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On a Rich Trail


Safeeq Valanchery

A.R. RAHMAN: THE MUSICAL STORM
By Kamini Mathai
Viking/Penguin, New Delhi, 2009, pp. 265, Rs. 499.00

VOLUME XXXIV NUMBER 1 January 2010

What is the best way to write a biography of a reticent, reclusive, shy man? You get the others, more willing to speak, to speak. And in this, Kamini Mathai, the author has excelled. If this biography of A.R. Rahman had a one-liner, it would be ‘ARR as seen through others’ eyes.’ ARR, named Dileep by his parents Shekhar and Kasturi before he embraced islam, may have a different story to tell the world, which may be why he refuted the supposed claim by the book (not made anywhere in the book) of being his authorized biography. ‘The claim that it’s an authorised biography is wrong,’ he said, further stating that he will be writing his own biography (Mumbai Mirror, 10 June, 2009). That we will wait for, but for now Mathai has indeed succeeded in giving us a feel of what it is like to spend some years travelling to reach the heart of Fourth Street, Subrayya Nagar, Kodambakkam, where ARR lives. Kamini Mathai has used her knowledge of Tamil to get exclusive interviews from the least suspected; like the interview with the old Boologarani in Amman Kovil Street where Dileep’s parents used to stay when he was a child. Rahman’s fans have a lot to look out for in this biography. For those who have been disappointed by Shankar Indorkar’s statement that Rahman makes musicians play without direction for hours, records them and then uses the sound bites (Booth, 2009:290), Mathai reassures us that Rahman does pay each musician over and over, whenever their bites are used. For those making a cult out of Rahman, this book provides information on how to codify the cult more in their Master’s lines—keep a candle burning by your side, wear green or black, or at least have a patch of it on your attire. If only for these details, The Musical Storm makes an interesting, almost arresting read. Even when giving insight into Rahman’s perseverance, hard work, faith, love for his mother, the spirituality and passion that infects his music, Mathai has stayed clear of the hagiographical mode. That indeed comes as a relief since the jacket of the book puts off those who are looking for a balanced view on ARR. The front cover has Rahman’s face facing the sky, while the back cover shows him with the Academy statuettes. And with its title. ...


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