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Rahman wanted to do this for 50 years

AR Rahman. One name that resonates with almost every 90’s born kid. In each album right from Roja, to the upcoming Chekka Chivantha Vaanam, there is no scarcity for hit numbers. After 2010, the rise of young composers like Anirudh, Santhosh Narayanan, GV Prakash etc., could have made things tougher for him. Still, he keeps going on, like there is no end. The reason for this is simple.

Rahman repeatedly tells us that it is his body that is aging. Not his mind, because it is controlled by a child inside him. Let’s say it is 12-13 years old. That is the age, we at least have a faint idea of what we are doing, yet we don’t have any responsibilities. There is a lot of room for experimentation. It is that child inside him that is fearlessly churning out one track after another. Just when we thought Rahman saturated, he gave us songs like Thalli Pogathey, that didn’t have any structure… both lyrically, and a song as a whole. However, I got to see the ‘naughty’ kid inside him, that ran riot in the web-series, Harmony with A.R Rahman, directed by Sruthi Hariharan Subramaniam and produced by K. Balachander’s Kavithalaya Productions.


While we see AR Rahman in a new avatar as a host, it is not just about Rahman. If not for this series, we would have been ignorant about the existence of such gifted musicians, and the beautiful art available across the country. The reason I repeatedly say Rahman is all about the kid inside him, is justified in the first few minutes of the 1st episode. You can actually see Rahman ride a cycle to meet Kalamandalam Sajith Vijayan, who plays a percussion instrument called Mizhavu. He cares for the cycle as if it’s his own. He makes sure that the cycle stands properly, and is scared if it might fall down. At a time when celebrities of his stature arrive in luxurious vehicles, we know how eager they are to lead a normal life, through Rahman.

In another episode, he sits in a room and waits for a veena player, Bahauddin Dagar to arrive. Meanwhile, he touches the veena and feels it. As Dagar arrives, Rahman sheepishly smiles and confesses “I touched your Veena”, as if it was some grave crime. It is actually one, for a 13-year-old kid. If you think it is all these off-music moments that makes him the person that he is now, then that would be a grave crime. More criminal than what the 13-year old committed.

He approaches these musicians in such a mindset that is tough to adapt to. Rahman knows that what he knows is not even 1% in the ocean of music. Certainly, there are things beyond the horizon. It is this horizon that Rahman tried to reach, through Harmony. He takes Sajith Vijayan to a jungle in Kerala, and asks him to play ‘wild and free’. Typical Rahman style. Who set the boundaries for something as beautiful as music? As the Mizhavu player works his magic, Rahman plays the second fiddle. In all the 5 episodes of the series, you will see Rahman doing it.

After meeting 4 different artists in the first 4 episodes, they all arrive at Chennai to perform a single magnum opus song - Mann Mauj Mein. Again, being the man he is, he has all rights to instruct them as of what to play, and how to play. But, the child in him objects that strongly. He wants to listen and understand more of such rare gems. So, they sit and chalk out a plan on what they are going to do on the day of the concert. The 13-year old chips in with suggestions like the enthusiastic first bencher of a class. That is Rahman for us.

During the final performance of the series, what we get to see is a massive 20-minute song, that is the epitome of experimentation! One moment you have the song looking like a melody, all of a sudden ‘Tharai Thapattai’ performers enter the stage and showcase their talent. Then it takes the form of a Punjabi Bhangra song, then an opera and finally a culmination of all these genres and more.

When all these happen, there is the 13-year-old sitting with a few instruments in the middle, lost in his dreams. Maybe the 13-year old wanted to do this for the past ‘50 years’. Maybe he tried and failed repeatedly. Maybe we didn’t know about them because of his silent introverted nature. You don’t see him explaining the backstory of songs at a concert. He does what he is supposed to, gives us more than what we expect, and silently leaves the stage. 

But, we know something for sure - Rahman hasn’t achieved his dream. He has become his dream. Did he finally reach the horizon? Yes, only to realize that the horizon is not the end, but there is a horizon to the horizon itself. Every end is a beginning to something new. Pretty much like life. Music is life for Rahman. Things now come a full circle, and the puzzle looks complete. We now understand how the kid comes up with something new every time.

Even with Simtaangaran, the first single from Sarkar, we all saw a different Rahman, be it the sounds used in the track, or the structure, or the choice of singers. Knowing Rahman, he is someone who never gives a track unless he is satisfied with it. Self-satisfaction. That is what art is all about. Isn't it?

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