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15 Years of A.R.Rahman - A Nostalgic Trip
Aug 22, 2007 06:01 PM 7679 Views

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What was the first musical note of Rahman that hit my senses? What was the first rhythm of Rahman that shook my body? These are the questions I often ask myself, for which I never had a proper answer. I could vaguely recollect watching a song from ‘Roja’ in DD and that’s it. Unlike others, who have many a times exclaimed and explained, how they were stunned by that new sound of Rahman, I don’t remember me, thinking anything of that sort about Rahman’s music in Roja.

The answer for my no immediate reaction is simple, because at that time, I didn’t have enough exposure to either film music or Illayaraja’s music to compare with. I didn’t know anything about the kind of music being made for movies before Rahman came. Both Rahman and I entered into film music at the same time, only difference was that he had started to compose and I had started to listen. I was just 8 years old.

I was born and brought up in a small town, in a lower middle class family. We couldn’t afford to buy a Tape recorder or cassettes then. We had a big old radio in which I don’t have any memory of listening to film songs. We didn’t have a TV either. We use to go to our neighbors house to watch TV.

I think, after Roja, Rahman did ‘Pudhiya Mugam’, because I remember liking ‘Kannukku Mai Azhaghu’ so much to an extent that I wrote my own lyrics for the song, a few insane lines of which I still remember. It goes like, ‘Vetrikku Mei Azhaghu, Tholvikku Poi Azhaghu’. I don’t know where I listened to that song first. More than the songs, the background score of Pudhiya Mugam (which was earlier used as title music for a teleserial ‘Revathi’) drew my attention.

I was going for a private tuition every evening to my class teacher’s house where they had a good audio system. They use to listen to the songs even when we study. I remember seeing the lyrics booklet (a first time for a Tamil soundtrack) that came with a well designed ‘Thiruda Thiruda’ cassette. One day, instead of reading my lessons, I started reading that lyrics book while they were listening to the songs. The song that hit me like a hammer blow was ‘Veerapandi Kottaiyilae’. I couldn’t believe what I was listening to. I couldn’t understand anything in musical terms but I was wonderstruck by the energy of the beats and the unexpected variations in its tempo. The freshness, the energy, the innovation and the experimentation in ‘Thiruda Thiruda’ music is still an unparalleled achievement. The lunacy of Rahman’s music making style in that soundtrack is still unbelievable.

One fine evening, one of my school mates asked me whether I heard newly released ‘Arabic kadaloram’ song. He said that it was going to be the song of the year. I didn’t understand what he meant by saying song of the year. I just forgot about it. By that time, we had bought a small black and white Onida TV. In DD, they use to air a count down program called ‘Ek se Badkar Ek’ in which I saw ‘Kannaalanae’ song for the first time. We were then a big joint family with 15 members. My uncle (my father’s brother) had bought a small tape recorder. He often played Bombay songs. Since, my father had a fight with him, I was not allowed inside his room to listen to the songs. I still remember how I would plead my grandpa to ask my uncle to increase the volume so that I can listen to the songs from the hall itself. That was the amount of interest in music Rahman kindled in me. I use to beg him to play the songs again and again.

It was at that time I started buying lyrics book. A lyrics book is a small book made of low quality paper of grey in colour, which will have lyrics of all the songs from a movie, printed in it. In the front cover, it will contain a picture of the hero and heroine of the movie. Inside, the song lyrics would be printed along with the name of the lyricist and the singers at the right hand top corner. They use to sell it outside our school. I bought it for 25 or 30 paisa. I use to listen to the song with lyrics book in my hand and sing along with it. ‘Bombay’ was the first soundtrack for which I bought this lyrics book and use to keep it in secret between my school books. From then on, I bought the lyrics for all Rahman soundtracks that I got a chance to listen to. I use to steal money from my Dad’s purse for buying these books.

‘Kaathu Kaathu ena Kaathu’ from ‘Uzhavan’ brings me the memory of those days when I was in a crush with a girl called Sheela, who is 4 years elder than me. I use to sit on her laps while commuting in an auto rickshaw to school everyday. She performed for this ‘Kaathu kaathu ena kaathu’ song on annual day function and the way she danced graciously for the song is still fresh in my memory. I listened to the song mostly when she was practicing for that performance in the school. In those times, Sun TV was telecast only in the evenings, so for the rest of the time they use to play audio songs with a blank screen and that is when I often heard and liked ‘Raakkoli rendum mulichirukku’ song.

One day, my uncle brought the original cassette of Kaadhalan. For the first time, he brought the tape recorder to the hall and played the songs of Kaadhalan. We were around five to six kids there at home at that time and we all liked the songs instantly. I could still remember how we group of kids couldn’t stop dancing for the tunes of Kaadhalan, because, song after song the rhythm pumped up our energy levels (we fast forwarded the ‘ennavalae’ song, we thought it was so boring). We played the whole soundtrack over 5 times on the very first day until we all got totally exhausted.

So far then Rahman had only reached my ears and my body but it was the music of ‘Minsara Kanavu’ which pierced my body and went deep into my soul. It was a kind of experience which gives me goose bumps, when I think about it even now. In our town, in every street, during July-august of every year, we celebrate a festival called ‘Maariyamman’ festival in which we pray to a goddess called ‘Maariyamma’ for the well-being of the families in that street. At this time, they use to hang big speakers in every electric post on the street and play the latest film songs. It was in one of those festivals I heard ‘Minsara Kanavu’. I still remember that moment, when I had tears in my eyes while listening to ‘Vennilavae Vennilavae’ song. That was the first piece of music which moved me emotionally. For one week, every evening I would sit at the doorsteps of our house, waiting to listen to songs of ‘Minsara Kanavu’. Listening to the song ‘Vennilavae’ while watching the clouds moving past the moon and stars would bring tears in my eyes. ‘Minsara Kanavu’ was the soundtrack that gave me the initial understanding of everything about film music, the lyrics, the singing, the orchestration, the emotional impact etc. ‘Minsara kanavu’ was one of the most unforgettable music listening experiences of my life and listening to it was as the name implies, an electrifying dream in reality.  (Continued in Comments....)

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