Friday, August 10, 2012
20 years of A.R.Rahman
It is amazing how much of an impression a musician can make in your life. Especially if the musician was at his peak of his art in your teenage years. The first time I heard the name A.R Rahman was as a gossip in the context of a Ilayaraja and Manirathnam disagreement. Its been a long time since I read cinema gossip sections in Thamizh magazines.It used to be very interesting to read those at that time. Now its just a fond memory tucked away in some corner of the mind. I think it was "Lights On Sunil" and "thunukku Mootai" who began the gossip that Manirathnam failed to picturise the "Puttham Pudhu Poo Poothadho" song that Ilayaraja had composed for Thalapathy. The song apparently was composed as a romantic number between Rajini and Bhanupriya. It was cut-off because Mani didn't want to develop the two characters as having a romantic relationship. Ilayaraja doesn't appear to collect the Filmfare award for Thalapathy, which Mani collects on his behalf. And then comes the news that Manirathnam has signed on with Kavithalaya, which totally eliminates Ilayaraja as a possibility as MD because KB and IR were split for good then. Pushpalatha Kandasamy in an interview years later discloses that Manirathnam had approached her with 2 movie ideas. One was about a Kashmir terrorist issue and the other was a road-comedy about 2 thieves. And they went with idea #1. A.R.Rahman's name figured as the guy who did jungles for Bru Coffee. It was speculated that the Advt was probably picturised by P.C. Sreeram and so the connection to Mani was established (I don't know if this is true).
Roja was a big event. In Thanjavur, my physics tuition teacher had a reputation of having never watched movies. That elderly mama cancelled a tuition session to go watch this movie with his family. It was the talk of the class. I will never forget the first time I listened to Roja. I was so mesmerized by Kadhal Rojave and Pudhu Vellai Mazhai. This was a new sound and unlike anything I had heard in Indian music. It started off a trend where ARR made you listen to his music in hi-tech head phones and stereo systems just so that you could catch all the little itsy bitsy nuanced instruments that he used. My biggest joy was the fact that he began the revolution of introducing new singers almost every album. Carolyn, Islam Mustafa, Subha to name a few. The liberation from S. Janaki cannot be described in words. Having been in Gavaskar Vs Srikkanth, BoneyM vs Abba, Tendulkar vs Lara fights and more importantly Kamal vs Rajini arguments with friends I always had a clear favorite (Gavaskar, BoneyM, Kamal, Tendulkar). Some have gone to the point of getting into physical confrontation. However, I have never been so torn as I was in Ilayaraja Vs A.R.Rahman fights. It has been hard to pick a clear favorite in the past 20 years. I haven't obsessed over a music director like I have obsessed over Rahman. But I truly consider myself to be an IR fan at heart. If forced to pick the genius among the two, I'd pick Ilayaraja in a heartbeat. But ARR revolutionized the industry and Thamizh music in ways Ilayaraja was not capable of. ARR used flutes much better than IR. And of course IR was a genius with violins. Ilayaraja was clearly superior in background music as he melded the music to the situation perfectly. But ARR developed theme based background music much more successfully (Thiruda Thiruda's BGM as a standout example).
I haven't listened to ARR that much in the recent years. His nativity has changed in his second 10 years and so has mine. So I haven't been able to relate to his music a lot nowadays. But here and there he produces a gem that still is gush worthy. His first 10 years will always be my favorite. As he created album after album that fascinated the senses. In many ways I feel truly lucky to have grown up in the 90s. It was the generation of change. India's economy opening to foreign products, advent of Satellite/cable television, massive growth of Indian cricket, Sachin Tendulkar and ARR obsession captured the essence of that generation. I've met innumerable number of people who find the strange intersection of Tendulkar fandom and ARR obsession as a completely natural thing. There is some strange un-namable similarity in the growth of these two people who've defined a generation.
Below is an old post of mine that I wrote during ARR's 10th year in movies. Its very silly to read it now. But I'll unashamedly just reproduce that. I haven't listened to him that much in the last 10 years to really update the list. Some songs that don't feature in the list that I like a lot are - Nahi Saamne (Taal), Thiruvallikeni Rani (udhaya), Girlfriend (Boys), Vaaji Vaaji (Sivaji), Porkalam (Thenali), Azhagaana Rakshasi (Mudhalvan), Ye Ye Enna Aachu Unakku (Kaadhal Virus), Gokulam (Azhagiya Thamizh Magan), and Aaromale (VTV)
It is 10 years since ARR hit the scene with "Roja". The 10 year anniversary couldn't be better celeberated than releasing such a high profile album as Baba.
After years of enjoying ARR's music and finding out small small instruments and sounds every time using headphones, ear phones and different speakers. I have to say ARR is the person apart from Sachin Tendulkar :-) Who has captured the imagination of millions of Indians with a brand of youth and passion unseen before.
My Top 10 songs of these 10 years would be
10) Poraale Ponnu Thayee ( Karuthamma): Wonderful song from my favorite Swarnalatha. Won the national award deservedly.
9) Tu hi tu (Kabhie Na Kabhie): A relatively Unknown song because the movie was not released properly. This is a rare gem from ARR. I especially love the beginning hum in that song.
8) Nila Kaigirathu (Indira): Ah! Who can forget Hariharan's memorable voice ( Harinis version was good to ). The melancholy of this song is completely representative of what music is all about.
7) Pachai Nirame ( Alaipayuthey): Can a song be more intoxicating. What string arrangements What a wonderful voice. Brilliant picturization! It captures all moods to perfection. Wonderful lyrics.
6) Dilse (Dilse): The initial thump of drums and slowly building up the crescendo. ARR's voice blends so well with this tune. The middle "sa sa ni dha pa " hum is wonderful. As usual this song was met with good
5) En Kaathale ( Duet): This according to me is the best song SPB has sung. No one can hold on to such a tempo for such a long time. The voice just silkily runs through without wilting even for a moment. The smoothness this song achieves is unparalleled. What sadness this song brings out. Makes anyone feel they can also sing (but is it easy???).
4)Thee Thee (Thiruda Thiruda): Agreed this came out as an Advt first. But what a different song. Carolyene's indifferent Tamil adds more to the cuteness of this song. I suspect the Jathi voice as Jathiraja is ARR himself. There are only a handful of songs that were picturized better than this one.
3)Mellisaye ( Mr. Romeo): I always thought this wud be my #1 ARR song but I am so sad this is just # 3. Only ARR can out do himself with a song better than this one. What a tune. The raw tune of the song itself is so mindblowing. The slow female voice which starts the mesmerising drum rhythm is awesome. "ethanai nilavu.." the up and down of the tune is like a wave rising and falling and slowly becoming a tide.
2)Kathal Roja (Roja): Ah! this is in my opinion the first gem of ARR. The rawest musical passion of ARR is brought out i the song in just the humming that Sujatha does. The sad (melancholy is ARR's forte??) hum that rises in tone blends so well with the movie and the moment. The beat pattern changes with rarae precision.SPB's voice was so new to us. This SPB voice was a new avataar. Dude this is how you should break into movies.
1) Konjam Nilavu ( Thiruda Thiruda): According to me this is the consummate music done by ARR in his 10 year career. BGM included ARR will never be able to beat what he did in Thiruda Thiruda. Konjam Nilavu had a amazing voice that oozed sexuality and passion. The hard natured voice and the novel song structure is mindblowing imagination. No song has ever been picturized in Indian movie history. PCSriram, Mani and ARR is just a dream come true. Look athe diting and the fireworks exploding synchronously with the beats. WHat a voice, what a find. This song pumps one with adrenalin. This to me is ARR's song of the millenium(s).