A Golden Boy loses his sheen. A sensation stops being one. Or so we are told. So the naysayers who have nothing better to talk about once the Friday releases stop attracting attention. The man who brought India an Oscar award or two, who revolutionized the way Indian film music is made, and whom producers still queue in line for to meet. And yet, because of what he gives us, and because of the quality he made us get adjusted to, a lesser offering from A.R. Rahman is enough to get the tongues wagging and the keyboards rattling. And it is ironic that he unintentionally, subliminally, contributes to this air. He remains as unassuming an individual, his humility and shyness often misunderstood as arrogance.
He loves his work, and when he says he took a long time to compose something, he means it. Yet the same length of time is taken as an example for those who want to prove that he is losing his touch. They forget that Delhi 6, with its pathbreaking tracks, came in the same year as the forgettable soundtrack of Blue which no one heard coming. Jodhaa Akbar and Jaane Tu, two different soundtracks but equally fantastic, came in the same year. Endhiran is looking to break records in Tamil, and some. And that’s the problem with trendsetters, you see, with geniuses who set the standard. Anything lesser is supposed to become a trend, any failing is caught by the vultures of couch opinions. With the over information, helped along with news channels and the internet, it is easy to spread rumours and opinions. Remember us replaying the opening track of Roja till the cassette frayed over. Ashaji’s voice that set ablaze the charts and along with Urmila’s beach run, propelled Rangeela into film folkore.
Think of what might have happened had the waves lashed Arvind Swami’s face to a lesser score in the breathtaking wave-splashing sequence of Bombay. Refresh the joy of a nation as we tuned in one morning to watch his Oscar acceptance speech. The director calls the shots. The cinematographer weaves dreamscapes. The actors redefine their roles. And the music director, transitioning from a paan-chewing man with a harmonium to a brilliant but quiet man in a Chennai studio, drums up the songs that will stay with us long after the credits have rolled. The mainstream Indian film is never complete without its song. The man who started as a rebel against the rules of soundtrack, started to make the rules himself.
Every man is mortal, but some are less so. A.R. Rahman has already qualified for cinema immortaility. Let the man be. And let’s listen to what he has to offer. His music surely speaks far better than most of our words.