What the chaat wala taught A.R.Rahman…

Have you ever observed a chaat wala – how he works? I have. Incidentally I find myself at Adyar Ananda Bhavan often – can’t help it 😉 They have the most amazing Bhel Puri I have ever tasted! 

This particular chaat waala has perhaps been there forever. God help them if this guy decided to walk out on them one day! Anyways, he has this row of boxes facing him – all the ingredients necessary. He takes a handful of chopped tomatoes, onions, a pinch of salt and a spoonful of other colorful powders that you would never know existed until you saw them! He puts them all in a bigger vessel and mixes everything with all his might.

(Now I know everyone does more or less the same to prepare a plate of bhel poori, but trust me, this guy has a magic ingredient!)

So yeah, like one of my friends pointed out that day, it might seem like he is making a bloody mess out of the whole thing, a blurry haze, but oh, what a tasty mess that turns out to be!  When he is finished, tada! You have the most amazing Bhel Puri ever – you can hardly wait to feast on it!

That is exactly the kind of thing you can associate with A.R.Rahman…
My Dad said that often. If you have listened to his songs, you’ll notice that he has used several instruments, some of which I can’t really name. Sometimes I wonder if he really uses musical instruments or creates music out of the first thing he lays his eyes on in the morning.

He knows what vegetables to use and how much. He adds slightly more salt, and the song would suck. If he misses out one of those colorful powders for the Bhel Puri (I really don’t know the name) he knows that the song would be missing this terribly important ingredient.

For instance, listen to “Radha Kaise Na Jale” from the movie “Lagaan”. Now I do not understand much Hindi but I understand the song! The song begins when just one instrument is playing – I think the cymbals. Then comes those dhandiyaa stuff. After sometime you hear the percussion – and then the vocals. How Rahman has brought these together in a way that creates harmony is beyond me – all I know is that I can listen to it any day and be overwhelmed by it every time as though I am listening to it for the first ever time!

When “off-beat” sounds right!
I have also noticed that he composes songs which seem like they are off beat, but which totally make sense! If you listen to “Kannai Katti Kollaadhe” from Iruvar, you will know what I mean. If you would like to know exactly where, get back to me and I’d be happy to point it out! Other examples are “Petta rap” from the movie “Kaadhalan” and “Aayirathil naan oruvan” again from “Iruvar”. Some parts of the song, not all, sound like they are slightly off-beat but those are somehow the best parts!

Why you cannot sing an A.R.R song on-stage
He also has this thing for chorus. If you have observed, most of his songs have a group of people singing. Even if it’s a duet, he finds some place to fit in the chorus – and it sounds sooo right!

That is exactly why I think one should never try to sing a song composed by A.R.Rahman on reality shows or on stage for that matter. Once this guy on a reality show chose to sing ‘Rang de Basanti’ from the movie ‘Rang de Basanti’ – and I thought he made a total fool of himself.  The song is quite fast paced and has so much going on in it at just one given point of time! I can perhaps appreciate his efforts but how in the world could one imagine to pull it off on stage all alone and still hope to do justice to the song?

New, fresh, young talent
Rahman has an eye (perhaps I should say ear) for new, young, fresh talent. My sister likes the song “Nazrein Milaana” from the movie “Jaane tu ya Jaane na” exactly for this reason – new good voices. The entire song comes alive because it is “fresh”. I quite agree with her. Perhaps it is not that he has to present new singers to his listeners – the mood of the song just calls for it. It all fits just right.

And about the Oscars – one cannot forget to mention it. I quite agree with many in that A.R.Rahman does deserve the award but not for the song “Jay ho” exactly. Let us humor the man. Several compositions of his are much better than that – personally I think songs from Roja and Bombay, Iruvar and Lagaan should deserve all the Oscars in the world!

One can never grow tired of listening to him. The more I listen to his songs, the more are the various “ingredients” I discover – ingredients without which the song would not have been the same.

So let’s face it…
If A.R.Rahman had not become a musician, he would have totally made a great chaat wala and I should have loved to have the Bhel Puri he might have made! 😉


2 thoughts on “What the chaat wala taught A.R.Rahman…

  1. wooow…as a diehard fan of A.R.R i love to see this post…and thanks for the infos…


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