Dil hai chhota sa,
chhoti si aasha,
Masti bhare mann ki,
bholi si aasha,
Chand taaron ko
chhoone ki aasha,
udne ki aashaâ€¦
The words seem almost prophetic today with the world crooning Jai ho!. But when I first heard them, back in 1
992, springing from Madhooâ€™s lips in a darkened auditorium, they seemed to mirror Rojaâ€™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 sisterâ€™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 â€˜scratchâ€™ 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.
â€œHe asked me to create music that would appeal to the nation, which is exactly what I did. And it worked!â€ 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 (â€˜Chikku bukku rayileâ€¦â€™), Thiruda Thiruda (â€˜Chandralekha..â€™), Kadhalan (â€™Mukkablaâ€¦â€™) and Bombay (Humma Hummaâ€¦â€™ and â€˜Kehna hi kyaâ€¦â€™) had proved thatÂ you didnâ€™t need to understand his jumble of words to swing to his score.
AR flew into the city with wife Saira but didnâ€™t show up in time to accept his award. Heâ€™d apparently gone to Haji Ali for â€˜darshanâ€™ 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. â€œHe should be here any minute,â€ I was told every few minutes. It was almost 40 minutes before AR turned up. â€œHe was getting a haircut,â€ 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 thatâ€™s why heâ€™s so hard to pin down to a conversation. It took Nasreen Munni Kabir eight years to get him toÂ 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 didnâ€™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 â€˜aye ga aanewala ayegaâ€¦ If I had been Danny Boyle I might have enraptured him with a Slumdog Millionaire Broadway musical that has sparked off his interest. But Iâ€™m Roshmila and so Iâ€™m happy my second chhoti si meeting with AR Rahman was notÂ cut short by a traffic jam!