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Books > Performing Arts > A.R. Rahman The Musical Storm
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A.R. Rahman The Musical Storm
A.R. Rahman The Musical Storm
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From the Jacket

With his Oscar, Golden Globe and BAFTA wins for Slumdog Millionaire, A.R. Rahman has become an international celebrity: they’re calling him ‘the Mozart of the East’. In India, however, Rahman has been an iconic superstar for seventeen long years, ever since his first film Roja. Over the past two decades, he has produced unforgettable music for movies like Kadhalan, Bombay, Rangeela, Dil Se, Taal, Alaipayuthey, Zubeidaa, Lagaan, Rang De Basanti and Jodhaa Akbar, to name only a few, in addition to the stage musical Bombay Dreams and his acclaimed non-film album Vande Mataram.

His name is legend, but what is A.R. Rahman all about? Very few can claim to know the man behind the music. Rahman shies away from the public eye. He is fiercely protective of his privacy, and prefers to be known only through his music.

For the very first time, this book tells A.R. Rahman’s incredible story: the tragic death of his father R.K. Sekhar, a talented music arranger, when Rahman-then Dileep-was nine; Dileep’s desperate efforts as a teenager to keep the family afloat by playing sessions, missing school; his reasons for embracing Islam and turning to Sufism; his ‘discovery’ by Mani Ratnam and his subsequent ascent to fame; his abiding popularity in the new millennium and his constant endeavour to break new ground. It also takes us straight into Rahman’s inimitable world: the composing and recording sessions that run through the night; his compulsive need to ‘get it right’, which can cause directors to wait months for a song; his continuing fascination with electronic equipment; his relationship with his mother, his inspiration; and above all his religiosity, which is at the root of his being and his music.

Based on extensive interviews with Rahman, his family, and those who have worked with him and know him best, this marvelously readable, chatty and anecdotal biography will delight every fan of the man Chennai calls’isai puyal’-the musical storm.

Kamini Mathai was born in Vellore, Tamil Nadu. She completed her graduation in English From Women’s Christian College, Chennai and post-graduation in Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of Madras. She started her career in journalism as a features writer for the New Indian Express in 1998 where she continued to work for around ten years. She now works with the Times of India. She lives in Chennai with her husband Philip and son Adiv. This is her first book.

On 22 February 2009, A.R. Rahman Created History by Becoming the First Indian Musician To Win an Oscar, Taking Home not one but two Statuettes. ‘Jai Ho,’ Sang the Admiring Millions in India and Abroad.

But who is A.R. Rahman? Shy, Reticent, Self-Effacing and always keen to dodge the Limelight, Rahman is the Rare Celebrity whose Personal Life is shrouded in mystery the Aura of the Mystical Maestro Sits Well on Him, but What Lies Beneath?

This book Tells A.R. Rahman’s Fascinating Story Like it has never been told before.

Author’s Note

I first wrote to A.R. Rahman six years ago-in March 2003. The composer was on a world concert tour at the time and it was impossible to meet him. But I decided to mail him anyway, because as his friends and colleagues informed me, his e-mails were a way of telling you what was on his mind or what he thought of you, if you knew how to read between the lines. There are other rules when it comes to dealing with Rahman, I was warned: do not call him, let him call you. Only sms or mail, don’t call. So mail and sms I did. Over and over again.

No response for a long while. And then there was a reply with just one word: Yes. Yes to what? I had sent him a mail asking him five completely different questions.

Again, consolation came from Rahman’s colleagues-his mails are usually rather obscure, don’t worry.

Rahman’s e-mail are always terse. That’s because as a person, he is rather closed, never wanting to reveal too much about himself. So, if you get an e-mail that is more than two lines long from him, even if they seem to mean nothing, you know you’re getting somewhere. He usually doesn’t sign off on his mails. An ‘AR’ at the bottom would mean you are definitely on the right track.

The ‘AR’ sign-off came after a few more e-mails. He was warming up. But that still didn’t mean anything, because there was no call.

You can call Rahman’s office as many times as you want but there is no way you are going to get him unless he decides to call you. And then one day, out of the blue, the cellphone rang, and a voice at the other end said: ‘Hi, this is AR. I’ll call you sometime this week and then we’ll meet. God bless.’

Click. He had hung up. Nine months of waiting had culminated in a five-second call.

Now, there was just the wait for the actual interview to take place.

Even with that, I found there was protocol to be observed. First, the wait in the ‘common room’. Then, the meeting with his secretary. Next, a meeting with Rahman in the second waiting room, and only then a final meeting inside the studio.

Finally, the door opens. Rahman walks out, dressed in a white kurta, looking a bit surreal. For a brief moment, time stands still, holding its breath, so to speak, as he scans the waiting faces. He looks at me. ‘Hi, follow me,’ he says, turns and walks away. This is it, I say to myself, I’m in. he will answer all my questions, tell me all about his life, we will discuss his music, his faith, I will wander around the studio and his home, meet his family…

I was back out in less than an hour.
I spent a lot of time waiting in Rahman’s reception, courtyard and studio corridors during the sessions after 10 p.m., which is when the whole place comes to life. The waiting before each meeting would take hours, while the interview with Rahman would take one hour at the most-you couldn’t take in more than that in one session, and he couldn’t give you more time either because there were always directors waiting outside for their turn.

Soon it became rather a matter of routine for me-I would take some juice and a snack along to keep me going; I soon stopped refusing the tea boy who would come around and ask the waiting crowd if they wanted some tea. After a while, I started talking to the others and learnt their stories, which gave me much more of an insight into Rahman than I got through my interviews with him. When you wait for hours, you have time for stories. You lean about the different lives milling around that courtyard and waiting room-singers wanting to be heard, pauper producers hoping for charity, musicians looking for a break, fans wishing for a glimpse. You hear stories from old friends, relatives, colleagues, tea boys, secretaries, Stories that are not guarded or rushed through, stories that tell you more about eh man you are all waiting to meet, more than he ever can. Or will.

Most of my questions to Rahman were unanswered, with the rest answered in the briefest, most guarded manner possible. Rahman deliberately draws a blank with his past; as for the present, he insists there is so much happening that he does not know where to begin; he believes the future is uncertain, and says it’s up to me to connect the dots.

So I picked up my pen and set off on a journey that beings with a dot but ends with a star.

Acknowledgements ix
Author’s Note xi
Oscars 1
Dileep 5
Roja 65
Breaking the Rules 79
The First Award 99
Bollywood Beginnings 104
Opening Doors 117
Under the Spotlight 125
Faith 137
The Wait 167
At Work 188
At Home 216
Discography 250
Index 259

A.R. Rahman The Musical Storm

Item Code:
IHG051
Cover:
Hardcover
Edition:
2009
Publisher:
Penguin Viking
ISBN:
9780670083718
Size:
8.8 inch X 5.5 inch
Pages:
280 (12 Color Illus., 8 B/W Illustrations)
Other Details:
a50_books
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$30.00
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$22.50   Shipping Free
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From the Jacket

With his Oscar, Golden Globe and BAFTA wins for Slumdog Millionaire, A.R. Rahman has become an international celebrity: they’re calling him ‘the Mozart of the East’. In India, however, Rahman has been an iconic superstar for seventeen long years, ever since his first film Roja. Over the past two decades, he has produced unforgettable music for movies like Kadhalan, Bombay, Rangeela, Dil Se, Taal, Alaipayuthey, Zubeidaa, Lagaan, Rang De Basanti and Jodhaa Akbar, to name only a few, in addition to the stage musical Bombay Dreams and his acclaimed non-film album Vande Mataram.

His name is legend, but what is A.R. Rahman all about? Very few can claim to know the man behind the music. Rahman shies away from the public eye. He is fiercely protective of his privacy, and prefers to be known only through his music.

For the very first time, this book tells A.R. Rahman’s incredible story: the tragic death of his father R.K. Sekhar, a talented music arranger, when Rahman-then Dileep-was nine; Dileep’s desperate efforts as a teenager to keep the family afloat by playing sessions, missing school; his reasons for embracing Islam and turning to Sufism; his ‘discovery’ by Mani Ratnam and his subsequent ascent to fame; his abiding popularity in the new millennium and his constant endeavour to break new ground. It also takes us straight into Rahman’s inimitable world: the composing and recording sessions that run through the night; his compulsive need to ‘get it right’, which can cause directors to wait months for a song; his continuing fascination with electronic equipment; his relationship with his mother, his inspiration; and above all his religiosity, which is at the root of his being and his music.

Based on extensive interviews with Rahman, his family, and those who have worked with him and know him best, this marvelously readable, chatty and anecdotal biography will delight every fan of the man Chennai calls’isai puyal’-the musical storm.

Kamini Mathai was born in Vellore, Tamil Nadu. She completed her graduation in English From Women’s Christian College, Chennai and post-graduation in Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of Madras. She started her career in journalism as a features writer for the New Indian Express in 1998 where she continued to work for around ten years. She now works with the Times of India. She lives in Chennai with her husband Philip and son Adiv. This is her first book.

On 22 February 2009, A.R. Rahman Created History by Becoming the First Indian Musician To Win an Oscar, Taking Home not one but two Statuettes. ‘Jai Ho,’ Sang the Admiring Millions in India and Abroad.

But who is A.R. Rahman? Shy, Reticent, Self-Effacing and always keen to dodge the Limelight, Rahman is the Rare Celebrity whose Personal Life is shrouded in mystery the Aura of the Mystical Maestro Sits Well on Him, but What Lies Beneath?

This book Tells A.R. Rahman’s Fascinating Story Like it has never been told before.

Author’s Note

I first wrote to A.R. Rahman six years ago-in March 2003. The composer was on a world concert tour at the time and it was impossible to meet him. But I decided to mail him anyway, because as his friends and colleagues informed me, his e-mails were a way of telling you what was on his mind or what he thought of you, if you knew how to read between the lines. There are other rules when it comes to dealing with Rahman, I was warned: do not call him, let him call you. Only sms or mail, don’t call. So mail and sms I did. Over and over again.

No response for a long while. And then there was a reply with just one word: Yes. Yes to what? I had sent him a mail asking him five completely different questions.

Again, consolation came from Rahman’s colleagues-his mails are usually rather obscure, don’t worry.

Rahman’s e-mail are always terse. That’s because as a person, he is rather closed, never wanting to reveal too much about himself. So, if you get an e-mail that is more than two lines long from him, even if they seem to mean nothing, you know you’re getting somewhere. He usually doesn’t sign off on his mails. An ‘AR’ at the bottom would mean you are definitely on the right track.

The ‘AR’ sign-off came after a few more e-mails. He was warming up. But that still didn’t mean anything, because there was no call.

You can call Rahman’s office as many times as you want but there is no way you are going to get him unless he decides to call you. And then one day, out of the blue, the cellphone rang, and a voice at the other end said: ‘Hi, this is AR. I’ll call you sometime this week and then we’ll meet. God bless.’

Click. He had hung up. Nine months of waiting had culminated in a five-second call.

Now, there was just the wait for the actual interview to take place.

Even with that, I found there was protocol to be observed. First, the wait in the ‘common room’. Then, the meeting with his secretary. Next, a meeting with Rahman in the second waiting room, and only then a final meeting inside the studio.

Finally, the door opens. Rahman walks out, dressed in a white kurta, looking a bit surreal. For a brief moment, time stands still, holding its breath, so to speak, as he scans the waiting faces. He looks at me. ‘Hi, follow me,’ he says, turns and walks away. This is it, I say to myself, I’m in. he will answer all my questions, tell me all about his life, we will discuss his music, his faith, I will wander around the studio and his home, meet his family…

I was back out in less than an hour.
I spent a lot of time waiting in Rahman’s reception, courtyard and studio corridors during the sessions after 10 p.m., which is when the whole place comes to life. The waiting before each meeting would take hours, while the interview with Rahman would take one hour at the most-you couldn’t take in more than that in one session, and he couldn’t give you more time either because there were always directors waiting outside for their turn.

Soon it became rather a matter of routine for me-I would take some juice and a snack along to keep me going; I soon stopped refusing the tea boy who would come around and ask the waiting crowd if they wanted some tea. After a while, I started talking to the others and learnt their stories, which gave me much more of an insight into Rahman than I got through my interviews with him. When you wait for hours, you have time for stories. You lean about the different lives milling around that courtyard and waiting room-singers wanting to be heard, pauper producers hoping for charity, musicians looking for a break, fans wishing for a glimpse. You hear stories from old friends, relatives, colleagues, tea boys, secretaries, Stories that are not guarded or rushed through, stories that tell you more about eh man you are all waiting to meet, more than he ever can. Or will.

Most of my questions to Rahman were unanswered, with the rest answered in the briefest, most guarded manner possible. Rahman deliberately draws a blank with his past; as for the present, he insists there is so much happening that he does not know where to begin; he believes the future is uncertain, and says it’s up to me to connect the dots.

So I picked up my pen and set off on a journey that beings with a dot but ends with a star.

Acknowledgements ix
Author’s Note xi
Oscars 1
Dileep 5
Roja 65
Breaking the Rules 79
The First Award 99
Bollywood Beginnings 104
Opening Doors 117
Under the Spotlight 125
Faith 137
The Wait 167
At Work 188
At Home 216
Discography 250
Index 259
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