Rahman's This Is It
A R Rahman's music concert video One Heart is getting a world wide release today
About a decade ago, when Michael Jackson’s This Is It was screened in Chennai, I remember stepping in with a fair bit of hesitation. You see, as the urban catchphrase goes, I had lived under a rock apparently. I wasn’t well-attuned to his music. Before your eyes pop out in shock, let’s just say that some people just don’t take to some artistes. I didn’t grow up humming Smooth Criminal in school. I wasn’t thrilled by Thriller. And if the boy on the next bench was humming Beat It, I’d be tapping the bench to go with the echoes of a popular Tamil number of that time. Until a friend, a Michael Jackson fan (Jacksonite, had MJ been a current pop phenomenon) pointed out, I didn’t realise that the music after the pallavi of Naam Vayadhukku Vandhom in 7G Rainbow Colony was taken straight out of Jackson's They Don’t Care About Us.
Given my ignorance, I was astonished to see how much I enjoyed This Is It. There was a fair amount of nostalgia even for me, given that he’d passed away months before the film’s release, but even going beyond that, there were so many gratifying moments. The insight into how he interacted with other musicians before a concert, his minor offhanded musical inputs that added so much to a track, his effortless dancing, his understanding of stage space, the reverence with which the other artistes treated him, the sheer awe on some of their faces… it’s the sort of backstage insight that a fan takes to his grave.
Now, I may not know my Jackson too much, but I do know my Rahman a fair bit. I grew as his music grew. I grew among those who kicked and screamed initially, but eventually realised that they had no choice but to accept that Tamil cinema music, as they knew it, had been transformed by the new timid composer in town. I grew up knowing of films like Mr. Romeo, Star, Alli Arjuna, and Kangalal Kaidhu Sei, only because a certain AR Rahman was the composer. By the time he had graduated to Bollywood, I had graduated. By the time he had got himself the Academy Awards, I had turned breadwinner for my family. I’m sure there are millions like me out there whose lives have milestones that are also defined by their favourite artiste’s.
In Saturday night gatherings, when some topics reach their graceful end, there’s always cinema to fall back on. Occasionally, we would discuss Rahman, sharing any fascinating trivia we thought we knew about him—like legends of a mythical hero.
“Do you know that he composes only at nights?”
“Did you know that he composed New York Nagaram in just an hour?”
“Do you know he once played the keyboard for Ilaiyaraaja?”
“Do you know that the theme of Punnagai Mannan was reportedly composed by him?”
Some of these could be truths, some others falsehoods. But they all serve to build the myth around an extraordinary talent. These were legends being discussed… about a legend.
And now, today, there’s the release of a film of Rahman’s, much like Jackson’s This Is It. It’s called One Heart: The AR Rahman Concert Film. You have to wonder what truths it will help uncover. Perhaps it will show how Rahman has gradually gotten comfortable with the stage. After all, these days, he even wears shades and spreads his arms, as if revelling in all the applause. Perhaps it will shed light into his conversations with singers. Perhaps it will even shed insight into how he creates music. Or if we are lucky enough, perhaps it will do all of this and more. In the words of Red from The Shawshank Redemption, “I find I’m so excited, I can barely sit still or hold a thought in my head.”