We are Rahman

Posted: November 23, 2012 in Uncategorized
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Girish Karnad has damned A. R. Rahman, the double Oscar winning phenomenon with qualified praise (a different take on faint praise, I suppose). 
Rahman’s music is overpowering but it also overpowers, well nigh obscures and even eclipses the lyric, has been his evaluation. 
Karnad has been in a plainspeaking mode for some time, and after cutting Tagore to size on his plays he has set about putting Rahman in his place for stymieing the lyrical force of his songs. 
But to fault Rahman for not being a Madan Mohan or a Naushad and not making romantic poetry leap through to the listener, or even not allowing a Rafi or a Lata to top the chart with ecstatic vocals is not to understand Rahman.  
Well, Rahman is a brand and no problem if Karnad doesn’t understand it, A. R. Rahman understood it long before and that is why he is India’s topmost pop musician.
A single track of his may sell for crores…Can he afford to let a lyric writer carry the trophy home or a singer to chime to a million hearts if he, Rahman has to earn and keep the millions?  
Not that he is going to bust the lyric writer or the singer. Soft-spoken gentleman composer that he is, they could get king’s treatment.
But once the mixing is over and all the orchestration has been added, and the song comes out of the studio with all the different tracks put in one place, you would know that whoever is king, Rahman is the emperor.  
The irony is that when Rahman landed on celluloid shore with Chinna Chinna Aasai and Chotti Si Aasha, marrying a happy lyric to the lilt of reggae, he was supposed to be giving the lyric its due place. But soon Rahman realized that his music and song should prioritise himself. Why would he slog all night hammering away at some elusive permutation of hit notes if the moolah wasn’t going to come to him?  
But composers of the earlier era, whether Naushad of nearer home, Mahadevan and Viswanathan and Master Devarajan vindicated themselves by making poetic and situation-centric lyrics flower musically. The songs became evergreen hits but the composers were behind-the-scenes technicians. No Michael Jackson or Madonna of film music like A.R.Rahman.  
Rahman can be anything. He is a clever musician who knows how to stand out. He knows how to make lyrics and voices stand out too. But, being Rahman he won’t go overboard doing it. If he does that he would be sighning his own eclipse. As an icon he cannot and will not do that. A. R. Rahman would rather say with the royal plural, ‘We are Rahman’.

  1. Chris says:

    He was lucky to have been born in the techo era, else he would have been a spent force with a dozen movies. Also it is the season of India in the West, that too was on his side. Some in the West have have come to know Ilayaraja as in his twilight years the techo era had begun. Likewise, when the dust settles Rahat Fateh Ali Khan will be better known in the West than Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan or even Bade Ghulam Ali Khan.