)  And in my view, if Prabhu Deva owes his success to anybody then it is none other than A.R. Rahman. The pulsating track of ‘Chiku Buku Raile’ in ‘Gentleman’ gave Prabhu Deva the much required platform and what ‘Kadhalan’ (Hum Se Hain Muqabala in Hindi) did is history!
I don’t know if it is such an irony, a co-incidence or just sheer luck that Panchamda gave his last score, 1942: A Love Story which was released in 1994 which was followed by Rahman’s Hindi debut, Rangeela in 1995. We music lovers were simply saved from the onslaught of the headache inducing music of some gifted musical duos of Bollywood. I won’t name them though. I heard that Asha Bhonsle liked ‘Tanha Tanha’ of Rangeela so much that she waived off her fees for that song. Haven’t heard that thing happening now-a-days! Salute to the genius of A.R. Rahman!
Every song of Rahman is music to my ears. Every award he had feels like I have won the award. I still remember the day when Rahman had won the academy awards for his score of ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ and my colleagues congratulated me leaving my boss perplexed about the whole scenario! J  I never tolerated any criticism for Rahman. In the initial phase, he was being criticized for being repetitive. Well, the ears of a typical bollywood song listener were so acclimatized to listen to mediocre music that they found Rahman to be repetitive and surprisingly, not repetitively good (You may feel like catching my collar and asking, “Mate, you just wrote that there is nothing called good or bad music!”) Ahem! Then it was not music altogether (by the same boring duos). Some said that he was a rhythm king with lack of melody. A slap (this is my word) for those came with ‘Awaara Bhanware’of ‘Sapnay’ and a refreshingly new voice, Hema Sardesai. The list is long for the talents discovered by the man who is gifted with unlimited talent- Sukhvinder Singh, Mohit Chauhan, resurrection of Sonu Nigam and the list goes on
When it comes to singing a Sufi song, does any other name flash in your mind? And one doesn’t acquire the skill of singing Sufi songs. You just have to be gifted and thankful about the entity who has gifted you the voice. Rahman is a spiritual guy and this spirituality percolates in every aspect of his life. Be it singing, talking to people and just being with himself! And since we are talking about songs, I am sure you must have already recalled “Piya Haji Ali (Fiza), Khwaja Mere Khwaja (Jodha Akbar), Arziyaan (Delhi 6) and the latest charismatic Kun Fayaa Kun (Rockstar)” However, few would remember the intense ‘Zikr’ from ‘Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose: The Forgotten Hero’. I vividly recall the scene when Anuradha Sengupta of CNBC TV18 was interviewing our hero on the show ‘Beautiful People’ and Rahman was surprised and asked,”Oh, you remember that song?” with a smile on his face!  
In fact, I owe Rahman a friendship with another Rahmaniac called Paresh. We just became friends coz we both loved Rahman. And at one time, before MP3 and piracy was not exiting, he and me together boasted a collection of audio cassettes of all of Rahman’s movies  and we are still proud of it though it’s a child’s play today to owe Rahman’s whole MP3 collection.
It was A.R. Rahman who took the background score of his films seriously. Along with Roja’s songs, what impressed me was the background score of that movie. And he has never failed us once in any of his movies. It is a treat to hear the background score of the movie with your eyes closed. It many times portrays the scene without opening the eyes. Most notable amongst his BG scores are Roja, Bombay, Dil Se, Saathiya (Mani Ratnam effect! J), Lagaan, Swades, Rang De Basanti! The rendition of ‘Sitaron Se Aage Jahaan Aur Bhi Hain, Abhi Ishq Ke Imtihaan Aur Bhi Hain’ by Sukhvinder Singh in the film ‘Dil Se’ gives me goose bumps every time I listen to it!
I can write more and I will never stop! So this is just a comma in my account! I will be back with more stuff. Till the time, KEEP LISTENING!!!  


  1. I too would boast of a complete collection of A.R.Rahman film scores / private albums back in the '90s. Except, I was a fan of his TV jingles since the mid '80s, back when I didn't even know who the man behind the music was! Most notably the jingles he composed for Garden Vareli Sarees, one of which was later appropriated for Sujatha Mohan's backing vocals in Roja Janeman/Kadhal Rojave song. My first familiarity with the name of A.R.Rahman was through the end credits of the Spirit of Unity Concerts segment which used to air on Doordarshan on Sunday mornings. Rahman had composed the amazing title tracks/interludes for that programme, you see. I had it on tape and would listen to it non-stop, way before the composer had become a household name! Then Roja happened and I wish I could say the rest was history. Lekin, sirf mujhko pata hai, kya kya papad belne padte they unn dino mein, A.R. Rahman ji ke Tamil/Telugu music cassettes collect karne ke liye (that too on a high school student's monthly allowance)! One would assume, the situation had improved with the opening of branded music stores like Music World, Landmark / Starmark, Planet M etc. in this part of the country. Initially yes, but come Y2K, those so-called megastores stopped stocking up on South Indian film music altogether due to poor sales. How I wish we had iTunes back then. Can't begin to describe how depressing it was for a Rahman-aficionado like me until 2004, when I bought my first computer. That's because, unlike you, I and other Rahmaniacs across the globe, the vast majority of casual listeners we must put up with, hadn't yet recognized the musical genius that is Allarakha Rahman. Some oversmart imbeciles would spot snatches of sample loops used in other international albums by Dr. Alban, Deep Forest, Gustavo Santaolalla etc. (actually stock sound effects/beats purchased from the same source - AKAI) and call A.R. Rahman a copycat. Don Quixote much? Even online piracy, torrents, mp3s hadn't upped their game until his Oscar and Grammy wins. Today I boast of not only all the A.R. Rahman soundtracks/albums, but of all the background scores and unreleased tracks as well. Long live ARR.

    - Saikat

    1. Saikat, thanks a lot for your comment. Oh well as far jingles are concerned I was also fan of Garden Vareli and the title track of Spirit of Unity Concerts for National Integration and like you, I never knew if it was our genius ARR who composed them.

      Apologies for the late reply as I coudln't write anything for a long time and forgot to check Blogger. Would be happy to connect with you as a fellow Rahman fan. My Google Plus details are on my profile and I tweet at @amit_hiremath


  2. I still fondly remember how aggressively I would defend A.R. Rahman against the naysayers in various magazines (so-called "music critics") and against white-supremacists on IMDb after his double Oscar win (who snubbed his music as "bombastic", "little more than creative wailing").