Sunday, August 23, 2020

A Walk Down Rahman Lane by Chennai Motorist

 If you are here for the first time, please read this post.

Disclaimer 1- Long Post

Disclaimer 2-Highly Personal share

Disclaimer 3- Have so many more favourites to mention and so much more to share! For, how do you explain the magic of ARR in just one post, huh, Blogeswari?)

When I think of ARR, I think of the word ‘phenomenon’. That he has been given the titles ‘Isaippuyal’ and ‘Mozart of Madras’ is absolutely no surprise. 

But I can’t say he stormed in to my senses like the Isaippuyal that he is, because the way he came into my life was actually gentle…persistent, even. I would say that he moved in to my head and heart one bag at a time; one song at a time. Lock, stock and barrel. That is to say: Voice, Instrument and Arrangement!  And his music will always be unique, transporting me to some place I’ve never been…a place full of new possibilities I never even knew existed! Since his music transports me so, I should also return the favour, methinks and now, a playlist without his music is unthinkable. Therefore, the way I do and always will, take him along with me wherever I go, is just a given. We don’t dump the good in our lives anywhere. We hold it close and carry it wherever we can.

I thank Blogeswari for asking me to write about A R Rahman because it really made me think about and express in words who ARR is in my life, and what his music means to me.

All Images courtesy A.R.Rahman's Instagram

When A R Rahman was first introduced through the movie Roja, it was a remarkable entry indeed because the sound of his music was refreshing, the lyrics deep, new and bold, and the movie’s director was more of a brand than just a famous individual - Mani Ratnam.

But I just said ‘oh ya, nice songs, ya’ and listened, enjoyed them, and moved on with life. ‘Pudhiya Mugam’, ‘Gentleman’ albums happened as I tried to proceed with life without taking proper hold of ARR’s music. But then, ‘Thiruda Thiruda’ hit us and then, ‘Duet’. What is that talk about CALM and all when there is a storm? It’s nonsense. If you’re hit by a Storm, you can’t just sit back and do nothing. You’ve GOT to be swayed…and this storm makes you first sit up, pay attention and then do what needs to be done. And so, being the half-baked musician that I was in my teens (&continue to be), ‘Rasathi’ was duly attempted in for an event: ‘Socials’ and then unceremoniously abandoned after near-perfection because…that new Acapella Gokappella and all defeated us teenagers as a concept. We lacked the confidence to pull it off on stage without instruments to play shock-absorber on the pitchy parts and quavers, semi-quavers and demi-semi-quavers. (Proving that half-bakedness here)

Also, acapella wasn’t a well-known or relevant word then! (hehe)

Through my undergrad years, ARR’s music dominated the cultural scene at the colleges of Chennai. Every dance performer attempted to shake their limbs to ‘Chikku-bukku railu’ and as for the singing; I was slumped close to unconsciousness in frustration and extreme boredom when the umpteenth solo contestant sang Netru Illadha Maatram’ for the nth time! (from Pudhiya Mugam)

I hated soppy songs then and also, hardly anyone did justice to the high notes composed by Rahman while also retaining the melody in all its glory. I imagine that if I were a rat, a big human stomping on the edge of my tail would allow me to hit the highest note in the charanam of Netru Illaadha Maatram! On the other hand, the throaty ‘July maadham vandhaal‘ from the same film was differently delightful but almost-never attempted. 

ARR was then a young music director who was present as a Judge for a Light Music contest we participated in and ‘Tamizha Tamizha’ was coincidentally a part of our college band’s (Ethiraj) repertoire. We didn’t win the first place (sniff) maybe because we had a one-handed player on the piano and a couple of Bharatanatyam dancers playing the drums together (!) or maybe, because he didn’t want to award the team who was playing HIS songs, the first spot. Anyway we received the Second place and criticized him a bit (!) for not applauding our version of Tamizha Tamizha enough.

(Today, I would be thrilled to just catch sight of his slightly-smiling face anywhere and that would be enough because of the magic that’s his music, but this fuss was long, long ago.)

Then, when I left my first-ever job in an Internet-services company to pursue my passion in the US of A, two guys who were colleagues of mine, gifted me an audio cassette: “Kadhalan”. First of all, I was surprised that my colleagues of 6 months thought me special enough to give a gift to. (The company had given me a watch! So these 2 didn’t really have to give me anything). Secondly, I have always noticed that anyone who gifts me music is simply unforgettable in my life. So, that’s why I remember those two. Let’s call them G&P.

Anyway, I thanked G&P bemusedly, and gave the cassette cover a once-over and then shrugged it off. After all, it had Prabhu Deva and Nagma on the cover! Still, I packed it in my suitcase because I always listened to music while doing anything and everything and plus, it was a going-away gift from 2 BOYS.

I HAVE to mention Isaignani Ilayaraja here. (Yes, this is weird) Sorry, Blogeswari, music is personal so you will have to bear with ramblings of my journey with Ilayaraja first and
A R Rahman next. Until Roja happened, Ilayaraja’s was THE music which was familiar, revered, enjoyed, etc. So, you can’t just-like-that switch to someone new and go gaga over him, right? That’s not what a good South Indian does. So, I didn’t ‘justu’ switch. But I sure added him to my music collection as and when more of his music was released.

As an adult, when you hear new music, you don’t just accept it and dance and sing along. You sit down and break it down and criticise it if you can. But then, there I was, all alone in my room, listening to Kadhalan on my mini tape player in the boonies of the West Virginian mountains, soaking in the hep-sounding Tamizh, jolted by the newness and marveling at the fresh music. It was like going through one of those parallel universe thingies through a strange tunnel full of alien music but it was all so filling and oh-so-melodious all the same. I can’t say I cried like Actor Karthik weirdly did in Gopuravaasalile (which scene I want to UNSEE till date), but I can say that I was just terribly taken aback in a wonderful way. I wasn’t cheating on Raja, I told myself. I was just moving ahead with Raja in my backpack and Rahman in my handbag. Clutch*Clutch*.

All the new voices added to Rahman’s magic. The SPB and Janaki Jodi-singing was replaced by so many new singer-combos and solos which all sounded fantastic. A whole, new world opened up. The variety in voices, the freshness of sound, and the powerful effect of the instruments coming together for harmony was just earth-shattering!

Back home, the TV used to blare out insane visuals of SPB and Prabhu Deva dancing together in Kadhalan. My late father was very taken with ARR as well. He tried mocking ‘this new music’ but ended up enjoying it as he sang ‘Muqaala, Muqaabala, Laila ohhh Laila’. Being a good singer himself and partial to the likes of Rafi, Talat and Ghantasala, he sang Muqaala to tune and though he inserted cluck-cluckings like “What ARE these lyrics I say” in attempted disgust, he didn’t stop singing the songs. J One particular song tickled him terribly. Oorvasi Oorvasi. When I sang out “Pakathu seat-u-la paati okkaandha, Take it easy policy”, he laughed out loud (ya LOL-ed. Back then, we said the WORDS, actually).

When we came to “Dhanda soru-nu appan sonna…Take it easy policy” he chuckled, and “pandigai thedhi Sundayil vandha Take it easy policy” made him snort, “Vazhuka thalayan Tirupathi pona” made him giggle and finally, “Azhagu kaadhali Anna-nu sonna” had him chortling with laughter. This now makes me think he might have been Anna-ed and also that he may have had many a Paatti take a seat next to his. Anyway, in the short time he was alive after ARR’s entry, he enjoyed Isaipuyal’s music immensely.

To me, some movie albums stand out because they’re outstanding (!) -- Like VTV, OKK, Kaatru Veliyidai, Tenali, and many, many more. Innumerable songs have delighted us. VTV’s Omana penne is terribly special and Swasame in Tenali too. So very mellifluous. It’s hard to pin down favourites cos they keep slipping out like Slippery Seppankizhangu that has been boiled and ready for peeling. MORE favourites keep jostling for attention! ‘Kaara Attakara’ jolts me out of lethargy anytime, while ‘Azhagiye’ from ‘Kaatru Veliyidai’ makes me want to hug someone immediately in Kushi! (not shadily, mind you)

On another note, I get jealous of any South Indian celeb who ventures close to the North ie Bollywood. So I refuse to listen to ARR’s Hindi ventures. Even so, ‘Khwaja mere Khwaja’ moves me and ‘Dil Se’ songs are far superior in effect, to the Tamizh version. So, I have to let him go once in a while so that he will come back and compose a ‘Munbe va’ and a ‘New York Nagaram’ which will keep me less sulky (!) while he visits the Mumbai scene and comes back. (Back here in Chennai, is where you belong, ARR!)

All said and done, I’d say that ARR speaks to us in song. He voices the notes to us and shares with us his scintillating music, telling us that the world still has hope, beautiful music, awesome lyrics and…himself. That’s all I want to hear. <3

About Chennai Motorist

What do I write about someone who I've known more than half my life?
One post and all won't do 
justice I say.

Chennai Motorist a.k.a Teesu Akka a.k.a Tees is one of the most lovable person/s you'll come across. An entrepreneur, a Seppankezhangu aficionado, a pianist, guitarist, writer and a cute cuddly friend (I can see her cringemaxxx) who one can discuss all possible vetti stuff particularly about Madras. 

A supremely creative person, Tees is a strictu aabeesar as a music teacher when she taught us, a big group of singers and instrumentalists, a dozen songs to sing at various culturals. Ya, including the one where we sang in front of the The ARR.

Thanks Tees for sharing your thoughts. This is so well written. Love eeet & Love you!

1 Responses:

D LordLabak said...

Love love loved it. But kinda bummed she didn’t pick one song to alasify, given her musical SME status. :-)