A.R. Rahman The musical storm

I like Rahman’s music, the oscar not withstanding. ‘The musical storm’ is a biography (the first?) of  Rahman by Kamini Mathai.  This book is the story of his musical life from working with music directors like illayaraj, composing jingles for advertisements, bands to becoming the big music director he is.  His personal life the little time he got to spend with his father, the influence of his mother, his friends and children and a little about his marriage and wife is also covered. The book is divided into 12 chapters with interesting titles that had me reading the book end to end in criss-cross manner.  Faith was the title of one of the chapters and i jumped to read that one first. It deals with why/how Rahman went from being Dileep to Rahman.  But wait a minute…its not like the author interviewed him specifically on this topic or for that matter on any of the topics/chapters in the book.   Rahman’s conversion to islam had a lot to do with his father’s illness and subsequent death. Sekhar, his father was suffering from an ailment which not treatment could cure. However, he did get relief for a while from a Sufi healer started treating him. The same Sufi healer however predicted that Sekhar wouldn’t last more than year.

I would recommend the chapter titled ‘wait’ to know how much Rahman means to the film industry.  Big film directors, lyricists and anyone who wants Rahman’s music has go wait in until his turn comes. Apparently there are different waiting rooms at Rahman’s studio and one would be allotted them based on their perceived importance! Mani Ratnam, Subhash Ghai, Shekhar Kapur, Javed Akhtar a budding singer all had to wait. The wait could be hours, weeks, months.  Rahman hates to say no to anyone and so the waiting.  But does he do that to everyone. No. Some know how to get around the wait. Director Ravikumar is one of them. He got the music for the Rajni film ‘Padayappa’ done by Rahman on time. Ravikumar could do that by taking Rahman away from Chennai to Cochin.  That is one of the ways that seems to work if one wants music on time. It worked with M.F Hussain who sent him to Prague for his film Meenaxi and with Rajiv Menon for Kandukondein. Javed Akhtar has even built a very interesting story around this phenomenon.

There are several other interesting things covered in this book.  Did you know that Rahman’s father Sekhar was the first one to buy the keyboard in the indian film industry and for that the company sent Sekhar on a free trip to Japan! Did Rahman get the training in western music? Is he comfortable with carnatic? What is his take on Illayaraja with whom he worked? What do big singers like SPB think about him? What if ever ruffles him  What are his idiosyncrasies and much more. I loved getting to know all this. There is a lot of stuff repeated in the book.  The book is based a lot on the  information from people who are close to him or have worked with him and a little on the author’s interviews with  Rahman. But its a must read for all those who are interested in knowing Rahman.

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