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Last Updated 19.10.2019 | 12:52 PM IST



Book Review: A.R. Rahman – The Musical Storm

A R Rahman

First things first. ‘A.R. Rahman – The Musical Storm’ is an extremely voluminous book. Lasting close to 250 odd pages, it is sheer text that fills this book that is unlike many a picture books related to Bollywood that are made available on the stands today. In this regard, one can comfortably state that putting together this book would have been a painful experience for author Kamini Mathai. More so because this is not really an official biography of Rahman and has primarily being complied by Kamini after interacting with quite a few friends, family members, industry insiders and of course Rahman.

The book more or less follows a chronological order while narrating the journey of A.R. Rahman that saw quite some hardships coming his way throughout his childhood and early youth. Born to a father who was also associated with the music industry but couldn’t find success coming his way, Rahman faced rough times at an early age. The book takes the audience into Rahman’s household that saw a kid loosing his childhood and worrying about family affairs at the time when he would have rather made friends and played with them.

It’s these initial portions in the film really make the reader feel a little depressed and one patiently waits for that point in the book to come which narrates the turning of Rahman into the sensation that he is today. However, Kamini takes a long time to reach this point; so much so that it endangers the interest level of a reader. A lot of time is spent into describing the work of Rahman’s father, his subsequent illness and the days when Rahman started creating jingles. Still, since one knows that there is a lot more to follow in this 250 page book, one stays on to be patient and waits for the story to move forward.

In the meanwhile, Kamini interacts with quite a few friends and acquaintances of Rahman, some known and some relatively unknown, and gets them talking about the man that he has been throughout his growing up years. As per her conversations, nothing much has changed about the man who has always been shy and reluctant. Of course there is a huge leap in confidence that has come in him from the days of Roja to Slumdog Millionaire and that is of course but natural.

One has always been curious to know that how Rahman really become Rahman from Dileep. One starts turning the pages with much anticipation around getting the answers but yet again Kamini teases her readers. She throws a few hints but doesn’t quite go the whole hog. However, just when one thought that there wasn’t much to be revealed on the records around his change in religion, there is an entire chapter devoted to the entire transition that comes later in the book. Have a look at it to know more about why Dileep embraced Islam and became Rahman, how he has nothing to do with the Hindu religion any more, how he feels that it was this embracing that made him a successful professional and better human being that he is today, and how he has mainly has two love of his life – religion and music!

There is also quite some detailing on the way Rahman operates and gets his music in place. Yes, there have been dozens of stories around how he may create a tune in a jiffy while in cases a perfect tune may take as many as six months to be composed. Well, the book gives a good account of why and how does it actually happen with Rahman when he decides to go ahead with his no-compromise policy. In fact talking about compromise, Rahman minces no words when he states that he has always disapproved of vulgarity in his songs and when it actually happened in a few songs in the initial years of his career, he was extremely disappointed.

Rahman is someone who came on the musical scene at the time when Illaiyaraja ruled. No wonder, the arrival of the new kid on the block led to quite a few controversies; more so because there was a time when Rahman used to work for Illaiyaraja. Since Rahman decided to turn around the way music was composed in Tamil cinema those days, purists had a lot to complain against his style. Roja became a hit but daggers were out against him. The book details how Rahman still moved ahead in his career, found immense appreciation coming his way with every passing year, saw an exponential increase in his fan base and rose to such fame that today he is a proud Oscar winner as well. The man truly has been a non-conformist throughout his career and the book details ample examples of how music changed in the country for better ever since the arrival of Roja.

Not that there weren’t any road blocks during this journey of Rahman. In the initial years when he was composing for quite a few movies, not all turned out to be successful. There were some duds at the music stands as well while there were also instances when he was recycling his own tunes, apparently due to work pressure. How he got out of such situation and started working only on quality projects with lesser volume on plate is detailed towards the later portions of the book.

What is amusing though is the entire chapter around the ‘waiting period’ that the biggest of film makers have faced while dealing with Rahman. This is the portion where it seems quite obvious that Kamini has taken a diplomatic route instead of actually calling a spade a spade. Though there are close to half a dozen instances being narrated where due to his delays many a film makers have had to camp in Chennai for a duration much longer than they intended too, Kamini seems to be defending Rahman by stating different reasons.

Of course one has to grasp the episodes with a pinch of salt since Rahman himself doesn’t seem to be defending himself through this book. Still, if the stories as narrated by Kamini are indeed true then makers indeed have been having a tough time getting their music readied by Rahman.

Other than these facts, there are quite a few interesting anecdotes as shared in the book:

– How Mani Ratnam was flabbergasted when at the last moment Rahman’s mother insisted that the audio jacket of Roja should read Rahman instead of Dileep? (This was the time when Rahman was known as Dileep)

– Rahman’s frequent donations and charity, most of which go unannounced

– How some of his earlier non-film albums like ‘Set Me Free’ were re-released (and became bumper hits) when Dileep became Rahman?

– Why S.P. Balasubramaniam isn’t too pleased with the choice of non-Tamil singers for Rahman? S.P. felt that if Adnan Sami could be roped in, tomorrow even a Chinese singer may come and sing a Tamil number!

– That he got as low as Rs. 25000 to get the entire soundtrack of Roja in place

In spite of apparent limitations that Kamini must have faced due to lack of extensive conversations with the man himself and the challenges that she would have faced to get to the bottom of the affairs when it came to certain controversies and clarifications, ‘A.R. Rahman – The Musical Storm’ still turns out to be a good and a detailed read.

Price: Rs. 499/=


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