Jamming with AR

By April 18, 2011 No Comments hai chhota sa,
chhoti si aasha,
Masti bhare mann ki,

bholi si aasha,
Chand taaron ko
chhoone ki aasha,
Aasmanon mein
udne ki aasha…

The words seem almost prophetic today with the world crooning Jai ho!. But when I first heard them, back in 1

992, springing from Madhoo’s lips in a darkened auditorium, they seemed to mirror Roja’s aspirations, my own and that of a million other Indians!

When Allah Rakha Rahman invited Mani Ratnam to Panchathan Record Inn, the mixing and recording studio he had set up in his own backyard with Rs 4 lakh worth of sophisticated equipment raised by selling his sister’s jewellery, the master director had no clue what was in store. He sat on the swing, like so many others after him, and listened to a ‘scratch’ the boy genius had put together for him. It was unlike anything his regular music director Illayaraja had ever composed. But after a second and a third hearing, Mani sir was ready to hand over the baton to AR with a simple brief.

“He asked me to create music that would appeal to the nation, which is exactly what I did. And it worked!” reminisced the Mozart of Madras years later about his debut movie score that fetched him the Rajat Kamal (Silver Lotus) for Best Music Director at the National Film Awards, an unprecedented win for a first-time composer.

Three years later, he was the unanimous choice for the just-instituted RD Burman Award for New Music Talent. I was looking forward to my first dekko of the South whiz kid who with Gentleman (‘Chikku bukku rayile…’), Thiruda Thiruda (‘Chandralekha..’), Kadhalan (’Mukkabla…’) and Bombay (Humma Humma…’ and ‘Kehna hi kya…’) had proved that  you didn’t need to understand his jumble of words to swing to his score.

AR flew into the city with wife Saira but didn’t show up in time to accept his award. He’d apparently gone to Haji Ali for ‘darshan’ and got caught in a traffic jam on the way to the venue. More recently, the launch of his biography in Mumbai was delayed because his mother and sister were caught in a traffic jam.

AR himself had planned to start press interactions by 5 pm. I was amongst the first booked for a five-minute exclusive at 5.40 pm. I hung around watching the TV crew set up their lights, the hotel staff the stage and the PR team the interviews. “He should be here any minute,” I was told every few minutes. It was almost 40 minutes before AR turned up. “He was getting a haircut,” a friend whispered. Well yes, his hair did sit neatly on the head that wore the crown!

AR is not a man of words and that’s why he’s so hard to pin down to a conversation. It took Nasreen Munni Kabir eight years to get him to  agree to the biography and four years of nightly chitchats on Skype for AR Rahman: The Spirit Of Music to become a reality.

My encounters with the double Oscar, double Grammy, four-time National Award winner have been no more than a couple, one long distance from LA with Alexander Graham Bell playing mediator. That 10-minute telephonic was abruptly interrupted mid-sentence when AR stepped out of the recording studio and the transatlantic connection broke. Of course, AR didn’t bother to hang around answering questions about Oscar aspirations and royalty expectations when he could be making music.

Now if I had been Majid Majidi maybe I could have kept him engaged with a Baran or a Children Of Heaven. If I had been Madhubala I might have entranced him with a ‘aye ga aanewala ayega… If I had been Danny Boyle I might have enraptured him with a Slumdog Millionaire Broadway musical that has sparked off his interest. But I’m Roshmila and so I’m happy my second chhoti si meeting with AR Rahman was not cut short by a traffic jam!