Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Murder of the soul - Part I

The list was down to two and the committee was equally split on whom to vote for. Both the candidates had scored the same in all the categories and now it was up to the chairman of the jury to cast his vote. "And then I did something that is not normally done. I used a criterion that is never used. I decided to vote in favour of Rahman simply because he was a newcomer. I know what a national award means to a newcomer.", quoted Balu Mahendra, noted Cinematographer, Filmmaker and the chairman of the 1993 National Awards jury. As a result, it was Ilayaraja who missed out on a national award for Devar Magan. Balu Mahendra says that Ilayaraja totally backed his decision when he confessed later.

The national award meant that Dileep now known as A.R.Rahman, had arrived with a bang. The young chap who used to play keyboards for all of them including the likes of Mr. Karadi (TR) had not only composed an album that broke all existing chart buster records, but also had won the biggest honour of the nation for his debut film. Since then, there has been no looking back for the Mozart of Madras. He has been winning successively, statewide, region-wide, nationwide and after Feb 22nd 2009, worldwide. Throughout this stupendous journey, he has been this silent person who has not boasted of his work or talked ill about others' works, and has been very generous and truthful when it came to dividing the monetary benefits of his works among his musicians and more.

A certain so-called "management" guru wrote extensively that Rahman had sinned by scoring the music of Slumdog Millionaire (SM), which turned the spotlights towards India's downtrodden side. Well, all that made me wonder was that we are living in an era where cheap stakes who confer awards on themselves are given the chance to make crap talk. Yes, SM did throw light on the other side of India, but can anyone claim that it was a false depiction? Say what, SM was a positive movie that talked about choosing the right path and still emerge successful. When a section of people in Tamilnadu never missed out a chance to complain that Rahman doesn't care about Tamil as a language, he did not miss out on a chance to make the entire world listen to Tamil, when it mattered. "Ella Pugazhum Iravanukke!".

Earlier this year, when the audio of Vinnai Thaandi Varuvaaya (VTV) was launched, the first track that caught my attention was Aaromale. I was amazed right away because I have lived through the genius' journey and I understood that its going to hit the chords right there. That night, I was on a voice-chat with my sister and I excitedly claimed, "Aaromale is my pick of the album". My cousin, who was in the next room shouted in response, "How the hell do you like that yucky song?" He thought I never heard it. Its just that I chose not to retaliate. Two weeks later, I came back from work and I noticed that he was playing Aaromale in his player. I freshened up and understood that he is repeating it again. After a couple of hours, it was still Aaromale and throughout the night. VTV received only lukewarm response soon after its release. One month later, wherever I went, it was Omana Penne and Hosanna all the way.

The same scene repeated for Raavanan. The most foolish review I read about Raavanan's songs was that they were not as good as Guru or Alaipayuthey. If only a tribe living in a deep, interior village could sing "Pachai Nirame" to express his love, I'm sure it would have been a cake-walk for any composer. The challenge lay in bringing out emotions that are difficult to understand, which was faced pretty well, maybe not the best. I couldn't stop wondering about how healthy the communication between the director and composer should be, in order to get the minute details right.

One big disappointment was the theme composed for the Common Wealth Games (CWG). It did not even take a second hearing for me to fall in love with the track. The song sends positive energy, sportsman spirit and commitment, what more would one expect from a theme for a sporting event. Yet, it was degraded extensively.

I'm not at all claiming that my little (very little) knowledge of music helped me appreciate the beauty of his songs. Its pretty ordinary to figure out this stuff. Yet, it goes unnoticed because of one evil feel that is created without sense, one that props up because of the greed to claim appreciation using another person's work. The word is hype. The best example was to have publicized the CWG theme song as one that is going to break the records of Waka Waka.

Taking a deeper dive into the subject, has any movie before 2009 had any of the following titles for Rahman?
1) Music by: 4-time National Award Winner A.R.Rahman
2) Music by: 10-time Filmfare Award Winner A.R.Rahman

Post Feb 22nd 2009, its only been Music by: "Oscar award winner" A.R.Rahman. A banner/hoarding that is placed outside India having this title makes sense. Its a good marketing strategy. But do we Indians identify him as an Oscar award winner? The answer is no. The icon is just being used as a selling point. Of course, there are sensible people like Gautam Menon who launched the audio in London, where the phrase Oscar winner is a worthy selling point. He did not waste time marketing the music here, only because he knew it would sell without force.

What we don't understand is that amidst all the hype created around Rahman and his releases, murder is happening. Murder of the underlying soul. Murder of the music.

From Roja to Jhoota Hi Sahi, I've listened to all the tracks that Rahman has composed. Calling him my favourite musician is an understatement. As a die-hard fan of Rahman, rather a sincere lover of music, I hope he turns down offers that expect out of him the hype more than music. Jai Ho!

A thought put into action in a postive way, is a blessed thought - A.R.Rahman

1) I wanted to write lot more things as well. But, the post is way too long already. I will write it some other day. That explains the part number marked in the title.
2) Some people who read the title would have thought that I'm back to my emotional best. :) Sorry for the disappointment.
3) Big relief. I came out the 55-word fiction fever. When I looked at my blog and said, "No. This is not a 55-word fiction", it looked back at me with gratitude.

7 Expressions:

$ph!nX said...

I've gotta say, the name did appear pretty misleading, but when you relate music to the soul, then yes, it might ring true.

What really pisses me off is when people - who are really not involved in anything even remotely close to what Rahman is doing - step in to make dubious, idiotic comments merely to get their names in the media. But I hope that we ( the commoners) do better than to believe the crap hurled by the media sometimes.

Why do they compare??? Why? What comparison is there between Waka Waka and the CWG theme? They both appeal to different aspects and to say that one is not as good as the other is pure bullshit! Its like comparing Schumi and Sachin! I will not say that I loved the CWG theme though. But like prior Rahman creations(read Aaromale) I have been proven wrong.

Glad to see that this is not a 55-word fiction da. I do appreciate the concept, but sometimes, we need more than 55 words to express ourselves :)

ash G said...

i totally agree with you da... 'hype' totally downgrades the actual quality of the output...

Vivek said...

True! They grab at one point and use it throughout!

S.Kaarthikeyan said...

Great write up!! I would like to quote what Mr.kamal haasan says oscar is american standard not world standard. Sriraj just a small suggestion - think about writing 55 word fiction. Is it necessary? Atleast in your blog?

Charan said...

Good one mate...
The hype thing what you've said is just one amongst the countless avenues that we Indians put up... I guess we Indians are now part and participle with it that we are using hype shamelessly as a marketing tool..!!!


$ph!nX said...

One more thing that struck me just now:

Why are people caring about his Oscar??? Why do they use that to promote his music?? Look at his National Awards. An Oscar might be needed for increasing his international appeal, but in my opinion, it is the number of national awards that truly speak of his talent. He has been able to woo us with his "Indian" music.. Nothing westernized.. The entire nation can relate to some aspect of his music! Something that very few can do!

Chiju said...

My point.
I don't think its necessary man! I don't think i'll attempt one in future. :P

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