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Memoirs of a Rahmaniac

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Memoirs of a Rahmaniac By P.S. Sureshkumar Editor: Pothi.com Editing Services Cover Design: P.S. Sureshkumar Published August, 2012 by P.S. Sureshkumar All rights reserved. This e-book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This e-book may not be resold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each person. If you‟re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to www.backgroundscore.com and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author. Copyright (c) 2012 P.S. Sureshkumar

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Memoirs of a Rahmaniac

In my journey with AR Rahman, I am now in a phase, where I have begun to empathize immensely with his music, his ideas, his philosophies and his version of the truth. I am not a casual listener who grazes just the tip of the grass. I like to like anything that AR Rahman creates. There is absolutely no cynicism. I have my reasons to like the songs of AR Rahman that most others don't like. There are also some songs or parts of AR Rahman songs that no one seems to have any problem with but me. I immerse myself into his compositions with an open mind and look around the world he builds through his music, from within. I don‟t know how and when in the journey this transition in relationship with a composer's work happens. It happens. Just like that. I know why AR Rahman did what he did in a piece of music; I have become aware and conscious of the tools he employs in his music, to accomplish a purpose, to bring an intention into action. For me, it is very easy to spot precisely the parts, the layers, the musical moment in a song where he was lethargic and disinterested while making it. This empathy is also

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why I believe that I instantly get all his compositions as they were intended to be. “Rahman‟s music takes time to grow” - not anymore for me. I would like to believe I am not alone. We, those who call ourselves „Rahmaniacs‟ are such earnest empathizers of AR Rahman. Memoirs of a Rahmaniac is, well, memoirs of a devout AR Rahman empathizer. Those who were born in the early 1980s and brought up in the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu, and had the first-hand experience in 1992, when the Isai Puyal - the musical storm (AR Rahman) first hit Indian film music, would not have a story very different from mine. If you are not one of those, I am afraid that you may not bear the extent of indulgence and the romanticism of fanaticism for his music that is on display here. Memoirs of a Rahmaniac is the longest, mushiest, most indulgent piece written on AR Rahman's music that you could ever come across. On August 15, 2012, AR Rahman will touch the astonishing „twenty years mark‟ in his career as a film music composer. Personally, it is the twentieth anniversary of the longest relationship I have ever had with anyone or anything in this world. To me, AR Rahman‟s music is a state of mind. His music has been the soundtrack of my life. Every event or person of significance in my life is intricately intertwined with an AR Rahman song or a soundtrack. The mind movie of my Nostalgia has always been an AR Rahman musical. I am sure that millions of other AR Rahman fans in India, who grew up on his music, and who started to listen to him, precisely at a time in

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their life when they just started to listen to any music, feel the same. Both Rahman and I entered film music at the same time. He had just started to compose music, and I had just started to listen to music. I was eight years old. I do not remember the exact moment, when, for the first time, I experienced the musical frisson on listening to an AR Rahman's piece, but ever since I did, I have been a Rahmaniac, and I remain so till this day. I get just as excited about the release of an AR Rahman soundtrack even now. I am one of those lucky kids who got the opportunity to witness the birth and emergence of a revolutionary composer. AR Rahman gave me the chance of recognizing a composer‟s genius all by myself without anyone telling me how I should feel when listening to his music, like how I was always told that Ilaiyaraaja was a genius composer much before I could realize it on my own. Even Ilaiyaraaja‟s music, I started keenly listening to, only when he bent his ways and padded his signature orchestral arrangements with AR Rahman‟s brand of synthesizers, loops and rhythm patterns. I hazily remember watching the visuals of the song Pudhu Vellai Malai from Roja, AR Rahman‟s debut film, in Doordarshan (India‟s only television channel then, run by the Indian government), on the day of the film‟s release August 15, 1992. There are so many assorted memories and images that come to my mind when I think about the Roja soundtrack. Every AR Rahman soundtrack has a musical snippet which may

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be just few seconds long, but to which all the Nostalgia related to the entire soundtrack clings on, and in Roja it is the seductive Ooo ho ho hoo motif from the Rukkumani song; it did something to me even when I was a kid. The camera slowly sneaks into the bedroom, where the newlywed is going to spend their wedding night; camera zooms into the bed that is being decorated with flowers, while the soundtrack is filled with a sensuous fire set ablaze by the Ooo ho ho hoo motif in the beginning of the song. I was intrigued how precisely music was married to the images in motion. Needless to say, Indian music listeners had never heard anything like AR Rahman‟s music in Roja before. However, I personally didn‟t know that then. I have read personal accounts of many of AR Rahman‟s fans about that precise moment of discovering AR Rahman's music, in which they have exclaimed how stunning and refreshing the music in Roja sounded on the very first hearing. Personally, that is not what I thought when I first heard his music. It sounded instantly likeable for sure, but not refreshing (the most refreshing aspect of the song, to me, was Santosh Sivan‟s cinematography), simply because I had not listened to enough Tamil film music before to make such sweeping assessments. Apparently, those who were already immersed in Ilaiyaraaja‟s music too were stunned by what AR Rahman did, but they did not quite take his music seriously, at least not immediately after Roja, and they were quite confident that Roja was just a flash in the pan. I can understand why they could not instantly

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embrace AR Rahman‟s music. With Ilaiyaraaja giving consistently high quality music for two decades, no one would have ever imagined that any other composer could overthrow him from his reign in Tamil film music. AR Rahman did. Thankfully, I was not burdened by Ilaiyaraaja‟s music, which could have stopped me from instantly embracing AR Rahman. I was born and brought up in a modest city Salem in Tamil Nadu. We could not afford to buy music system or tape recorders or cassettes then. We had a big old radio, in which, I do not have any memory of listening to film songs. We did not have a television either. We would go to our neighbour‟s house to watch a weekly show called Oliyum Oliyum (Sound and Light) on Television every Friday, in which they would play videos of new and old Tamil film songs. But, when it comes to listening to AR Rahman‟s music, absence of music system or television did not matter. I do not remember when and where I heard the Roja songs because it was almost everywhere, omnipresent on the air all over Tamil Nadu, and a little later the whole nation. Every tea stall in Tamil Nadu that was playing Raaja (Ilaiyaraaja) all the time now played Roja, only Roja. One could not escape Roja songs and neither could AR Rahman‟s immediate next soundtrack. It was Pudhiya Mugam. Sujatha‟s voice, Naveen‟s flute, heavenly strings that keeps flowing beneath like the water that perennially falls off a pore in a distant cliff and Vangelis-like soft Synth beats in Naetru Illaadha Maatram song from Pudhiya Mugam, and the image of Revathi floating her scarf in the wind while dancing in

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front of a giant waterfall in the video of the song, the whole experience was absolutely transcendental. I can go on and on about this song. It gave me an experience that I never had before. Pudhiya Mugam Opening Credits Music is probably the first instrumental music that caught my attention. That there could be music without words was a revelation to me. In Pudhiya Mugam main theme, a mystic flute solo and melancholic Saarangi sail smoothly over a restlessly racing Synth bass layer and together these layers spun a magical other-worldly aural web around me, the kind in which I had never been caught before. There could not be a better soundscape built to capture the mystery behind the principal character of the film. Of course, I would always remember this piece as the signature theme of the TV series Revathi, because it is in the TV series that I heard the piece first and later came to know that it was used in the Pudhiya Mugam film too. We loved the music of Roja, we loved Pudhiya Mugam and there were criticisms of AR Rahman already being repetitive (Rahman and repetitive – Ridiculous), but nothing, I mean, nothing prepared anyone for the musical dynamite that Rahman was going to drop on us next. Thiruda Thiruda – according to many, the most stunning AR Rahman soundtrack ever, was the next AR Rahman soundtrack I heard. I was attending private home tuition classes at my Class Teacher‟s (Bharathi Miss) house every evening after the regular school hours. They had a high-end music system, the

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biggest I had seen and best I had heard until then. It is in their house I first heard the Thiruda Thiruda songs. The music system was kept in a room next to the living room, and from where I sat I could clearly listen to the songs when they played them from inside the room. I saw the lyrics booklet (a first time for a Tamil movie soundtrack, I guess) that came with a nicely designed Thiruda Thiruda audio cassette box. I use to hide the lyrics booklet within my text book that I would be pretending to read. I would read the lyrics booklet, whenever I heard a song from Thiruda Thiruda being played in the other room. It was difficult to decipher the lyrics otherwise. I was yet to get used to the dense layers of instruments amidst which AR Rahman drowned his vocals in the songs. Ironically, there is in the same soundtrack an acapella song Raasaaththi – first ever in Tamil film music or probably even Indian film music. However, Veerapandi Kottaiyilae was the song that hit me like a thunderbolt. I could not believe what I was listening to. I could not understand anything, but I was wonderstruck by the energy of the beats and the unending twists and turns in the structure of the song. The freshness, the energy, the lunacy, the innovation and experimentation in Thiruda Thiruda music still remains an unparalleled achievement in Indian film music. I began to watch films regularly in cinema halls. My parents would drop me and my brother at our grandmother‟s place during the summer holidays. My maternal uncle, whom we called „Suri Mama‟, was a

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big movie buff. He watched movies in theatre almost every day. Whenever we were in our grandmother‟s house, Suri Mama would take us along with him every day to watch movies. The quality of the films did not matter. We watched almost everything – old, new, good and bad. We have even seen two movies on a single day. Kalpana Theatre, which has now become a steel factory, was our favourite movie theatre. We would buy front bench tickets for two rupees and would hang out there every day watching films. It is because of Suri Mama that I had the opportunity to watch a wide variety of Tamil films. My grandmother is also a movie freak. Even now, at 70, she is as excited about watching a new film in theatre as she was when I was kid. She watched Endhiran in theatre on the first week of the film‟s release. When Gentleman released, I was in my grandmother‟s house. I watched Gentleman with Suri Mama. AR Rahman had teamed up with a debutante director, Shankar, and created chart buster songs in Gentleman. The songs of Gentleman, Karuthamma, Thiruda Thiruda and Love Birds always remind me of my days with Suri Mama. If not for him, I would not have seen as many varied films as I have. My parents hardly watch films in theatre. As far as I remember, they went to a movie hall only once in a year. My father hasn‟t seen a single film in the theatre in the last ten years. My paternal uncle bought a small audio cassette player, assembled by one of his friends, not a branded system. He also brought an original Kaadhalan audio cassette. Our house was full of kids (seven to be

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precise) of the same age then; all were my cousins. All of us liked the Kaadhalan songs instantly, and the bunch of kids in the house could not stop dancing to the tunes of Kaadhalan. Song after song, the rhythm pumped up our energy levels. We fast forwarded ( Do you remember the sense of satisfaction you get when you press fast forward in a cassette player and stop precisely at the end of the song you wanted to skip?) the Ennavalae Adi Ennavalae song, which we found extremely slow and boring. We played and danced to the whole soundtrack until we got totally exhausted. I guess the trend of releasing a second version of the audio cassette of the film‟s soundtrack with additional songs began with Kaadhalan. In the original cassette that I heard before the release of the film, those beautiful „songlets‟ – Kollayila, Kaatru Kudhirayilae, Indirayo – weren‟t there. Maniratnam and AR Rahman were going from strength to strength. They caught the nation‟s imagination yet again with the film Bombay. I was walking back home after school, when a school mate (Santosh), who regularly joined me in the evening walk back home, asked me if I had heard a new song Andha Arabic Kadaloram (from Bombay). He said, "It is going to be the song of the year." I did not understand what he meant. What is a “song of the year” supposed to be like? Around the time of release of Bombay, my parents bought a 14-inch black and white Onida TV. Finally, we had our own television at home, but satellite channels were yet to come.

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There was only Doordarshan, which had a weekly Top 20 songs countdown program called “Ek se Badkar Ek” in which I saw Kannaalanae song for the first time; I also heard Odakaara MaariMuthu from Indira in the same show. I remember feeling proud to see Odakaara MaariMuthu featuring in “Ek Se Badkar Ek”. However, I don‟t know why I felt proud on seeing a Tamil song featuring in a pan Indian Top Twenty songs list. I am sure I did not know anything about the difference in the music sensibilities of north and south India. When Bombay music was released, my father and my uncle were not on talking terms due to some petty familial problems. I was not allowed to enter my uncle‟s bed room to listen to music on his tape recorder. He played the Bombay songs repeatedly but would play it only from inside his bedroom. I would plead with my grandfather to tell my uncle to increase the volume so that I could listen to the songs from the common living room. While my interest in music was gradually growing, I started buying lyrics booklets. The lyrics of all the songs from the film would be printed in the lyrics booklet, which is a tiny, slender book made of extremely low quality grey coloured paper. In the front cover, there would be a black and white picture of the lead actors of the film. Inside, the song lyrics would be printed along with the name of the lyricist and the singers at the right hand top corner. It is funny that I assumed Hariharan and Harini as husband and wife, when I read their names in the lyrics booklet as the singers of Telephone Manipol song. They would sell these lyrics booklets on the streets outside our school. I sacrificed my daily dose

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of “Rose Paalkova” (a small cube shaped sweet supposed to be made of milk, but was made of maidha and attractively coloured in pink) and bought the lyrics booklets of AR Rahman‟s film soundtracks for twenty five paisa. I would listen to the song with the lyrics book in my hand and sing along with it. Bombay was the first soundtrack for which I bought this lyrics booklet and kept it hidden between my school books. From then on, I bought the lyrics booklets of all Rahman soundtracks that I got a chance to hear. I would steal money from my Dad‟s purse just to buy these booklets. Whenever a breeze brings to me the strains of the song Kaaththu Kaaththu Yena Kaaththu (from Uzhavan) from some distant source, Sheela - a girl in my school on whom I had a crush and who was four years elder than me – would come and dance to that song in my dream that night. I heard this song, most number of times, when Sheela Akka was practising her dance moves for the song in our school‟s dance rehearsal hall. I would hide behind windows outside the class room and watch her practise the moves for the performance, and listened to the song many times. Sheela Akka performed for the song on the Annual Day function. The way she danced like an angel for the song would stay in my memory all my life. She was wearing a light green, full sleeve, churidhar, like the one Bhanupriya wears in the film Azhagan. She stunningly jumped and flew around like a butterfly and covered the entire stage with her Bharathanatyam-meets-Ballet dance moves. Though she was the only girl dancing on the stage, she

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managed to hold the audience captive with her electrifying performance. I was especially amazed with the way she quickly rotated her two hands together in a twisted way and made a Lotus Mudra, for the line Dhinam Nooru Pookkal Pookkum (Hundred flowers blossom every day). Speaking of the school Annual Day cultural events, I must also admit that in school days, I always wanted to be on stage. Do not ask me if I am a fantastic dancer; you do not have to be a Prabhudeva to perform in school cultural programs. But, my wish never came true! The other song from Uzhavan–Raakkoli Rendu Mulichchirukku - was repeatedly played on Sun TV the first ever private television network in Tamil. Sun TV telecast the programs only in the evening after 6 p.m. During the day, Sun TV turned juke box and played only audios of the latest film songs with a static screen. It is through that Sun TV Juke Box that I heard all the songs of Uzhavan the most number of times. All of AR Rahman‟s music till Minsara Kavanu made me dance with its energy and gave me incredible amount of joy. It was the music of Minsara Kanavu that did something else, something more; maybe, it is the music that made me realize the magic a piece of music can spell on its listener. Minsara Kanavu was released on the golden jubilee year of the legendary film production company AVM Productions, and so, the film was widely promoted on television. Every fifteen minutes, they would play the trailer of the film, in which they mostly played the folk rhythm portion from Ooh La La La song. I

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would watch television all day only to listen to the music played in those thirty-second promos. In Salem, in every street, during July-August period of every year, we celebrate Maariyamman festival in which we pray to a goddess called Maariyamman for the well-being of the families in that street. During this festival, they would hang funnel-shaped speakers (we use to call them "Loud Speakers") in every electric lamp post on the street and play some devotional songs in the morning and in the evening, and in between, throughout the day, they would play the latest film songs. It was during one of these festival times I heard the songs of Minsara Kanavu. I still remember that moment, when I had tears in my eyes while listening to the Vennilavae song. That was the first piece of music that invoked emotions in me; I didn‟t know what it was then. For one week, every evening I would sit at the doorsteps of my house, waiting to listen to songs of Minsara Kanavu. Much later, I heard the incredibly moving Anbendra Mazhaiyilae – a song in praise of Lord Jesus, a song that Anuradha Sriram was born to sing. During the festival of Maariyamman – a Hindu deity, they did not play this song for obvious reasons. Minsara Kanavu was the soundtrack that made me think about all the separate components that come together to make a song memorable -- the music, the lyrics, the singing and the orchestration. That moment of realization of what constitutes a song was not much different from that of the moment Helen Keller

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realized that water is W.A.T.E.R. I still was not able to name the instruments, or talk about the song with musical jargons, but I, for the first time, became aware that a creator is behind this creation and that he is AR Rahman. How ridiculous it is to say that AR Rahman‟s music creates the impact that it does mainly because of the sophisticated sound. I was moved by Minsara Kanavu music though I heard them in those funnel shaped, crass sounding loud speakers on the street. Fast forward to now. Unfortunately, now, I have been terribly spoilt by the quality of the sound that comes from my BOSE Companion 5 speakers. Also, now, there is a severe temptation to buy an LP player. I keep hearing the slogan – “LPs are back”. Undoubtedly, my first Vinyl LP would also be that of an AR Rahman soundtrack. We didn‟t have a radio at home. We were not subscribing to any newspapers. And with the satellite channels still in the nascent stages, there weren‟t many ways to immediately know about the release of a new AR Rahman album. I got to know from random places and sources, but I always got to know somehow, somewhere. I guess every classroom has one singer, who, even if not a talented singer in absolute terms would be a singer who could sing better than anybody else in the class room. Our classroom had Siva Shankar. He had a decent voice and could move people with his expressive singing. In free hours, our teachers would often ask him to sing songs from the latest movies. I cannot forget that moment when he sang the Hello

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Doctor song from Kaadhal Desam; I thought he was singing some English song. The way he sang the song made me envy him. Only later did I come to know that the song was from a Tamil movie called Kaadhal Desam. That is how I discovered Kaadhal Desam, not through Mustafa Mustafa or Yenai Kaana Villayae but through Hello Doctor, thanks to Siva Shankar. Of course, I later heard all the other songs from Kaadhal Desam repeatedly on television. Tamil television channels became 24x7. They were continuously playing old and new Tamil Film songs throughout the day. It was a big boon for me. Especially, the Sun Music channel became my jukebox. I got a chance to listen to and watch all the new songs of AR Rahman as and when they released. I also got a chance to hear the earlier AR Rahman songs that I had no access to before. The budgets of Tamil films being produced were becoming huge, and so was the money spent on publicity, advertisements and promotional activities on all forms of media available. In my memory, Shankar‟s Jeans was the first film that was rigorously advertised for months before the release date of the film. They were releasing stills from the film, interviews of the cast and crew, titbits about the making in the weekly Tamil magazines like Kumudham and Ananda Vikatan. My grandfather bought these magazines every week. Few days before the music launch, Kumudham published the complete lyrics of Anbae Anbae Kolladhey song. The lyrics left me puzzled about how anyone

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could set them to music. I could not recognize any meter or rhyme in the lyrics. In the first two lines, I could sense a pattern with both the lines having just three words and the last words ending with “dhey” sound, but the third line Pennae Punnagayil Idhayathai Vedikkaadhey breaks the pattern set by the first two lines. And the following lines were even longer. I tried to sing the lyrics in some random tune. And, that was my first attempt at thinking music. When I heard the final song, it was a revelation. The gorgeous tune that Rahman composed for those verses stumped me. Of course, I now know that it was made the other way around. It is Vairamuthu who wrote the lyrics for AR Rahman‟s melody. It was such an enlightening song for me in terms of understanding the innate relationship between a melody and lyrical poetry. The other song in Jeans that blew my mind was Kannodu Kaanbadhellam. I had never heard a voice like Nityasree Mahadevan‟s before, and never heard the traditional south Indian percussion Thavil used in a way it is used in this song. I kept listening to that song on loop in my uncle‟s tape recorder (by this time my uncle and my father had resolved their petty issues, so I was allowed to enter my uncle's bedroom). I knew his name, I knew his music, but I hadn‟t yet seen the person AR Rahman. I have seen his stamp size photographs on cassette covers. On 15th August, 1997, when I switched on the TV to watch the Independence Day special programs, the first thing I saw was the breathtaking video of the song Thaai Mannae Vanakkam (Maa Tujhe Salaam) from the Vande Mataram album. AR Rahman was walking on

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the sand dunes of Rajasthan desert passionately crooning a love song to Mother India. I instantly liked the song and was excited to see AR Rahman for the first time. They played the song repeatedly, once every half an hour, in all television channels throughout the day. Though I had a television at home to listen to and watch Rahman‟s songs, there was no music system at home yet. I kept asking my parents to buy me a tape recorder. My parents could not understand the use of one when there was already a television at home. They would politely tell me to listen to the songs played on television. I found a right moment at which if I asked they could not say „no‟. My father‟s only wish was that I should rank first in school in the tenth Board exams, though I never ever broke into even the top three in any of the examinations until then. Luckily, I ranked first in school, in the tenth public Board examination, and asked my parents to gift me a Philips 2-in-1 tape recorder for the same. My father was on cloud nine. He would have done anything for me in those few days after the results were declared, and within a few days, we had a Philips 2-in-1 tape recorder at home. The first, original audio cassette that I bought in my life is Maniratnam and AR Rahman‟s Uyire (the Tamil version of Dil Se). How do I even articulate what it felt like to have my own Philips tape recorder? Words fail. Moreover, I had the original audio cassette of Uyire, too, to listen to at whim. I listened to Uyire every day, once before going to school in the morning and once in the evening after coming back

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from school. Not a single day passed without listening to Uyire songs. In Uyire, Rahman‟s music and Vairamuthu‟s lyrical poetry blended so exquisitely that you are left with no choice but get obsessive with the songs. After the Minsara Kanavu experience, the days I spent so obsessively with Uyire music, I cannot forget for life. Since then, I have bought every Rahman soundtrack cassette on the very first day of its release. I started listening to all the albums I had missed out earlier. My parents would not let me buy original cassettes. They would ask me to record the best songs of three or four movies in a single cassette which would be cheaper than buying original cassettes, but I insisted on buying only original cassettes even at that time, though I don't remember exactly why. In the last two years of schooling, Rahman gifted more and more beautiful compositions in the soundtracks of films like Sangamam, En Swasa Kaatrae, Kaadhalar Dhinam, Alaipayuthey, Kandukondein Kandukondein and Tajmahal. Every single song in all of these albums is a gem. There is one key AR Rahman work that I missed which I later discovered – Iruvar, a Maniratnam Magnum opus. I remember watching a teaser (not a trailer) of the film Iruvar with a silhouette shot of Aishwarya Rai dancing to Rahman‟s syncopated rhythms and Jazzy Sax ludes with a contrastingly lit central doom of the Tajmahal in the background. It was ethereal to watch (Santosh Sivan!) and music was confusing. I didn‟t understand what it was. I wasn‟t keen on listening to Iruvar music. A Tamil weekly

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magazine had photographs of political leaders morphed with the faces of the stars playing the role of those leaders in the film. On the day of the film‟s release, there was a full page advertisement about the film. The film bombed at the box office, it apparently was out of theatres within two days in Salem. A local Television channel, which is telecast only within Salem, has a jukebox concept, where a playlist was looped throughout the day. In that local TV channel, I heard Narumugayae for the first time and I was mesmerized. That was the beginning. Then, I saw the film, in DD on a Saturday Night and was stunned by the film. What a magnificent film, how ingeniously AR Rahman pays tribute to all the Tamil film music composers of the yore. Of course, I have seen and heard Hello Mr.Ethirkatchi song many times on Television, which was quite popular despite the film‟s failure. Rhythm was the latest album of AR Rahman, when I left my home town to pursue my B.Tech in Regional Engineering College (REC), Trichy. I saw the Rhythm audio cassette in Siva Shankar‟s (our classroom singer) house. Siva Shankar had become my best friend by that time. When I asked for it, Siva immediately agreed to lend me the cassette for a week. I, and the accompanied entourage of my relatives and family members, travelled from Salem to Trichy in a Maruti van, which luckily had a music system. The music of Rhythm accompanied me all the way from Salem to Trichy.

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Getting into Regional Engineering College, Trichy was a significant turning point in my life. I got access and exposure to different kinds of music through my college mates. I started keenly listening to music of all kinds, languages, and of all other composers. It was in the college I came to know that AR Rahman‟s Vande Mataram album has songs other than Maa Tujhe Salaam and Thaai Mannae Vanakkam. The first time I heard Gurus of Peace, a total reworking of a song Poraale Ponnuthaayi Rahman composed for a Tamil film Karuthamma, I was wonderstruck. How on earth could someone rework a song like Poraale Ponnuthaayi into something like Gurus of Peace? I still get amazed by the Gurus of Peace song. My hostel roommate, a Chennai resident all his life, was listening to a lot of Hindi film music. He brought with him the Taal cassette. I still could not recall where I heard the Rangeela music, but Taal is the first Hindi film soundtrack of AR Rahman I listened to the most, thanks to Bharath, my hostel roommate in the first year of college. Someone (I guess it is another Bharath from Kadaloor, who stayed in the room next to mine) brought the Lagaan audio cassette to my room (Agate Hostel, Room No.21). When I first heard the Lagaan songs, I did not understand anything. I didn‟t care to listen to it again. Later, when I met a schoolmate Krishnamoorthy, who was studying in a college in Coimbatore, he told me that Lagaan was a terrific film and that AR Rahman‟s music in the film was unbelievably breathtaking. Lagaan is the first Hindi film I ever saw in a theatre. I watched Lagaan four times in Salem

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Suprageet theatre with my schoolmates. Also, Lagaan is the first film, in which AR Rahman made me listen to not just the songs, but also the background score in the film. I missed the opening credits when I saw the film for the third time. I went to see the film for the fourth time just to listen to the music played during the opening credits, which was not released in the audio cassette. Lagaan is the first Hindi film audio cassette I bought. I bought it on the day when I brought the Philips 2-in-1 player to the college hostel (Diamond) in the second year of college. The next year, yet again Maniratnam and AR Rahman delivered in Kannathil Muthamittal, the music that moved me to tears on the first listening. "There is no stopping this guy", I thought. As I already mentioned, I never got an opportunity to dance on stage in school cultural events. The first ever time I got a chance to get into dance rehearsals was for Rahman‟s Mustafa Mustafa (Kaadhal Desam) song. But, after one day of rehearsal, the whole item was removed from the program list. Finally, I got a chance to dance on stage in the first year of college. I made sure that it was for an AR Rahman song. I was paired opposite Rekha (one of the most talked about girls in college at that time, for reasons, you know for what a girl would be talked about in a college), and we danced for the folk song Kulichchaa Kuththaalam from the film Duet. It was an incredible experience. I remember every movement in the piece and every moment spent in rehearsing for the performance. Again, in the third year of college, we performed for the instrumental track Ganesh from

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Bombay Dreams. I chose this track, because of the pause that comes in the middle of the track and the brilliant take-off moment, with strings and rhythms soaring immediately after the brief pause. I thought it would create a significant impact, when performed to on stage and I guess it did. I remember that quite a few of my college mates came to me after the performance asking the name of the track. I guess, every music fan must pass through a Walkman phase in his life, I had mine. I used to travel to my hometown every week from Trichy. It was a four-hour bus journey. I, again, pestered my parents on my birthday to buy me a Walkman. I got one Walkman – brand AIWA. That closeness of music to the ears gave me a whole new music listening experience. I guess, it is this Walkman phase that most of the peeling off the layers in many AR Rahman songs happened. I particularly remember peeling off the layers in my mind while listening to the Swaasamae song from Thenali. The soft Synth layers, breezy Synth strings section, bass line, the doubling voices, and serene Santoor bits, piano pieces were slowly revealing themselves one by one. I felt like I was engulfed by a magical musical universe. The experience was further enhanced, when few years down the lane; I started listening to music, anytime, everywhere, on an Apple iPod – the one that Cognizant Technology Solutions gifted all its employees for reaching one billion dollar revenues in a record time. When in the third year of college, the transition from cassettes to compact disc happened. I always

Memoirs of a Rahmaniac

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wanted to listen to music in the best audio quality available. I bought a 5-in-1 Philips system. In Rhythm Boss, a famous music shop in Trichy, I recorded an audio CD for 150 rupees with twenty earlier soundtracks of AR Rahman. I spent so many hours in my room no. 125 (Topaz hostel), listening to all his music once again, now on CD, in much better quality and was discovering new layers and sounds that I had failed to notice earlier. In 2003, I had just started using the Internet for general browsing. I had never 'casually' surfed internet before. I had used the Internet only thrice in my life until then - to check the 12th standard Board exam results, Engineering Entrance exam results and then to check Engineering college counselling details. The Net Centre in Octagon (name of the Computer Centre building in the College) became my gateway to the world of music. Continue reading.... (50 more pages)

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