25 Years of Rahmanism — From Musician to Magician

Usually when we think of incidents that happened 25 years back, we will start feeling old. But here is an exception- please enjoy it as you read through this article.

Back in 1992, when the movie “Roja” released on 15th August, the music fans in India did not know that they will be taken by a storm. The storm, isaipuyal (Music Storm) as his Tamil fans fondly call him, continues to engage and entertain us even after 25 years from his onset. He has given new dimensions to the Music that existed then and gone beyond the boundaries of Age, Nation, Community etc. To achieve such an excellence, consistently for all these years is not merely music. Undisputedly, his Music itself is a key factor for his success, but it is not all. Like a well composed song, the success of A.R.Rahman, is a mix multiple factors. I tried my best to decode them and present it here, so that we have some take-aways from the Mozart, in addition to his endearing Music.

Positivity & Self-Discipline:

“Sogangal poiyeda, sumai neeki vaieda.
Manam endra veetai nee, dhinam sutham seiyeda.
Nathaikul muthu pol, Marathukul vittu pol,
Unvaazhkai enbathum, Ullathil ullatheda!”

Every time we recall ARR’s face, its impossible to think of it without a smile on his lips. The man, had his own share of struggles in personal and professional life before coming into film industry. But we can never spot a tinge of negativity in public appearances or interactions. Rather he is a pious, humble and graceful personality.

Such a stern positivity comes when we approach our work with confidence and concentration. And that focus stems from disciplining ourselves to adhere to great virtues and values. I think, being in the cine industry for 25 years, and successfully being abstained from all the controversies, allegations and gossips, and continuing to excel in his own merits is an award by itself.

ARR’s Tweet when Protest for Jallikattu was on in Tamil Nadu.

However, being dutiful and disciplined does not mean staying away when your people are fighting for justice. He stayed with the people and expressed his thoughts, without loosing his composure.

Groom a Team, Grow with it:

To be a Star- We’ll show you how,
Reach for the skies, and never, never give’t up!

Maniratnam, Vairamuthu, AR Rahman- back in the 90’s. Image Courtesy: Galatta.com

We know that ARR still has a strong bond with his mentor Maniratnam who introduced him to cine industry. Not just with Maniratnam, ARR forms an enduring relation with his team members with whom he feels a synergy. Starting from directors to music technicians, ARR is a talented person in nurturing mutual bonding, that helps in improvement for all.

ARR worked very closely with renowned Sound Engineer H.Sridhar (Late) and set new highs for sound-quality. Even now, we can see ARR sharing work with artists like Chinmayi, Keba, Haricharan etc. in many movies following the success in earlier works. Coming to Directors, ARR maintains an amiable relation with Maniratnam, Shankar, Ashutosh Gowariker, Danny Boyle etc. Like Music, lyrics form an integral part of any song, so ARR has his own list of eminent poets with whom he worked very frequently. The list includes- Vairamuthu, Vaali (Late), Gulzar, Javed Akhtar, Blaaze.

One common thing among Champions is their intrinsic push to go that extra mile for success. And when they find fellows similar to them from other domains, they try to grow together, thereby producing quality works as a team.

Push the boundaries, Retain your identity

“Vaanam engum paranthaalum, Paravai ennam than kootil.
Ulagam engum vaazhnthaalum, Thamizhan ennam thaai naatil!”

ARR at Academy Awards function, 2009. Image Courtesy: ibtimes.co.in

While we say ARR forms a bond with great talents and repeats working with them, he is also successful in expanding beyond comfort zones. He received an outstanding reception in the Hindi film industry following the success of his first film, Roja. This was unprecedented for any musician from the South. But, despite regionality, ARR chose only those projects which gave enough freedom to perform and produce quality output. This is exactly why he is able to uphold his standards. It tells us, why Quality is a key ingredient to Success, in addition to Volume.

His Iconic Associations and Quality in Music landed him in Hollywood within about 10 years from starting. He worked with Danny Boyle in the movie “Slumdog Millionaire” and ended up bagging 2 Academy Awards- one for Original Score and another for Original Song (Jai Ho) in that movie. Later, he received 2 Grammy awards also in the same categories. It is a feat that no Indian Musician has touched so far.

Nevertheless, ARR retains an Indian soul and upholds the love for his mother tongue. It is evident from his famous quotes made while receiving the Oscars- “Mere paas Maa hain” (Meaning: “I’ve my mom with me”) and “Ella pugazhum iraivanuke” (Meaning: “All glory goes to God”). We need to explore, experiment and keep setting new bars, but never at the cost of our ideology or identity.

Give back to Society:

“Thayae un peyar sollum pothae, idhayathhil min alai paayume.
Inivarum kaalam ilaignarin kaalam, un kadal mellisai paadume!”

Scottish Violinist Nicola Benedetti with students from Sunshine Orchestra. Image Courtesy: BritishCouncil.org

ARR, himself being an artist who came from humble background after facing tough times, he strives to empower young talents who face troubles in pursuing their passion in Music. He has established multiple initiatives, including: “Sunshine Orchestra”, which helps deserving students to become Music professionals, by providing financial support.

In almost every interview of ARR, he highlights his gratitude to the almighty for empowering him to serve the world. In his initiatives to provide support to Music students, he is not just improving the lives of those youngsters, but also ensuring quality instrumentalists and artists for the future Music Industry.

Never Stop Learning, Never Stop contributing

“Ella pugazhum Oruvan Oruvanukke!
Nee, Nadhi pole odi kondiru!”

Information Source: imdb

Its been 25 years- there is no sign of complacency or saturation. The zeal and attitude of the man is as young as his Music. He brought in massive technology disruption into Indian Music industry that gave him a uniqueness. Till date, its easy to call-out if a song is composed by Rahman or not, by merely listening to the quality of sounds and Music. That tells the depth of the dent he has made.

So far, ARR has composed 150+ albums in 25 years, which makes an average of about 6 per year. For every occasion and emotion, we have a Rahman song that can improve our state of mind. People who work with him say that- He is a perfectionist, even in case of minute sounds, and has an ‘ear’ for details. There came a lot of Technical innovations in Music industry years after he attained stardom. But, he did not get bulldozed by them; rather he embraced the power of Technology, imbibed it with conscious efforts & made it work for him. In simple words — He continues to be a Student for life; He has not stopped learning and applying his learning.

“Mettu podu, Mettu podu,
Ada Kadalu-kkundu, Karpanai-killai kattupaadu!”

[For all the Tamil song lines italicized in every section, sincere Thanks to all the poets who wrote it- those words helped me to express my thoughts effectively. All details mentioned are as on: 15 August, 2017]