I used to feel enraged every time I meet an Indian who does not know or appreciate who A.R. Rahman actually is, as I strongly feel he is a symbol of pride for all the Indians. But now I feel sorry for those who do not know him or ignore him because they are blurred by the view that Indian music is 'all the same, because they only sing and dance'. How gifted are we to live in an era where we can listen to such music by A.R. Rahman which completely uplifts us from all the miseries of the world. I do not want to undermine M S Viswanathan or Ilayaraja for that matter, and what they contributed to Tamil cinema. But here we are talking about the man who revolutionized Indian music totally.
My music with Rahman
To be frank, I wasn't a fan of A.R. Rahman (that is because I hardly listen to music before that) until 2004. I remember sitting in my hometown's old, cranky-seated theatre, where I saw 'Aayudha Ezhuthu' with my cousin. We were supposed to be in our Maths tuition, but we weren't. :) I pretty much guess that was the moment when Rahman made me realize what music is all about. I came in for the show just on time, it started accurately when I sat. And then I can tell you this- I hardly settled on my seat. I didn't open a bottle of water which I wanted to do, nor eat any of the snacks. Just I was there, my eyes on the screen, and I never took it off from it- reminder, only the title credits were running at that time. If any of you would recall the BGM for that title credits, you'd know what I am talking about. There were all kind of sounds- the sound of cars passing by you on a highway, and slowly, a haunting beat builds up, and then there was an instrumental alap, which, probably for the first time in my life, rendered me completely clueless as to how the composer was actually doing those sounds. Just clueless!
When the song 'Sandakozhi' started, I remeber being so amazed that I could clearly hear that Rahman used the sound of a water drop (!) while the song's tempo was slowing down. That goes without saying that AE has been one of the fascinating albums I have listened to in recent times. Then started my journey with ARR. Yes, with him. It is not about listening to a music that was composed by him- but, the music he creates IS A.R. Rahman. It is a fluid expression of the self, a man that doesn't worry himself with the so-called 'commercial viability' of songs, and just simply does what his soul and heart urges him to do. That is why, Rahman leaves his heart and soul intact with the music that he creates. And that is why what stays with you is not just music, but Rahman himself.
My iPod is filled at least 60 per cent by an entire database (almost all) of ARR's compositions to date. And there is one thing I always do when it is a weekend. Considering that I had to wake up early every weekday, every Saturday morning, I'd wake up, wander around a while, fill my empty stomach with some refreshing coffee, pick-up my iPod, tune to my 'ARR Melody' playlist, and then go back to bed, with the earphone well and truly sticking to my ears till I wake up. Around a year ago, I had real trouble finding sleep in the night that I was listening to my iPod and fell asleep later, listening to Rahman songs. I slept 8 hours continuously with ARR's music filling my ears. Not once was it too loud that it disrupts my sleep. It just provides that peaceful slumber that you'd want. And it makes me have good, imaginative dreams too :).
Now I'm a total music buff, and my command of Hindi is approaching 70 per cent in total. Both are because ARR. I was born a Telugu, and only spoke Tamil sparsely till I started listening to ARR's songs since the beggining and I have taken a knack to be able to speak clean Tamil thanks to that. ARR's huge shift to composing in Bollywood in recent years made me listen to his music there as well, and indirectly prompted me watching more Bollywood and now being able to fully understand Hindi, and only lagging that little bit in terms of vocalizing.
The reason I'm telling this is because along with ARR's journey these past few years, I have grown along with his music as well. And I have seamlessly noticed the difference. I used to listen to so many composers who have been active in the industry for years, and when I listen to them composing sometimes, one song in that particular film will make me go 'I know where that comes from'. Quite simply, they simply repeat the tune that they had in a previous film of theirs. No matter how good, the songs lingers for few hearings and then fades away. It only stays in your iPod as long as the season for the film exists, and it goes away after that. Not ARR.
Be it during sad times, happy times, or just lumbering moments, ARR's songs have made my day all the time. If inspiration I'm looking for, I'd listen to 'Unnai Kellai Nee Yaru' from 'Desam', if I'm in a happy mood, I'd tune to what has slowly become my signature song, 'Endrendrum Punnagai' from 'Alaipayuthey', and if love is the mood, we all know ARR has given countless numbers of brilliant songs.
Sometimes I meet people who completely criticize 'modern' music, and saying that current music industry is less than good, and good songs only used to exist during the evergreen, 70s or 80s eras (depending on that person's age). But I respect them because it's their nostalgia, songs that remind them of their youth and sweet times. I'd be tempted to say ARR is my nostalgia, but he certainly isn't just that.
The questions is- what kind of songs will you hum? Love songs? Yes, definitely. Hip songs? Yes. Techno songs? Yes. Devotional songs? Maybe. If the devotional songs are songs of your religion, your faith, your belief. But for you to hum a devotional song of a religion which is not yours is really something. I and my friends are Hindus, but we couldn't resist singing 'Khwaja Mere Khwaja' from 'Jodha Akbar' after we heard that song. Even at the time of writing, I'm totally addicted to another Muslim devotional number, 'Azriyan' from ARR's latest brilliant album for 'Delhi 6'. Not only that, it also has to be noticed that ARR, despite being a Muslim, has composed many Hindu devotional numbers, such as 'Mann Mohana' from 'Jodha Akbar' itself, which is delightful to hear, and also we must not overlook the fact that ARR has also composed a couple of non-film devotional Hindu songs. That said, AR Rahman is a living legend that has proven that music transcends religion, belief, faith, or even ideology.
In today's gloom world where people suffer from poverty, war, religious conflicts, and so on, which makes many people in the world lose their hope, here we have a man named AR Rahman who gives me the belief that there is still hope left. And plenty of it. If music becomes a religion today, I believe 80 per cent of the Indian community the world over will be united. It doesn't matter who you are, what religion you are, what country you are from, what language you speak, what caste you are, what social class you belong to, music touches you and me in a similar way, and AR Rahman is a pioneer is building those threads among us. I have made many friends solely due to our appreciation of ARR.
It goes without saying, the moment ARR won the best original score in the Golden Globes, messages were sent all over among ARR fans across the world- and without doubt, there were millions of them. I have exchanging messages of the award news in an instance after the awards were announced, even though I was at my workplace at the given time. I don't think even such big stars such as Tom Cruise would have created such an instant excitement once they have won any award in their lives, even an Oscar. Their near relatives or friends might have been instantly excited by such news, but their fans won't be too excited until they hear official news, and would definitely not exchange messages at such speed. AR Rahman was just that- a pride for the entire country.
And so it was rightly said by Rahman himself during the award ceremony- 'above all, for the billion people in India.'
And for that I salute AR Rahman and I selfishly wish he continues composing for a long time to come, because his songs puts a smile across my face even when the events of my life leaves me with little reason to smile.
'Ye Rahman He Mere Yaar, Bas Ihsq Mohabatt Pyaar' (This is Rahman, and he's only love, nothing more, nothing less)