Friday, September 25, 2020

Enga SPB

Everybody is familiar with the ‘80s SPB during the Golden era of the Raaja... On to the ‘90s, we got introduced to Isaippuyal via SPB in Roja, Kadhalan, Uzhavan and so on. SPB continued  continues to rule even in 2000s, until now. Ofcourse, the Indhi belt keeps talking about the Salmaan SPB from the ‘90s... the only SPB they probably know of.

In Tamizh, not many people speak about the ‘60s and ‘70s SPB... atleast on social media. Except for the QFR series , Oliyum Oliyum equivalents on Sunlife, Murasu TV etc, makkal don’t quite talk about his ‘70s and his ‘60s, in Tamizh cinema. IMO, this was the most glorious era of SPB. He continued to sound the same as he did in Aayiram Nilave Vaa and Iyarkai Enum Ilaya Kanni, even now. How like that?

Thanks to my father I got introduced to SPB’s songs from the ‘60s and ‘70s. That SPB era, now feels more like ‘Enga{L} SPB’ which a lot of makkal don’t know about or atleast not talking about.  When I say ‘Enga’ I include me, my siblings, parents and a close circle of a dozen friends born in the ‘70s. When I say ‘Enga SPB’ is also feels a lot personal and a bit possessive. Let me introduce you to a few of my favourites of ‘Enga SPB’.

(Image from one of the whatsapp videos on SPB shared)

1. Naalai Namadhe: Though He was not the voice of MGR in this particular song, this tops my MGR-SPB playlist. May be because my dad used to sing this really well when we were kids. This is a duet with the legendary TMS , yet SPB holds his own. When he begins with an “Anbu Malargale.....” it’s instant love! My father had tried to ‘Karaoke’ this song last year in Madras, and I hope I have a recording of it with me. This movie plays quite often on TV these ‘Lockdown’ days and I sit thru’ all the masala only to listen to this track.

2. Devan Vedamum : SPB-Susheela and Thyagarajan (Top Star Prashant’s father) singing / speaking in this song. Again, this was introduced to me by my father. V.Kumar FTW! Romba beautiful song. 

3. Ilamayenum Poongatru: No inter-collegiate hifi culturals in Madras was complete in the ‘80s and ‘90s without a rendition of this song. I have listened to this more during ‘Mardigras’ / ‘Saarang’ selection rounds, sung by the professional college music gangs than in OLiyum Oliyum. For everyone’s benefit, I’ve linked the video without the “actual video”.

4. Vaarthai Thavari Vittai: Thanks to this track being featured on OLiyum Oliyum on high rotation, I’d sing (oLarify) this, as a kid , with the “Ennadi Meenacheee...”

5. Kamban Emaandhan: The amazing Kamal-SPB-MSV-Balachander combo! That place where SPB goes “Malarendraaaannn” is sheer magic! The other magic from the same film is “iLakkanam Maarudho....”. When he begins the song with ‘Ilakkanam” Deiva Level! I’m told Kamban Emandaan is Vishwanathan Anand’s favourite too.

6. Vaazhvil Sowbaagiyam: It’s not an overtly sweet romantic song, though it featured a (then) real life couple, on screen. We owe a lot of Ceylon Radio for introducing such gems to us.

7. Thoduvadenna Thendralo : If you ask my dad his top 5 favourites, this will definitely feature in that. SPB takes you to Kulu Kulu Kashmir when he sings about ‘Pani’, ‘kuLir’ etc.. Pppaah!

8. Poopole Un Punnagaiyil: This, again was a Ceylon Radio intro. Sivaji sings, yearning for his daughter’s love...You cannot but feel the sadness of a father when he sings “Ammavendru varum kannukutti”.

9. Uchchi Vagundeduthu: A cousin , Priya , used to love this song. I haven’t spoken or met her in decades but this song and its rendition takes me back to childhood days when Priya would keep mentioning this song. Again, the sogam of Sivakumar is brought out so well in this song, thanks to Ilaiyaraaja and SPB.

10. Paadum Podhu Naan Thendral Kaatru: This song is what one calls ‘breezy’.True to the lyrics, the ‘Thendral’ification of the song oozes in SPB’s voice.

There are many many more gems of ‘Enga SPB’ that one can continue to talk about. At the beginning of this Lockdown period, I had made a series of playlists and one of the first few playlists made was ‘Lockdownil ‘70s SPB’. Never did I think I’d listen to this playlist on repeat , on a day like this.

(Image from one of the whatsapp videos on SPB shared)

Thank you, SPB for the wonderful songs and memories from the ‘60s until now🎙❤

Monday, August 31, 2020

A Walk Down Rahman Lane by Abhirami

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

Around the time my first son was born, there was a song that was topping the Tamil charts. It was a song that perfectly echoed the tumult of motherhood - the ecstatic peaks and the crushing challenges - with its soaring high and lilting low notes effortlessly rendered by a teenager who served to notice to the world that she was no ordinary talent. Deivam thandha poove (Oh flower, a blessing from God) from the movie Kannathil MuththamittaL quickly became a song I would sing to my firstborn. As a new mother grappling with raising her infant in a foreign country with little support, this song to me was a reminder that hidden amidst the incessant demands placed on my time, the obliteration of my own identity as a woman, the overwhelming fatigue that set in at the start of yet another day filled with nursing, cleaning and feeding, was a little gem that I called my child. 

A few years later, I would go on to have my second son and I had chosen to have him in UK on my own, politely declining all offers of help from family in India. Ten days after his birth, we organised a small Punjayajanam and invited some friends and neighbours to the ceremony. The priest performed a few rituals and I suggested that those of gathered each sing something on the occasion. If this had been in India, there would have been much fanfare, food and celebration. Somehow, that cold, grey English afternoon demanded enlivening and warmth from songs. It seemed so bereft and soulless otherwise. When it was my turn to sing, I chose Deivam Thandha poove. It only seemed fitting that I would sing this song that tells the child how they came as a breeze into one's life and remained as air to breath. Perhaps it was the wide range that A R Rahman had laid out for his singers that they so casually sauntered across that was beyond the grasp of this amateur singer, perhaps it was the full weight of the song falling on a new mother's shoulders, perhaps it was a sense of the occasion, I could not complete the song as my throat seized up. Despite the shadow that has been cast on the song (its lyricist Vairamuthu has been accused of sexual misconduct by its singer Chinmayi), this track never fails to remind me what a blessing my sons are. 

About Abhirami

Apart from being an Akka to an illustrious sister, namely yours truly, Abhirami is a media professional and playwright who is pursuing a Master’s degree in documentary film-making while working in a film & training company. Currently, she is busy resuscitating her creative practice after a hiatus of a dozen years. 

Abhirami blogs here and you could take a look at her work on her site. Say hi to Abhi here and here

Sunday, August 30, 2020

A Walk Down Rahman Lane by Viju

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

Down the memory lane

A.R. Rahman’s music, being very special to me, plays a very important role in my long distance runs. A lot of these long distance runs are run by me solo and it gets very lonely. There are moments when you feel like giving up and/or hit the wall. To ensure I have some company during the run I always listen to music (naysayers please excuse!) and this has definitely played an important role in my evolution as a long distance runner.

I list below five songs that have pushed me during my runs in the past few years and they will always have a special place in my long run and also on my iPhone (previously iPod shuffle).

Ladio from I: What a powerhouse of energy this song is! There was a time I would listen to all the songs from ‘I’ exclusively during my run and time a 7k to that. Ladio is one of those tracks that just changes its form every minute in the song and that refreshes me quite a bit on my run. A target for me is to run a full marathon with 4:41 as my pace per kilometer. May I will put this song on a loop 42.2 times!

Oru Nanban Irundhaal from Enakku 20 Unakku 18: The song has a constant tempo from start to finish and Chinmayi’s vocals alongside the chorus is something that keeps one going nonstop. Also the lyrics of this song about friendship also are something I liken to my relationship with my run. Particularly - Ada vaazhkkai padhai maralaam natpudhaan maaruma (our life’s path can can but will friendship change?)

Kadhal Vettukili from Parasuram: This brilliant yet lesser known duet from an immensely forgettable movie is another song that has an energetic set of beats and an amazing interlude between the first and second charanams. This always has a place on my running playlist and gives me that high every time I hear the first few seconds of the song!

Tanha Tanha from Rangeela: As a 90s kid, all I remember from watching this song in the 90s initially was Urmila running on the beach and then an ‘ugly’ Jackie Shroff creepily dancing with her. Well, with all those memories put aside, I revisited this song a few years ago and the orchestration in this - the flute, the violins, Sujatha and Srinivas’ alaaps before the first charanam make it such a grand song. And ensuring I maintain my strides fine with the beats in the song, especially when I am doing intervals, is a blissful experience.

Arziyan from Delhi 6: This song is always going to be ‘That One Song’ for me and I end up trying to ensure my races or significant long runs start or end with this song! The divinity in Kailash Kher and Javed Ali’s vocals and the positivity in this song takes me to an entirely different zone (both during my run and otherwise).

There are more ARR songs on my running playlist and probably I will write about more of those soon! Thank you Blogeswari for this opportunity and thank you ARR for all the music!
About Viju

Zu (An)na, sometimes called Dr.Viju works with the Universities in India on understanding how computational tools are used in the curriculum and research to help accelerate the engineering and science learning process.

I'll give you a moment and more to process the above. Yeah, that's our Zu 'na. His CV will need a doctorate for you and I to decipher, dissect and digest.

A reluctant book worm, A Marathoner and a Padicha Pulla - Zu 'na has been spending this lockdown period reading, running (adhe!) on roads and running a poll on Twitter with the hashtag #FavARRite on ARR's songs and albums. Viju blogs here, here and here . 

Say Hi to Viju here and here.

Saturday, August 29, 2020

A Walk Down Rahman Lane by Hari

If you're here for the first time, please read this post
March 2015. The job season was at its peak, with multiple interviews lined up. ARR, too, reached his peak with the release of his OK Kanmani album. Three songs from the film played on my phone, and, eventually, in my mind, during my job search phase. 


The addictive Mental Manadhilwith all its buoyancywas one of the more accessible A R Rahman songs on the first hearing. Director Mani Ratnam enhanced the song with visuals of Dulquer and Nithya biking through Mumbai's busy streets with unbridled energy. I wondered if I should approach my job phase tension-free. I wasn't too sure. 


The structure of Parandhu Sella Va is an analogy to that of the film itself. What starts as a light and fun track turns into something incredibly romantic after the halfway mark. Each time I played the song, I eagerly anticipated the portion where singer Karthik, a Me Too accused, begins Nanaindhu Kollava Mazhai Illamale to go into a romantic high. The chills, unmonitored eyelid closure all enhanced the dream-like state I was finding myself in when listening from the halfway mark. I thought, sometimes, being in a dream-like state was an excellent way to forget being worried about my impending final round interview for which I had to travel from one city to another. I thought I aced my job interview. 


Aye Sinamika made me long for a crush that did not exist. The song also felt like life: meandering but containing the highs that felt pleasant and the lows that made one yearn for such peaks. Unfortunately (and lucky for the one who got the job), I failed to land the job. But, the crests and troughs are what make life beautiful. We should try finding beauty in small things instead of complaining about things we may not have control over. 


I finally did find a job four months after the release of Mental Manadhil, and a month after the unsuccessful interview I mentioned earlier. It happened after over 200 listens of the songs from the film from a playlist that contained only OK Kanmani's songs. Maybe A R Rahman was telling me all along, “It's all going to be OKK in the end.”



About Hari:


Hari is an engineer by day and cinephile by night. He has almost ended his love affair with cricket by sticking to just the IPL. He writes film-related articles whenever he gets a worthy topic to write about.

During the lockdown, he dabbled in song edits and realized he has taste.


Taste isn't an issue when it comes to his cooking because he's a great chef. He loves going on long drives provided he has company. Otherwise, he wastes his time on Twitter.

Say hi to Hari here.

Friday, August 28, 2020

A Walk Down Rahman Lane by Sid Srinivas

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


A R Rahman and my life have always gone hand in hand. I would even call it a rain of destiny, because his songs have always been arriving at the right time, where I was able to relate to them with my personal happenings. I’ve mostly experienced A R Rahman’s songs for the first time through audio cassettes, CDs, FM stations, in theatres and now on YouTube. But one of my most memorable first time listens would be the time when I came across Rahman’s Malayalam song Padakali. At a concert of his.

I was well aware of the composer’s hits across the Tamil and Telugu industries, but Yodha is a world I had never heard of. Enjoying all the songs one by one at the concert which took place in Sharjah, I was taken aback by surprise when Benny Dayal and Haricharan started singing this Malayalam number which was like a vintage rap song. I remember asking my fellow friends and family members on whether this song was by another composer, only to later discover that it was indeed ARR’s own composition, and a brilliant one at that.

Now, Padakali has become one of the songs that I keep revisiting from time to time. The sheer pace of the song, the way the two veterans in KJ Yesudas and MG Sreekumar carry out the pronunciations, and the amount of the entertainment that one gets from the fun-filled video.

Equal credit to Benny Dayal and Haricharan, who were pitch perfect with their renditions on stage as well. Whatever ARR concerts I attend hereon, I will wait for this song to be performed live.


Thank you Rahman, for this excellent song that is yet another stamp of your ever-widening versatility.
About Sid Srinivas

Sidhu a.k.a Sid Srinivas is an Engineer turned Entertainment Journalist who loves his cinema as much as he loves his music and cricket.
A man of many hats within the review universe, Sidhu writes for Only Kollywood and Let's OTT apart from making brief appearances on YouTube to discuss movies. He is also a Marketing consultant for an upcoming movie in Tamizh. 
While his friends and family call him Sidhu/ Sid / Sidharth etc, he's known as 'EzhaigaLin Ilayathalapathy' amongst his ardent fans. Check this out to know why.
Fans can reach Sidhu here and here.

Thursday, August 27, 2020

A Walk Down Rahman Lane by A M Aravind

If you're here for the first time, please read this post

The first time I heard this song was when my neighbour used to play it, and  it reached us in a muffled tone - because of the distance and the concrete walls interrupting the sound waves. I was intrigued. The neighbour played it again. And, again. And again. Several times that day. And for the rest of the week. But, I was not able to make out the lyrics or even the language, and I couldn't figure out what song it was. The introvert that I was, I never got around to asking him what it was.


What kept me hooked was these lines "Jao humko to Aati Sharm hai, Teri Aisi Adaa Pe to Fida hum hain". I found the way these lines were sung to be so fresh. And addictive. And, the tune, so unique!


Later that week, at school, some of my friends were to dance at our culturals, and were rehearsing, with an instrumental track. During a break, they played another song from the same film. And, guess what? It was my "mystery song". I finally asked what song it was. I got the reply, "Don't you know? This is A R Rahman's first Hindi film. And the song is called Hai Rama."


Though we were addicted to many of thalaivARR's Tamil songs in the 2-3 years he was in the industry, I wasn't following his work closely, and I was unaware of his Hindi debut. I quickly got hold of the cassette and it was a joy blasting all the songs from the album in our Videocon tape recorder.


What a magic Hai Rama turned out to be. If the "trailer" from my neighbour's house got me hooked, the full song blew me away. There was so much more in the song. Hariji and Swarnalatha in top form, accompanied by playful flute (the flute bit in the second interlude - from 4:45 - remained my ringtone for a long time), the vibrant percussion and passionate strings took me to heaven, not just then, but even now. 25 years after it was composed!


Thank you, Rahman sir, for blessing us with evergreen songs like this, and surprising us with extra-ordinary experiments, even after 28 years!

About A.M.Aravind

An A.R.Rahman series without a guest post by AMA? No, Never, Nahin!

A die-hard fan of Rahman, Sachin and Federer, AMA, when not RJing on an online radio station, presenting ARR's songs, is usually in and around Pallikaranai Marshlands or Vedanthangal, marathon-ing.. ie Bird Marathoning. Don’t miss following his series on Youtube, for birders.
Also, have you listened to this song composed by Rahman for AMA? Yes, Nambungaji
Follow engaL Birdman here and here.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

A Walk Down Rahman Lane by Suresh

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


Every tea stall that played Raja now played Roja, only Roja. And yet, I don’t remember when and where I first heard the song “Chinna Chinna Aasai”. We had neither television nor any music player at home then. The song, however, was always in the air, long after it stopped playing. Any popular song in Tamilnadu at the time was omnipresent. It was everywhere, all the time. You don’t have to do anything to access the song, it’ll find a way to reach you, again and again and again. So, though I have a vivid memory of my first encounter with the other songs in Roja, I don’t have one for “Chinna Chinna Aasai”. So, I present here one of my nth encounters with the song. 

I remember the annual day cultural events in a school in the 
neighbourhood. A group of girls of age five or six, dressed as little fairy angels in pink and blue fluffy frocks, danced to the song. The dance movements were simple and cute. The girls stood in their place for most of the time, bobbing their heads, moving their upper body sideways with hands on their hips. They twirled once in a while, in stuttering, staccato steps, not a fluid rotation. Their hand gestures made many shapes in the air translating every word in the song’s lyrics into a dance step. For the line that goes “I want this earth to revolve around me”, the girls placed their hands on their chest (me) and painted a two-dimensional sphere in the air. They stretched their arms sideways and drew one half of a full circle with each arm (earth), and as they pulled the edges of their frilled frocks a little with their petite fingers, they rotated in their spot (revolve around).

The dusky girl who danced in the middle at the front was beautiful. I noticed that she was the only one in the group who lip-synced with the song while dancing. Also, she was the only one smiling throughout. She seemed pleased with her performance. Though all the girls on the stage were performing the same dance routine, each one did it differently. A girl dancing in the last row had forgotten the steps; she was imitating the one next to her, and so she was always the last to finish a movement. The girl in the corner at the front went blank, stopped dancing and picked her nose instead. The one next to the girl at the centre appeared confident, but because she had missed a beat at the start her entire performance was out of sync. A girl in the second row was performing all the steps correctly but was looking down throughout. Some girls looked excited and so gesticulated more than necessary, and some seemed shy, hesitant and rigid in their movements. Despite all the variations in the execution of the rehearsed steps, when the song required everyone to hold hands and form a circle, they somehow made it happen; they did it with perfect synchronisation.
About Suresh

Suresh's contact details are stored as 'Background Score Urs Musically Suresh', on my phone. IMO, like 'Thalapathy' and 'Thala' this can become Suresh "star title".
From John Williams to Ilaiyaraaja to the music in Satyajit Ray's films to Ghibran's compositions, Suresh writes about music across languages on his blog. A true music buff, from time to time, Suresh uploads his favourite background scores as a compilation on his YouTube channel as well. Don't miss listening to this one.
When there are days when doesn't want to listen to any dandanakka music or even songs for that matter, one can quietly head over to Suresh's YouTube playlists. I'd urge you to head to his YouTube channel and listen to the music he's compiled. Pure bliss.
Thank you Suresh, for sharing your nth encounter with ARR's debut film track, on this blog.

Say hi to Suresh here.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

A Walk Down Rahman Lane by Dr.Gagan K

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

I am a Kannadiga and it was hard for us in the 90s and early 2000s to even get hold of Tamil songs. The only way ARR songs reached us was when those Tamil movies were dubbed to Hindi. Sometime in the year 2000, my brother had come to know through his friend, that “the new Mani Ratnam – A R Rahman movie” had good songs. Our parents had planned a week long pilgrimage and we did not have any new cassettes to play in the car during the travel.  When dad gave us an opportunity to buy 1 or 2 cassettes, my brother and me rushed to a small cassette shop in Bangalore and asked the shop owner to give us “the latest Mani Ratnam – A R Rahman movie cassette”. Luckily, he instantly identified our query like today’s Google and gave us the Alaipayuthey cassette.

All through the travel, we played Alaipayuthey songs from A side to B side. My sanskaari parents immensely loved the Snehithane track which probably appeared on both sides. We wilfully kept “fast forwarding” the fast paced September Madham since we feared our parents may not like it. My brother warned me that “fast forwarding” will damage the tape. Also, if we changed the side, we would miss one good song on the other side. So, we allowed September Madham to play and that’s when my parents started a grand lecture on the topic - “Music, Melody, Decency and Old Hindi Songs”.  My dad started, “there are so many good old Hindi songs. But you people choose to play such indecent songs here. The melodious songs of Mohammad Rafi, Kishore Kumar, Latha Mangeshkar…” Mom continued, “and Asha Bhonsle…”

At this point, I found a good opportunity and said, “mom, this song is sung by Asha Bhonsle only”. Both dad and mom were instantly angry on me and asked me to stop the music and my speaking. For about an hour, there was dead silence and no songs played. I then played a cassette compilation of old, sad Hindi songs. After a while, dad got bored and asked me to stop playing it. I immediately went back to playing Snehithane and parents did not complain. We however kept skipping September Madham to keep them happy. For the next two months, we played mostly Alaipayuthey songs in our car. Every time I listen to the songs of Alaipayuthey, I get reminded of the greenery, hills, mist and water falls on the roads of Western Ghats. Twenty years later, Alaipayuthey songs sound like they were recorded recently. But due to non-listening of September Madham, this is the only song in this album I am not fond of.


About Dr Gagan K

Dr. Gagan K is a lawyer by qualification and a law lecturer by profession. His initial connection to Tamil music was through A R Rahman. And now he listens to Ilaiyaraaja, Harris Jayaraj, Anirudh, Yuvan and others.

Say hello to Dr Gagan K here, and do visit his blog.

Monday, August 24, 2020

A Walk Down Rahman Lane by Vijaynarain

If you're here for the first time, please read this post

The Rahman “Normal” 

Lekar Hum Deewana Dil.
The name sounds like a movie I would avoid even if someone gave me a free ticket to watch. Except, my trustworthy friends from the hardcore A.R.Rahman fans Whatsapp group ensured I was up to speed on the album release date. It must have been a month or so since I had set foot in Australia, allowing the country to slowly grow on me, in the same way many a Rahman song does. Even as I was warming up to Sydney’s delights, a sense of loneliness coupled with homesickness tended to creep in now and then, especially since those were the days of early sunsets that characterised the antipodean winter. 

My ringtone then, and for the next three years was Maloom’s opening guitar phrase. The ringtone was definitely not a conversation starter, you see, hardcore Rahman fans were hard to find for someone who barely had any friends in the country and the guitar lick itself wasn’t iconic in the same sense say, the bass-line of Urvasi Urvasi is. While like most other ARR albums, there were a host of new singers with amazingly fresh voices, the arrangements were surprisingly mainstream and the tunes, instantly catchy rather than woven into a byzantine web of notes and chords that reveal their intricate beauty over repeated listens. Yet, there was something about the album that made it feel like a cup of hot chocolate on a freezing Sunday evening.

I have in the past, written tedious essays about other Rahman albums that have moved me to tears (Inn Lamhon Ke Daaman Mein), shaken the core of my being (Water!), made me sit up all night flabbergasted that it was even humanly possible to create something like what I’d just heard (so many examples, but perhaps Adiye, Noor Un Ala, Thee Thee for now). However, never did I think I’d be writing about a normal Rahman album. Then again, the Rahman “normal” is a new normal isn’t it? I know I know, if only you had a dollar for every time you heard that term in the past few months…

Apparently this “Rahman normal” feels like a warm, welcoming hug from a friend you haven’t met in ages. Or perhaps it’s just that you haven’t realised that friend has always been with you even if you’re a continent apart, ready to put an arm around your shoulder and tell you everything is going to be just fine. I suppose that also explains why I’ve been revisiting the

music of LHDD often lately. My Australian experience would be incomplete, perhaps non-existent, without this album.

About Vijaynarain A musician, a daily wage IT consultant and a fighter for the cause of preserving structural integrity
of biscuits dunked in tea... Say hello to 'Super Singer' Vijaynarain. A familiar name in almost all of Santhosh Narayanan's recent albums, the singer Vijaynarain made his debut as Composer Vijaynarain, in Dagaalty, recently. Do check out the soundtrack. Vijaynarain's got some interesting projects coming up as a singer and as a composer and we cannot wait to listen to all of them! Thanks Vijaynarain for writing this today. Makkaley, don't miss listening to this wonderful playlist featuring all of Vijaynarain's hits.

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!

Saturday, August 22, 2020

A Walk Down Rahman Lane by Loges

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

Every time I hear the name A R Rahman, my mind usually goes to the peppy ‘Urvasi’, the joyful ‘Petta Rap’, the romantic ‘Ennavale’, the enthusiastic ‘Vande Maatharam’ or sometimes the emotional ‘Mustafa’. Every album had one such song that I had in my mind as the identity of the album. As a fan of Tamil cinematic universe, I always went behind the popular ones in most of the albums. One such album is Sangamam in which I thought the heroic ‘Mazhaithuli was the best of the lot until I recently unearthed this magic ‘Sowkiyama Kanne’.

When the movie Sangamam released, I was very little that I didn’t even remember the existence of this song(what a shame?!). Thankfully, youtube’s autoplay landed me in this song which was performed in a ARR concert. There was something in this song that held me in a loop. I had this misconception that ARR was always about western music in his filmography. Like the umpteen times that he surprised me before, he did again with this Carnatic classical.

Before even Nithyashree asks us “Sowkiyama kanne!”(are you doing good darling?), ARR makes us ‘Sowkiyam’(well and good) with his orchestration of chorus and mridangam. The amazement lived throughout the song with ARR’s trademark control over percussion. I was clinging back to this song after hearing it for the first time. It was playing in a loop both in my mind and my speakers. I was playing this song in my in-ear headphones, over-the-ear headphones, my speakers and tv too. I just couldn’t get enough of it. Every time Nithyashree went “En Kaatril swasam illai”, I went breathless. Even today, I get excited when this song comes in my play queue.

This made me revisit the collaborations of ARR and Nithyashree like ‘Kannodu Kanbodhellam’, ‘Minsara kanna’ but this time with a more curious mindset. I ended up wanting more classicals from ARR. Probably, I am still not aware of his greater works. Whatsoever, my love for him seems to grow more and more everyday. Because, music is pure love! ******************************************************
About Loges Loges is an author who's published a collection of short stories in Tamizh. He loves to travel and is a photographer as well. Music is Loges' companion during his travel, and at work. Loges writes in Tamizh and in English on his blog . Thank you, Loges for sharing your favourite memory of a Rahman song. Say hello to Loges here, here and here.

Friday, August 21, 2020

A Walk Down Rahman Lane by Susmitha Chakkungal

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

I always felt that my era should be aptly called the “Trans Gen” as in, people caught in transition.  Be it oh! I walked to college/ I travelled by public transport/ I cycled/ I go by a two wheeler, Typewriter/Computer/Laptops/Blackberry to everything today happens on mobile. We are the generation that transitioned through transition some in thoughts some in actual life… Music was no different at home for me the argument was always, always …MSV is the best, Ilayaraja is the best, it was almost spiritual and political to listen to them in the background of these voices. Scared if you could err by liking one more than the other because they are geniuses and their music is indeed brilliant, wondering will I have a musician of my own. As I grew passing through the most important personal phases of my life searching an identity in friendship, love, career, politics, family, marriage, faith...ARR happened. Music that gave emotions to all that shaped my life as a youngster, so it’s not easy for me to pick one song that made a lifetime impact on me, for his music is inseparable from me, imbedded in every DNA. Now having said that personally two emotions stand out for me with ARR’s music, devotion and patriotism maybe because somewhere these two emotions intertwine with the musician’s personality or it could be purely because both these emotions are very personal and speaks of faith that is true.

The music that crescendo’s in Tamizha Tamizha,  the visuals of secularism in Thai Mannae Vannakam,  the hope of peace and togetherness that Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and ARR’s voice in Gurus of Peace ,  the optimism when the Shehnai pierces your heart in “ Yeh jo Desh hai tera . I’m actually absolutely partial to the unplugged version of the same, where ARR says…Undhan Desathil kural, tholaidurathil adho…seviyil vizhadha…i tear up and feel the pride that my country is and will always remain to me, giving me a purpose. Strangely enough I felt the same with all the music tracks of Pele : Birth of a Legend , when the eyes fill up in Pele’s fathers eyes…I was soaked in uncontrollable tears… so what if Pele is not from India, ARR is from my ooru …

The closeness to a supernatural power that his music brings in Anbendra Mazhayilae… ( Honestly this is about the only song that I like of this singer) a God that will be within me and guide at times of distress in Oh Palan Hare nirgun our nyare… the purity and tranquility  ik onkar a simple hymn that tugs at your heart , the search to find faith in Kun Faya KunKhwaja merae khwajaMaula Wa Sallim …his music only showed me the oneness in the supreme power a God that helps us and impresses all of us to be good, a God that transcends beyond differences a God that you understand.  ARR…a musician and music that brings us all closer to each other through our personal belief.

About Susmitha
With a Double Master's Degree in Criminology and Human Rights, Sush continues to inspire her contemporaries including yours truly, with an envious career spanning over two decades in Electronic Media. As my go-to person for all career-related (read : boss related) problems, Sush is a level-headed problem solver and a much-needed motivator everyone needs.
It's no surprise that she was the most loved boss (as mentioned by her reportees) in her recent stint with a Radio station.
A Classical dancer and a super duper chef, Sush is seriously contemplating on setting up her cake business. That is, when she has some time to breathe amidst all the CSR work that she's involved in.
Say Hello to Sush here.