BIRTH OF A WHITE FLOWER
Behindwoods Visitor Ram Anand (Malaysia)
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18 years ago, singer Unni Menon
was given a call way past midnight,
awoken in his slumber, and was
told that accomplished director
Mani Ratnam is recording songs
for his new film and Menon’s
voice was required for one of
those numbers. Who works at
this hour, Menon asked himself.
But due to the fact that the
name involved was called Mani
Ratnam, Menon freshened himself
up and rushed up to the mentioned
recording studio, where he saw
a young composer calling the
Mani Ratnam, who so often works
with Maestro Ilayaraja, has
discovered a new talent to associate
with in the music department.
Menon wondered continuously
if this young guy- whose name
is AR Rahman, could really live
up to the humongous expectations
of having to compose for a Mani
Ratnam film. He was given the
song lyrics, the tunes were
discussed, and on the wee hours
of that one day back in 1992,
Menon recorded a song called
‘Pudhu Vellai Mazhai’
(A new white rain), and went
back home, back to his slumber.
The doubts that he had before
recording the song existed even
after that- he didn’t
think he had sung the catchiest
of tunes. Little did he know,
that when he went to sleep that
day, just like lyrics of the
song proclaims, he has witnessed
a new white rain, that will
reign the Indian music arena
over the following two decades.
All the uncertainties over the
song that he had sung vanished
into thin air as he listened
to the final version of the
song one day- and as he listened,
he realized that this song is
not catchy, but instead it makes
the hair on the back of one’s
neck stand up and applaud.
That AR Rahman back then was
26 years old. Today, as
he turns 44, that white rain has poured
down not only in Tamil Nadu, but up until
on Hollywood’s most famous stage-
the Oscar stage. Rahman was the very first
composer in Indian cinema history to win
a National Award for his very first film,
an award that he would go on to claim two
more times. An honorary doctorate and a
Padmashri, India’s fourth highest
civilian honor, are just a little peek into
a mass collection of awards and applauds
that this modest, humble, soft-spoken name
with an ever present smile on his face has
achieved in his career. That innocent smile
never waned even as he stood next and around
the best luminaries of Hollywood while collecting
his piece of the biggest cinema cherry in
the world, nor did it wane as he stood flanked
by beautiful girls in Akon’s Beautiful
Girls music video.
What is so special about his music, some
may ask. Who introduced Hariharan and Shankar
Mahadevan, two of the most famous, most
accomplished male singers in the industry
today? Who made Hariharan sing ‘Thamizha
Thamizha’ with such sensitivity? Who
is it that managed to evoke the atmosphere
of an unborn child who is going to be born
into a world of chaos and uncertainty through
Vellai Pookal? Who is it that managed to
re-create a 50s and 60s atmosphere without
sounding like direct throwback in Iruvar?
Who is it that re-composed India’s
national anthem with such passion and ferocity?
Who is it that made the whole nation re-kindle
a long-buried Vande Matharam? AR Rahman
is not only a good composer, he is a symbol-
a symbol of a nation struggling to unleash
itself from the strangling, rusting ropes
of past differences and attempting to move
forward as one, as one whole country. He
is a symbol of passion, of the ultimate
craftsmanship an artist could ever express
with his own work. Above all, he is the
perfect symbol of an artist, a celebrity.
A man who has the talent to put the world
at his awe, but has the humility to not
take all the credit for his achievements.
A man who has the calmness to rise above
petty differences and embrace goodwill as
his nature, and has that smile that shows,
without having to tell, that he loves what
he is doing, that we love what he is doing,
and God loves what he is doing.
Ever lost hope? Ever lost faith in goodness?
Ever lost faith in the beauty of life? Ever
lost faith in the impact of talent and artistry?
Look up to AR Rahman.
Today as this man turns forty-four, there
is no gift that we could possibly give him
that would override 18 years of him showering
us with gifts of music. But what we could
do is to forget that he is forty-four, and
make him immortal along with his music.
Many more happy returns of the day.
AR Rahman- You are the rare white flower
(Vellai Poo) that tomorrow needs. May there
be more white flowers like you to come in
Ram Anand (Malaysia)
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