Monday, April 26, 2010

A R Rahman and 'It-Grows-On-You' Theory

[The inspiration/aspiration/perspiration for this post comes from a review of ARR's latest offering Raavan by 'Saurabh' an occasional columnist in the forum--]

Back in '90's,Bacchu had a small shop in Free School Street, Calcutta, India. Free School Street is a road in central Calcutta, running through the heart of Park Street(The unofficial downtown) and in those days was famous for easy access to pirated music and home-grown marijuana and hookers.

Bombay.jpg image by shikhagp
It was the pirated music that Bacchu used to sell. Long before the arrival of DVDS and CDs, acts like 'Iron Maiden', 'Black Sabbath', 'Joe Satriani' featured in Bacchu's 4 by 6 shop in tapes covered in cheap imitation of the original cover art. Those were the music I grew up with. I grew up with one of my closest friend Arani Basu in many a perspiring afternoons vandalizing through Bacchu's collection for some of the rare gems. I still remember getting an LP of Pink Floyd's 'Atom Heart Mother'(original 1973 version) or a copy of Deep Purple's club days.
One strange thing about those music was it supposedly got me hooked on the 'very first' listening.Half of the lyrics obscured by the British/Texan/Midwestern accent, half of the songs often having a quality as good as a dead prostitute's ass--- still it was an 'obligatory' liking as listening to rock music was a ticket to be 'different' and 'intellectual'. And being surrounded by like minded teenagers who could inform yout the length of the nail of Ozzy's right index finger to the brand of Crystal Meth that Jim Morrision used to smoke---you don't want to be an outsider.
I was still a little bit of spoilsport as I also had a liking for a certain Hindi 'muzic' director named A R Rahman. I forced some of my 'Rocker' friends to listen to tracks of 'Bombay', 'Thiruda Thiruda' or 'Tu Hi Mera Dil' ('Duet' in tamil, if I am not wrong). Although they did not find any worth in replacing their shrines built for 'multi-talented' gentlemen like Ronnie James Dio or Axl Rose with one for the chubby,black, deglam-ed boy from Chennai,most of them agreed that this guy is trying something which was never tried before in 'muzic' for mass.
And then I grew up. I got a job, I got a cubicle, I got a family, I got EMI, I got a potbelly, I got dark patches under my eyes, I got dead body of my dream of forming a band where Dave Mustain meets-Rehman meets-Roger Waters lying by my office PC. Was it then when a new 'Rahman' album started to sound no longer 'extraa--ordinary' but 'yeah-it's-good-but-something's-missing'. Was it then when that boy whose ancient Phillips tape could recite each interlude and prelude ranging from 'Choti Si Ashaa' to 'Chale Chalo' died?
Is it Rahman who chose to be a lesser mortal with sweet scent of money tingling in his brain cell or was it I, drifting apart in the hopeless ocean of adult life, whose ears and hearts got filled up with sediments of 'office-going' life?
With all those doubts in my heart, I turn on to youtube and pick up some of his mostly forgotten tracks. I play a track called 'Jo Manga Tha' from a movie whose name even I forgot (a Priyadarshan movie starring Anil Kapur,Jackie Shroff and Pooja Bhatt), a track from a movie called Viswabidhata or from a movie called Priyanka/Indira. My little room, my little room hot from an angry sun suddenly starts feeling tranquil and peaceful.
So, this is what I feel: If you ever met A R Rahman now, not the boy from Chennai but the Oscar-winning,cropped hair,king of orchestration---just ask him,"Rahman, how much of GOD was there in your music when you created Bombay Theme,Anjali Anjali or even 'Kaal Nahin Tha Woh Kya Hain' and how much of HIM is left now?"
In the answer lies the simple fact that the music that Rahman made back then had this divinity, this magic, this very visible effort of a craftsman trying to contain his genius though his blood and sweat. The oscar-winner for whom another movie soundtrack is 'just another movie soundtrack' is much more conformed, much more polished and much less experimental now. And so, did the God of music left him to put the mantle in the hand of someone else? Time will tell. For now let's listen to 'Raavan' hoping like all those tomorrow-never-dies Rahman fans that the next Bombay, the next Duet even the next Dil Se is just around the corner hidden beneath the heaps of heavily technology dependent orchestration and pray that the man who gave us "Khili Chandni", "Tu hi Re" or "Ai Ajnabi" will again give us that one simple un-technofied, pure, simple thing. Melody.

1 comment:

saTish said...

I have to disagree on one aspect of you write-up bro. Rahman does experiment nowadays even though the frequency has come down.

His songs for the tamizh film "Vinnaithaandi Varuvaaya" is best described as a beautiful experimentation. The songs don't have a fixed structure as such and he has experimented with the song structure as well as the instruments. You got give that album a try buddy :).

It would be quite unfair to expect a roja or duet everytime from ARR...and I believe he has been experimenting now and then (meenaxi for example..more examples for another day).