2 weeks ago
Thursday, July 24, 2008
If Illayaraja is an apple, then, Rahman is an orange. It doesn't make any sense to compare one with the other. And Rahman is successful only because he is an orange and not a variant of an apple. If and only if he was a variant of an apple, the Raaja apple would have crushed and swallowed as it did many other variants of it. And Rahman orange must have been very cognizant from the day 0, not to even cross the shadow of the apple. If apple was serving melody sweetness all the years, Rahman orange decided to give a totally different flavor.
It was not a fluke or overnight success for Rahman. In my opinion, it was not Rahman's Roja that took him to the heights. Roja was followed by some of his sensible and matured decisions. IMO, those decisions and convictions took him to the heights and not the mere tunes/rhythms.
If Rahman gave Roja, so did Vidyasagar come up with a musical hit Karna (a year after Roja). In fact, Aasai became a much popular album in those days, composed by Deva. Why they weren't able to attain the heights that Rahman did? (Are you wondering, how insane must Emjay be to compare Rahman with Vidyasagar and Deva? Hold your breath till I complete).
My answer to this is, while Vidyasagar, Deva & Co. were walking at a brisk pace, Rahman was climbing at a slower pace. He knew very clearly that walking would only make him cover distance and not take him to heights, whereas only climbing would do. Other composers were able to walk 20-25 steps per year, whereas Rahman chose to climb just 5-6 steps per year.
In detail, I can illustrate some aspects that I think that took him to the heights and also some external factors that acted like a catalyst to his growth. I will cover all but the external factors in this post.
a) Being selective
b) Betting on winning horses
c) Choice of veteran & upcoming filmmakers
d) Right moves @ Right time
e) Humbleness & Clean image
f) Public relations & Marketing sense
g) Display Rahman'ism and never-be-Raaja'ish.
Being selective: Raaja was the undisputable king of music making in the film industry those days. There were many many gruntling filmmakers prostrating before Raaja while wondering if there will ever be an alternative! Imagine within a week after Roja's release and its musical success, Rahman would have been flooded with offers. If "Chinna Koundar" was a hit, at least a dozen film makers were ready with similar stories. If and only if Rahman had accepted all those offers with his both hands, he would have been booked for 3-4 years, but would have been DOOMED by now!! He was an intelligent chap, wasn't he?
Betting on winning horses: Secondly, he betted on winning horses by making some intelligent and most often correct guesses. He had a good flair of taste for winning films and good films. He signed up sensible movies (for the most part) and carefully managed to stay out of the gutter. How did he manage to do that? Did he have any good advisor around him? Or was he smart enough to do all by himself? I don't
know the answer. On the other hand, Deva was busy accepting all the offers with 4 hands (with Sabesh Murali) !!
Choice of veteran & upcoming filmmakers: Though he signed up movies with new directors like Shankar, he striked a balance with veteran filmmakers like Balachandar (in Duet) and BharathiRaja (in Kizhakku Cheemayile). That gave him a good visibility and established contacts. In particular, the initial years are as important as the first trimester for a pregnant women! And his association with Vairamuthu cannot be missed here as well. Some of his immortal lyrics have been a major factor for some of his album's success.
Right moves @ Right time: Having tasted great success in the initial years, inertia would hug anyone. Rahman was very conscious to break the status-quo and made right moves at the right time. He clearly understood the politics behind the geography of our country and stormed into Bollywood with "Rangeela". Small timers like Anu Malik, Anand Milind and Nadeem were looking like a tiny boat in front of this juggernaut. He colonised the whole India and everyone started singing to his rhythm. What Illayaraja didn't do in several decades, Rahman did it within 2-3 years. By this
time, Deva became a "Gaana" king tainted with all accusations of plagiarism. The best thing about Rahman is that he just didn't stop there. He again overcame the inertia and broke into the international arena with albums and some hollywood assignments.
Humbleness & Clean image: Five million units of one album sold in 1995 is no joke. Despite this feat, he remained humble and didn't lose his composure. That has given him the "media darling" status. Media is so powerful that even Gandhi can be shown as Godse and Godse can be portrayed as Gandhi.
Public relations & Marketing sense: His acumen in marketing and his public relations has taken him to new heights that no other Indian has ever achieved till date. The way "Vande Mataram", "Jana Gana Mana" was promoted is an example of how much importance he has given to the marketing.
Display Rahman'ism and never-be-Raaja'ish: Last but not the least, he has displayed always "Rahmanism" in his music and very consciously avoided being "Raaja'ish", even if asked to. This last point can be a separate post by itself. I intend to cover a lot in this point alone in my future posts.
I strongly believe that if and only if Vidyasagars or Devas or any other talented composer had adopted Rahman's above-said strategies, they would have touched new heights as well.
Digression: BTW, I have a chronic acid-relux problem. So, I don't take much oranges and apple serves me the best. An apple a day keeps the doctor away :-)