It was love at first beat on a sultry afternoon in Trivandrum. I was ten and training for a cultural fest appa’s office organized for the employees’ families annually. We were a group of unruly kids, with two left feet, shaking our booties to ‘chikubuku rail eh’; we were literally marring any attempts the racy number and a sexier Gautami had stirred in the youth that summer. For us it meant aping prabhu deva, yelling the lyrics as we disco-ed and understanding a phenomenon that would grow faster than we did – A R Rahman.
Roja was my first tamil movie in a theatre and it was not until years later that I realized the essence of the movie and its lovely direction. To me, it was my first audio cassette and the treasure of songs it contained. I clearly remember getting Goosebumps listening to ‘tamizha tamizha’ and the kindle of patriotism that the music created back then. I had clearly turned a fan and Rahman was too good to be true.
The elderly were quick to counter the Rahman fever shunning him as another passing cloud of different music genre. Every time, I’d hear someone say that, my heart would sink and I would secretly wish Rahman would never falter; he would never let us down. And I had been right. The little shelf beside my study table grew consistently with cassettes rendered by the maestro, songs I would listen to until I’d know every word by heart and every tune like a rhyme. This had included some coldly received and quick to vanish albums like super police, one 2 ka four, Udaya and Gangmaster; I was unmoved. His music was one that grew on you.
But, then he would always come back and sweep you off yet again; He would render heart wrenching, foot tapping and mind blowing music; Indra, Bombay,Duet, Rangeela, Kadal Desam, Kadhalan, Indian, padayappa, Jeans, Sapney.. It was the era he had been unstoppable. It was the time when teasers on TV literally were teasers and I would have to wait until the cassette became available at the then huge store ‘sangeet sagar’ in the center of a busy secundarabad. I would impatiently wait for appa to return from work with the new cassette and finish up my exams, so that I could play the songs on my little sony player in the labyrinth of my room. It was a time of bliss and an extended love affair with the music and the maker of it.
By the time, I had submitted myself to wonders like alaipayuthe, Lagaan, Boys,yuva, taal.. he had continued to amaze. But I had grown over childish love. I was judgmental. I would pick tunes that sounded like old numbers. I had found other quarters to share the warmth. A shelf that only held Rahman’s collections now harbored others. There were many making music in his adopted style and may be even catching up. Yet Rahman sold; but now he sold as the brand ambassador, of (a)typical styles, consistent deliverance and artful recycling; Baba, Boys, New, kisna, Meenaksi, Enakku 20 Unakku 18, Varalaru, kadal virus.
He did win me over many times; But now I would be hooked to certain songs in the album; I had lost patience to let the whole thing grow on me phase. Our relationship was stale now. I knew how much to love and how much to let go. I was almost beginning to accept that he was as human as us all. He had made some noise with Rang De basanti, ATM, shivaji. It was now all about, listening to most of the album and letting go of not even worth ‘grow-able’ on you ones like the ‘uru koodai sunlight’ or some of the extra saccharine ones of Jodha Akbar.
Amidst this sea of transformation, I had never given up. Not once. I would always ensure, I do a run of the songs and a second time and then pick the best. I’d say its Rahman after all. When Slumdog millionare had come by, I loved it. I knew Rahman has done better, but this was totally worth the recognition he got now; for all these years of hard work And when the golden globes were bestowed upon this modest shy person, I could not have been happier; for he deserved every bit of it.
But last week, a vintage Rahman was back; the one who had swooned Roja and Bombay into us. He had struck a heavy chord with Delhi6. Every song a true love, emanating innovation and variety, I sure turned into the ten year old again. I felt he had his heart and mind at the same place when he made this music. My cousin remarked that the album was her suprabatam these days. It only made me smile to wonder how much ARR had turned into a household name and we didn’t even realize it.
I cannot say Rahman is timeless or applaud him as the Mozart. For, I am just the addict, who has been picking up pieces of the aftershocks he leaves behind.