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Great composer, greater human feted

Ramya Kannan and Meera Srinivasan

Every Indian has to be proud of Rahman and his team, says P.C. Sreeram

— Photo: Special arrangement

A childhood photograph of A.R.Rahman and his sister Fathima with their father R.K. Shekhar.

CHENNAI: For a moment on Monday morning, things stood still in India. The silence was deeper in Chennai during the seconds it took for the announcement to be read out: A.R.Rahman. As Chennai’s own genius walked the polished floor at Kodak Theatre to get his own little statuette, it is possible the southern city cheered the loudest.

The encomium kept pouring in ever since. Many feted not only his talent for music but also his humility and simplicity.

S. P. Balasubramaniam, whose rendering of Rahman’s ‘Thanga Thamarai Magale’ in Minsara Kanavu won him a National Award says: “Rahman is a great composer and a greater human being. I think seniors and juniors have a lot to learn from him, from his humility. Even after the Oscars, he will be the same. He is a genius!” For yesteryear composer M.S.Viswanathan who has sung one number for him, “Rahman is not only exceptionally talented but also a very good person.”

“Special victory”

Kamal Hassan called it a special victory and joked that they had given him two Oscars, so it would be easier for him to balance the statuettes.

Rahman’s favourite playback singer P. Suseela reciprocates the admiration he has for her. “Honouring the great musician, who is an Indian, on such a global platform is rather special. Like a double century, he has bagged two awards.”

Pitching in with the patriotic angle, cinematographer P.C .Sreeram says: “Every Indian has to be proud of Rahman and his team.” He feels there is a bond between sound and light that can’t be explained in words. “Certain songs make you react in a particular way. Yes, I think some of my best expressions in light have come with his music.”

And then there was Tamil pride to the fore as well, with actor Prabhu and lyricist Vairamuthu congratulating him on speaking in Tamil at the Awards ceremony—“Ella Pughazhum Iraivanukke.” Vairamuthu says: “I am doubly happy that a Tamilian has won India such an honour. I had written ‘Ennai inda boomi sutri vasa aasai… (I want the world to go around me)’ in the Roja song ‘Chinna china aasai.’ Now, I am elated that the world has begun going around him now!”

Rahman’s sound engineer S. Sivakumar says the composer would lose track of time while at work. Senthil Kumar, director, Real Image, points out, “Rahman pioneered the use of synthesisers, sequences and multi-tracks. He is one of the best keyboard players.”

Actor Suriya, whose on-screen romancing has often been embellished by music from Rahman, reveals how it also played a role in his off-screen romance with Jyothika.

“Apparently he had stopped singing love songs, but we were surprised when Rahman sir volunteered to sing the stirring ‘New York Nagaram’ from Sillunu Oru Kadhal. Since it was just before our wedding, it was like a great wedding gift for us,” Suriya says.

Actor Madhavan’s career-launching film, Alaipayuthe sizzled the screens and not in any small measure due to Rahman’s score. He has since gone on to do five more movies with Rahman. Maddy says, “I think we missed giving him one more Oscar—to the nicest person in the industry.”

Gopal Srinivasan of the A.R.Rahman Fan Club is one of an ecstatic world-wide band of brothers and sisters. A group of hardcore fans watched the Oscar awards live at Bangalore together. To celebrate, they went to a local orphanage, wrote out a cheque for the kids and sponsored a meal.

A larger celebration is being planned, with the idol himself. “We know it is going to be hectic immediately after the awards. We will wait until things cool down,” Gopal says. To the team of diehard fans, the Oscars come as recognition for the fantastic body of work Rahman has produced, instead of applause for just one song or one movie.

Rapper Blaaze who worked on Slumdog Millionaire, was mentioned by Rahman in his speech at Kodak Theatre. He says he is rendered speechless by Rahman’s kindness. “His message after the ‘Jai Ho’ song when he said, ‘All my life I had choices, love and hate, I chose love—and here I am…’ is the message for the world right now. It is a historic moment for over a billion hearts…”

Tanvi Shah, who was among those who sang the award-clincher ‘Jai Ho,’ spoke excitedly from the United States where she flew to get a taste of the Oscar magic. “I’m just really happy and thrilled that we won for the best score and best song. For me, it will be a really special day for the rest of my life,” she gushes. “I am glad that I was part of this big project, and I think hard work and patience pays off at some point. ARR deserves every bit of the glory.... all I can say is JAI HO!”

Praveen Mani, a music director in his own right, worked with A.R. Rahman as an arranger/programmer in his team on Slumdog Millionaire.

“As a close friend, I truly admire his dedication to music, his humility as a human being, and he surely deserves way more than this for his awesome talent. Hats off to the music whiz kid from Madras! You simply rock!” That sums it up for Chennai.

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