Music Turns 46 !
Happy Birthday Mozart of Madras!
Humble smile, soft voice, master perfectionist, sensitive music director, hardworking character, passionate musician, word magician, fierce Indian—all this and more is what Wikipedia describes as “Indian composer, singer-songwriter, music producer, musician, multi-instrumentalist and philanthropist”. Yes, we are talking about the Isai Puyal (Music Storm) Allah Rakha Rahman as he turns 46 tomorrow.
Born A. S. Dileep Kumar to music composer R. K. Shekhar and Kareema (born Kasthuri) on the 6th of January 1966, the world of music saw his birth when the tune that he accidentally played on his father’s piano, went on to become a full song “Vellithen Kinnam Pol” sung by Jayachandran and penned by Bharanikkavu Sivakumar for the Malayalam film Penpada. Rahman was then only 9 years old.
His film career however, began in 1992. It was way past midnight when singer Unni Menon got a call from Mani Ratnam requesting his voice for a song in his new movie. Bewildered at the odd timing, nevertheless the call being from the widely acclaimed Mani Ratnam, Menon rushed to the mentioned studio only to find a fresh new composer. The tunes were discussed, the lyrics talked about and the song ‘Pudhu Vellai Mazhai’ (A new white rain) was recorded. And all the while Menon wondered if the young guy would be able to do justice to the colossal expectations from a Mani Ratnam movie. The movie was ‘Roja’, the studio Panchathan Record Inn and AM Studios, and the rest indeed is history as the young man Rahman would win Rajat Kamal (Silver Lotus) award for Best Music Director at the National Film Awards—a first for a first time music composer and the studio would become the most advanced recording studio in India, and probably one of the most sophisticated and high-tech studios in Asia.
Long before IMBD described A R Rahman to be known for his score in movies such as Slumdog Millionaire, 127 hours, Lagaan and Lord of War; A R Rahman held India in his sway, be it Roja’s Chinna Chinna Aasai or the popular chunky song Chikku Bukku Rayile. Bollywood Dreams in 1995, and following its mammoth success, Bombay (1995), Dil Se..(1998), Taal (1999), Zubeidaa (2001), and Lagaan: Once Upon a Time in India (2001) marked his foray into Bollywood, leaving imprints so deep that it redefined the contemporary Indian music scene. Subtle tunes and catchy words, for example the song ‘Masakali’ in Delhi 6 became his trademarks. And so did his blend of eastern classical music with traditional rural folk and various world genres including reggae and jazz, and their integration with electronic music sounds. No one could have touched the nation’s soul as he did with his almost numinous ‘Vande Mataram’. “It had to be unlike the one played on the radio for years. I wanted a sound that would connect me with people and capture a collective energy.” And so it did.
If awards were any measure of the profound impact he has had on the music scene—two Academy Awards, two Grammy Awards, a BAFTA Award, a Golden Globe, four National Film Awards, fifteen Filmfare Awards and thirteen Filmfare Awards South to name a few—they would be still be inadequate.
Happy Birthday to the immensely talented man ever so humble, his smile ever so innocent , a great Musician but above all, a great human being. His love for his family and people is echoed in his statement “Be a good son to your parents, be a good husband to your wife and be a good father to your son, and that would make you a good friend to me.” “Mere paas Maa hai” (even if I have got nothing I have my mother here) was what he said in his speech to pay tribute to his mom while accepting the Academy award for his score in the movie Slumdog Millionaire.
On his 46th birthday, we pay tribute to the maestro in his style—”Ella pughazhum iraivanukke”, in Tamil which literally means “All praises dedicated to God”; something that he says every time he receives an award. All praises indeed be dedicated to God for giving the world A R Rahman.