A R Rahman, the creative genius: Kudos to the master

Posted: January 25, 2009 in Uncategorized
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What an incredible achievement for an Indian Music composer… to have three Oscar nominations?!  Surely, stuff that dreams are made of! Whatever Amitabh Bacchan may think of them, or dismiss them away, it is an undeniable fact that the Oscars remain the benchmark for global acknowledgment of creative work in the industry, and having three shots at getting an Oscar is clearly an awesome achievement.

A R Rahman or Allah Rakha Rahman is the toast of the town today. And deservedly so too.

I have tracked his career and his works ever since the time he got the R D Barman award for being the best new music talent, at the hands of Asha Bhonsle, in 1995.

To me, there is huge symbolism in that award. The award was instituted after R D Barman passed away in 1994, and A R Rahman was the first recipient of this new award. To me, it symbolizes a passing of the mantle from one creative genius to the next. I am an unadulterated fan of R D Barman. My blog address of rdfan.wordpress.com is not RDFan for any other reason! Coming from that position, for me to acknowledge that A R Rahman is a worthy successor to Panchamda (as R D was called) is very significant. And as I am writing this, I notice the amazing similarity in their names. First initial, middle initial, 6-lettered-lastname, with “man” at the end! Wow! Isn’t that wonderful?

The R D Barman award for new music talent has been awarded in years after 1995 as well, and there are great names who have received the same. But the first one in 1995, was truly the real passing on, of the mantle of creative genius, and Rahman carries it well, on his able shoulders.

Slumdog Millionaire to me, is certainly NOT his best work. Perhaps simply because he was not NEEDED to create something extraordinary. A western film based in modern-day Indian metro, and not exactly on a musical theme, demands only so much, and leaves only that much room for a music composer. And of course, A R Rahman ensures that he handles that competently. And the world applauds. He does it well, mind you. A R Rahman delivers for the target audience. He is a dream marketeer’s man. He delivers music for the script, and for the audience. ‘Jai Ho’ for example, is the perfect mix of a Bollywood-ish appeal, but with the right feet stomping beats, that a western audience can also appreciate. And which is why, it’s worked well. I suspect that this song might have come as an after-thought! In order to get his money’s worth from A R Rahman’s engagement, and to put a little pep into the movie, even if it comes in at the very end, with the closing titles, Danny Boyle might have seen it to be worth the while. And certainly, it works well with the audiences. Who wait up to see the entire song, before making their way out of the cinema hall.

Coming back to A R Rahman, as I state earlier, Slumdog Millionaire, for which he is getting and will get the most international fame, is certainly not his best work. He was not stretched enough. But the beauty of the genius is in being able to transport himself to the era and the demands of the script, and coming up with exciting compositions, from there on.

Take the case of Jodha Akbar. A period film. Songs like Khwaja mere Khwaja, Azeem o shaan Shehenshah, and Jashn-e-Bahara took you into that era.

Or consider the other Ashutosh Gowariker film, Lagaan. Based in 19th century Indian village theme, the setting was perfectly depicted in his numbers, Radha Kaise Na Jale, O Rey Chhori, Mitwa or Baar Baar Ha Bolon Yaar Ha.

Another favorite A R Rahman movie of mine is Rang De Basanti. In terms of completeness, this one has everything! I would probably rank this movie as my best A R Rahman movie, as it has several songs, and each one is a classic composition. The tunes are so hummable and memorable, they haunt you and stay with you, long after you have listened to them. Pathshala, Ek Onkar, Khalbali Hai Khalbali, Khoon Chala Khoon Chala, Luka Chuppi, Rang De Basanti, Roobaroo Roshani, Tu Bin Bataye are all such fantastic pieces. Simply typing their names here, gives me the goosebumps..!

There are many, many more that I can list and continue to list. Rangeela, Dil Se, Taal, Saathiya, Swades, Roja, Guru, Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na, Taare Zameen Par, etc. Each of these have some amazing work of Rahman’s.

There are some filmmakers who will only work with Rahman. And interestingly, they are among my list of respected filmmakers. Aamir Khan, Ashutose Gowariker, Mani Ratnam and Rakesh Omprakash Mehra are the names that I refer to. In fact, the latest offering from Rakesh Omprakash Mehra, after his incredible Rang De Basanti, viz. Dilli-6, is in final stages of completion, and due to release in few weeks. With A R Rahman at the helm of music affairs, of course. I am so eagerly looking forward to the music and to the film.

Rahman interestingly, has also sung many songs, and amazingly well too. Both, in his films, as well as on stage. In fact, some of his stage performances have left audiences entralled, with his passion and depth of voice. And you would also recognize A R Rahman for his variations of national and religious songs like Jan-a-Gana-Man, Vande Matram and Ek Onkar. Songs that we have known from birth, presented in a different and interesting way, with passionate music.

R D Barman thrived during the period when the world was not that small. India was just another third world country. Bollywood was a lowly second cousin for Hollywood, and was not given any serious credence. And due to which reasons, R D Barman could not achieve much international acclaim. Even though, for die hard fans like me, he will remain the closest to God that we know, in music!!

A R Rahman belongs to a different world now. A world which has shrunk, which is flat, and where India commands a high degree of respect now. Where Indian culture and art are looked with curiosity, and then with awe and admiration, and where hence, Indian work is noticed. A R Rahman is in the right place at the right time.

He will reach far greater heights than R D Barman did, in his lifetime.

I am sure that he will bring home an Oscar, that Dilli-6 will be another fabulous work of his, that he will create great music and enthrall us for many years to come…

Leaving you here, with one of his classics, in the master’s own voice, in a live stage performance:

  1. […] an ardent admirer of A R Rahman, it was a special morning for me. Hearing his name being called out for the first time, seeing him […]

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