Friday, August 14, 2020

A Walk Down Rahman Lane by Sangeetha Devi

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

Once upon a school excursion

A song that makes me smile and recall the fun I had in school is ‘Rukkumani Rukkumani from Roja (1992), A R Rahman’s debut film. 

I was in Class 10, studying in Coimbatore. We had two kinds of school excursions conducted simultaneously - we could choose between a one-day trip to Yercaud and a three-day trip to Madurai-Kodaikanal. My parents were overprotective and didn’t let me go on the three-day excursion; I went to Yercaud. That’s a different story.

When we all returned from our respective excursions, my friends from the Madurai-Kodaikanal excursion group had tales to tell, which came with spurts of laughter even before the morning Assembly.

Their bus had a breakdown in Madurai and soon it was clear that they would have to wait several
hours. The journey to Kodai had to be called off; to kill time, they persuaded the teachers to book tickets for Roja. Mani Ratnam film. No questions asked. All was well when the film began. The new handsome hero (Arvind Swamy) was worth a lot of gushing (which the girls tried to do discreetly), Madhu was gorgeous and ‘Chinna Chinna Aasai’ was mesmerising. 

Then came ‘Rukkumani Rukkumani’. Imagine a big group of adolescent girls struggling to hide their smiles while watching it with frowning and disapproving teachers, which included Nuns.

My friends laughed, recalling the teachers’ comments and chides (for egging them on to book tickets for the movie).
By lunch hour, word had spread about the movie experience in the staff room.  

The Tamil teacher walked in later for her class. Her classes were partly moral science sessions. It wouldn’t take much for her to digress and talk about how the world was going to dogs and we are doomed. 

She didn’t watch movies (or maybe she did, who knows), and had heard about the Madurai ordeal. Fellow teachers had told her that they liked the film, barring a song sequence. 

In between explaining a Tamil ‘Seyyul’ (literary poem), she paused and said something like how poetry/songs are awful today - and said she had heard about Roja, in which elderly women sang and danced to ‘Rukkumani rukkumani’ with eroticism.  Most of my friends remained poker faced. I giggled. She threw me a sharp glance and said she didn’t expect it from me. I laughed some more and then said sorry. After the class we all laughed, again.

For many of us who were (I still am) huge Ilaiyaraaja fans, the early 90s was about being stunned by a strikingly new world of Tamil film music, thanks to ARR. 

My dad and I had a go-to music store in Coimbatore - Saraswathi Stores - where we would buy cassettes of Raaja sir’s music by the dozen. We bought Roja. And slowly our Raaja-centric personal collection of film music began to have many ARR albums as well. ******************************************* About Sangeetha Devi A journalist with The Hindu, Sangeetha writes on varied topics including films, art and culture. During this lockdown, Sangeetha is busy filling notebooks, jotting down notes from all the telephonic interviews. You can read this amateur photographer's articles here. Don't forget to say hello to Sangeetha here.

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