Roja was out.1992. The hindi dubbed version with lyrics by P.K.Mishra. Roja created a ripple. A ripple in the psyche of the hindi-muzik loving mass. Till then the torchbearers of '80's were doing a mass production of Hindi Songs which by sheer brilliance of certain Lahiri and Malik always ended up sounding like thanksgiving day tunes by Cacophonix. people told me that there were guys like R D Burman, Kishore Kumar, Naushaad etc who created magic, gave Hindi movie lovers gems and so many good things. But, I can confess to you ,my constant reader, that in those days when my teen age ears listened to them it could not distinguish between apples and oranges. And I listened to the Naddem-Shravan, Anand-Milind, Anu Malik clan till then. It was my ignorance or their brilliance that I always mistook an Anand-Milind tune as a Naddem-Shravan one and vice versa. For Anu Malik it was different. Most of his 'original' tunes were sung by him and his voice has always chosen to sit somewhere between Bob Dylan and Luciano Pavarotti with right amount of mix n match. I still can not forget his 'My Adorable Darling' from a movie called Main Khiladi Tu Anaari.
These stalwarts of '90s and some of the coming-back-for-more kids of '70's( read Laxmikant-Pyarelal) gave us some OST which blended with the movies so mellifluously as if playing Notting Hill for SAW 4 or even better"Playboy Playmate of the year's" theme in Harry Potter's opening credit. And back ground score? Holy Cow. Out of respect and love for each other these composers always liked to use the same sound sampler borrowed from the same library (did anyone say Hollywood of '40's ?). So, if a mother is crying it will always be the same violin chord sounding exactly as AnuMalikian as Anand-Milind can 'create'. For entry of villain same Synth,for tragedy same chords, for fight scene same beat, same pedals...wow, that's what I call mass creativity. By mass, for mass.
And Roja came out. silently. well almost. Polygram published the casette in a red cover with a very small mention of the composer's name as A R Rahman. And then? India listened to "Dil Hain Chota Sa". Frontbenchers' listened to "Rukhmani Rukhmani",Lovers' listened to "Ye Hassen Badiyaa". And there was a ripple. A movie with the music that is there not just for the heck of it but to blend with the narrative, to make us emote and even to remain with us as a never ending story when the show is over. When was the last time, Hindi movie lovers witnessed that?(Gulzar's Parichay?)
Our stalwarts took no notice. A black, short,flabby boy from (oho! of all the places tht South-India) Tamilnad who made just one OST to win (that was an accident) a national prize was just not worth of their attention which they could better use ripping, err...creating another three-months-to-last gem.But the boy stayed. somewhere in a then tiny recording studio ,with a crap name like Panchatthantala Recording Inn, that boy was busy creating another OST.
That OST came out in 1994. It was called 'Bombay'. And one fine morning, India, with her newly found passion for FM radios, listened to a magic called "Kehna Hi Kya". And what a magic it was! Chitra put her soul in this song. Rahman blended Kawali with Opera. With minimal use of instrument a song came out to make whole India hope for a better tomorrow in the area of hindi music.
Along came the movie. A not so brilliant but poignant portrayal of human love in the time of riot. For the first time in my life I discovered that a movie can let go its soul to rely on a piece of music. For a layman like me it may be labelled as 'Theme' music but that very theme as a piece of music was very conspicuous in earlier Hindi movies by its absence. And how did Rahman educate us with the concept of theme music! With a tune that I believe from the bottom of my heart can stop any riffs, any wars even after 14 years. I listened to it in the tape but could not grasp its effect till it bursted in celluloid. The burning roads of Bombay, the hopeless faces of common men, the hope and desperation of the protagonist and the final ray of light....how, how can a man capture it in a musical piece with a playing time of about four minutes? Was it God who played thru Rahman, was it humanity that transcended into its utmost display. Till date I have no answer. I doubt, even Rahman may not have the answer to himself. Bombay Theme is and will remain as my ultimate medicine to tranquility. In a world where chaos has become my constant companion,the opening flutes and reminiscent of a 'kirtan' still talk to me of a life where man can be at peace with himself to cherish and enjoy something sublime. Something that the filter of pop culture can capture once in 14 years, in 100 years. And it remains...and it remains...