A Rahmanesque World: A Westerner’s Guide to A. R. Rahman

So, I heard about all this Rahman stuff, you know, with the Oscars and all. But who’s this guy? He crooned into the microphone at the Academy Awards ceremony, but to be honest, I couldn’t make out what he was pouring his heart into, whatever it was. Was it some kind of charity-raising cry; an attempt to enthuse dollar-wielding Westerners to donate to Asian slum development? (You can be sure, I haven’t seen Slumdog Millionaire yet. Whatever does “Jai Ho” mean?).

Nevertheless, I decided to give it a try. I Google for “a. r. rahman guide” and the first search hit is something called “Paisa Vasool – Or Not: The Newbie’s Guide to A. R. Rahman”. Guess what? It’s written by a Westerner who loves Bollywood and is doing her best to bridge the cultural gap between it and Hollywood. Oh no, I don’t want that. I’m looking for an authentic source.

So I Google simply for “A. R. Rahman” and the official website turns up. Is it just me or does this look like some poorly designed website? There’s no “Who is” or “About”, no FAQ, no First Time Here? The site assumes you already know who this dude is, so this is not for me. A Google search simply for “Rahman guide” is worse – it turns up a Female Genital Mutilation Guide in the first page of results. Oops!

Finally, I realize there’s no better way than to search this guy on Wikipedia. The Wikipedia entry is – to say the least – intimidating. There seems to be more blue link text than normal text! The Answers.com entry doesn’t seem to help either! This Rahman, or whatever, was supposed to have composed the soundtrack for one of TIME Magazine’s Top 10 Soundtracks for all time! Help – isn’t there a decent site to help me get started?

Yeah, by this time I know this guy is supposed to be a genius and all, but help me god, where do I start? What do I listen to? I’m a discerning music aficionado, with my own favorites in various genres, and I’d like to quickly and easily learn and discover this Rahman. I’m a music-addicted, open-minded Westerner, who’s trying to learn about that Indian musical dude who just won all the music Oscars. How are you Indians helping me find and learn more about him?

Isn’t it the Indians who were usurping our IT jobs? Where are these guys when it comes to helping the world appreciate its culture?

You know what? It was a foreigner who brought Gandhi to the world and it was a foreigner who brought Dharavi to the world. Is it surprising that it is a foreigner from TIME Magazine, who brings the best Westerner’s Guide to A. R. Rahman to the world?

And you know what? There’ll be lots and lots of articles, newspaper reviews, blog posts, etc. in the Indian media after Rahman won the Oscars, but this TIME article, exhorting Americans to listen to him, was written way back in 2005.


8 thoughts on “A Rahmanesque World: A Westerner’s Guide to A. R. Rahman

  1. Mahendra:

    You are back! 🙂

    As for the post, well, don’t they say ‘no man is a prophet in his own village’? More accurately in Hindi: ‘ghar ka jogi jogda, aan gaanv ka siddh’. Such is life.

  2. Pingback: Music Appreciation: मना तुझे मनोगत « An Unquiet Mind

  3. Good to have you back, Mahendra.

    The issue is when an Indian makes a film on Dharavi (http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0104098/), the world doesn’t notice (assuming that the world noticing a film on slums means something). Leave alone the world, even Indians (including the writer of this post 😉 ) don’t mention Sudhir Mishra but Danny Boyle.

    We are programmed to learn about ourselves from outsiders, rather than learning from fellow-Indians and valuing their work. That says a lot about our thinking and what value we place on ourselves and our culture.

  4. Amit, thanks!

    Even I didn’t know about that film – it seems it ran into problems with Shiv Sainiks and had to be withdrawn from theatres and hardly anyone knows about it now – exactly the point of my post…

    Why are we programmed that way? Why do we place little value on ourselves and our culture? That’s what provokes me at times. I fully agree with you.

  5. Mahendra,
    The film won three National Film Awards (including Best Film), which are considered the highest honor in India and are awarded on merit to a larger extent, than Filmfare awards.
    I wasn’t aware of any protests against this film, and I’d imagine they were likely limited to Mumbai or Maharashtra (is that correct?), as I was definitely aware of this film, though I haven’t seen it yet. I guess being a cinephile helps. 🙂

  6. Amit – I did read up on the film after knowing about it from your comment…the protests stuff came up in that general reading itself. So, most probably, they were limited to the Marathi-speaking region. Do write about it if you get to see it!

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