Thursday, July 24, 2008

Rise of Rahman - I

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.

They are:

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 :-)


Vignesh Ram said...

Superb post!

I loved the last line (Digression). Hats off Emjay!

Vinith said...

A good post that makes sense.
Quoting apple and orange as raaja and rahman is creative :-)

adhulaiyum, andha last line (disgression) supero super... :-B

kanna said...

Very nice post, Emjay. It always irks me when Raaja and Rahman fans clash stupidly on forums (also when HJ and YSR fans join in). Esp for these two, it is nonsensical to try and compare them. Raaja WAS the undisputed king of TFM for almost two decades, and this is something naive ARR fans ignore. Both artists deserve due respect for reigning supreme in their respective eras. Raaja isn't the dominant force he used to be, and his music doesn't appeal to everyone nowadays like it used to, but that is no reason to brush aside his calibre and track record. I've always hoped naive fans of either side will one day mature and see merit in all talented composers.

Do please elaborate on your last point, it sounds intriguing.

And another small request: I get the feeling from some of your earlier posts that you're quite unimpressed by Yuvan, any reasons why? Just wish to know your opinion, in a separate post perhaps? :)

Vinith said...

Thanks to kanna for bringin in the clash betw IR, ARR fans. I regularly participate in forumhub discussions. Immatured, riduculous ppl out ther fight betw them like anything. ARR praised YSR in Saroja album release func for which ARR fans shout "Why the hell does he praise him", "Has he gone mad", "how does he know that we're fighting for them with other fans" etc. I would call them as blind followers. Idiots. They dont love music, they love only ARR/IR.
One of the most f***in idiotic comments from ARR fans is, they call IR as "Thabela petti".

Suresh Kumar said...

Emjay - Bang on. A great post. But I like apple and oranges equally though apple has an edge over the oranges.

Prakash Srinivasan said...

MJ- I agree with you but would like to make a point here, according to me Vidyasagar is one of our most underrated composers! He is very talented & has a sound which is a combination of IR & ARR. I do feel that in Tamil & Malayalam music VS has definitely made a mark with many immortal melodies! As for Deva, barring a handful of great melodies he was always copying so never cared much about him!

Anonymous said...

Sorry Emjay to disagree with you.
Deva and Vidhya...Neraiya Movies Commit pannathala thaan atleast we remember those guys illana deva and vidhya wud have been completely field out.(Barring few melodies of vidhaysagar)Both vidhya and deva are run of the mill musicians.@ any day they cant compete or edge rahman even if those guys selected good movies like rahman(imagine deva with maniratnam god.unimaginable!!!)

Deva has already composed for many movies b4 Aasai.Infact Vaikasi Poranthachu songs are blockbuster in B And C Centres.But Deva failed to maintain the consistency and his nativity @ any time of his career tats the reason he cant shine or monopolize the tamil film industry.He again came into limelight only after Annamalai.Again the same slump which he regained after Aasai.(Low Budget Movie Offers are flooded to him).
Vidyasagar Nilamai Romba Mosam..rarely he will give malare mounama,pooveukellam siragu mulaithaal(More bad luck those movies wont even hit the theatres or super dooper flop)Besides this vidyasagar is too Avg.


Finally for me

Raja is Curd Rice And Rahman is oorukaaai

Curd Rice Thaniya Saapdullam But oorukaiya ......

Saraks said...

Great post Emjay. Being Selective and Betting on winning horses happened due to two reasons. Rahman took his own time to compose and never budged under pressure to go at any pace that he isn't comfortable with(which is something YSR has to learn). And Rahman became very costly after the first two years.

So being costly and extremely low rate of output mean that only people who were keen about his music and the bigger productions(who could afford ARR) went to him. And hence the high ratio of better movies to the pathetic ones.

Display Rahman'ism and never-be-Raaja'ish - Rahman is a true disciple of MSV(a good number of his tunes are born out of MSV numbers) and he is not at all inspired by Raja's music. What I'm saying is being non Raja-ish is his style and not a conscious decision.

kumar.s.r said...

Emjay , Nice analysis .

IR and ARR are true musicians / magicians of sorts and unique in their own way .

The last line (Digression)is a Cloud with silver lining :)

Emjay said...

Hello All,

It has been really overwhelming with all your comments and I am confused as to where I will begin my reply.

One thing is certain. Not only Rahman's music even a post of Rahman sells more than any other's.

Vignesh/Vinith/Suresh/Kumar - Thanks for your comments.

Kanna - I do like some of Yuvan's songs and will write in future posts.

Innoruvan/Prakash - I was almost certain that I would be misunderstood when I wrote about Deva and Vidyasagar along with Rahman. As people say, "Oru Paana Sotrukku Oru Soru Padham" - I think both Deva and Vidyasagar showed their potential in their early days. But, I think their strategy wasn't correct. Deva in Maniratnam's movie - ?? If Kamal could extract the best from Deva in Avvai Shanmugi, why can't someone else? Subbudu had once commented that no-one (including Raaja) was giving some of the native treatment to raagas as Deva did. (Konja Naal Poru Thalaiva in Aanandha Bhairavi, Rukku Rukku in Sahana etc).

You can start well, but if you lose track, you will end up in gutters. Just my humble opinion. I could be totally wrong in gauging their capabilities as well.


I am sorry. I think we have to agree to disagree. I will talk more about that in my subsequent posts.

ஜீவா (Jeeva Venkataraman) said...

Very good analysis, I agree!

முருகேஷ் said...

Very good. I think you pretty much covered everything about ARR's success factors. The last factor was very important. Everyone liked the new sound/tones (Rahman'ish) from him in 1992.

Vinith said...

Not 4 hands, deva acually had 6 hards with Sabesh and Murali :lol:

shri ramesh sadasivam said...

I feel your anlysis is correct

Emjay said...

Thanks Jeeva, Murugesh and Shri.

Prabhu R Shankar said...

i personally found most of the points valid but for one, that he bets on winning horses..
my opinion is, one common thing betw IL and ARR is or any greats is that, they know they r greats and they try to prove that point and ofcourse this is not arrogance..
so when i try to track the record of ARR i notice that most of the movies that he has composed music for havent done too well in the box office, in short, if he was betting on winning horses, the movies would have tasted equal success as his music!

Emjay said...


Probably, my choice of words weren't appropriate. What I meant was he signed up for only sensible movies (for the most part). Either the director was most acclaimed like ManiRatnam, BharathiRaja, Balachandar, Shankar or the movie was a BIG-BANNER & High Budget or featuring super stars!!

Except for few junk movies he might have signed, most of them were watchable (at least once). The exceptions could be because of his obligations!!!

raj said...

emjay, i think saying that VS or worse, Deva could have achieved Rahman's success with the same strategy is, well, a bit too much.

In real life, I prefer oranges to apple. However, in your scenario I'd be a strict apple-man. With that, I can still say that your orange is a cut above the peaches and the apricots you have compared it to.Those plums and grapes could never be apple or orange if they were given a lifetime to do so, with all the opportunities in the world:-)

Emjay said...

Welcome to my blogspace, Raj.

I respect your opinion, though, I guess we might have to agree to disagree. And adopting the "same strategy" is not that simple, though, IMO - particularly the last strategy.

One thing is sure, Oranges sell more than Apple today. Even plums and grapes outscore !!

Kumaresh-n said...

Haha...strategy u mean??...
then why the so called isaingani neva used any of those 'strategies'??... grow up man... get yourself rid from being a AR bashers... the people in the music industry knows well about what kind quality Rahman provides... people with lack of knowledge, could write anything (above article is the best example) which is not sensible at all.... last, but not least... Happy being Raaja'ish... and keep your envy eyes off Rahman....

Digression: Nandu kathe teriyuma unakke??... better get to know of it.. stop being another indian nandu (moron)... IR is a gr8 musician.. he's a legend... its just that immature fans lk u creating such stories and building up a barrier between music lovers (ARR & IR fans)...

kannan said...

Kumaresh - Calling Emjay a Rahman basher is a bit silly I think. For a blog that is dedicated to Raaja, he has touched on Rahman many times. And I really don't see how you found this post to be negative to Rahman. This is one of the most sensible posts about Rahman I have seen in ages, and I don't see why you're that upset. At no point in the article does he question Rahman's talent. He's just saying that even with that talent, he would have disappeared if he hadn't also been an intelligent businessman. That sounds like praise to me.

Reformed said...

hey kumaresh i think you have misunderstood. emjay is not bashing Rahman in any way. Pls read the post again.

Emjay said...

Kumaresh -

Kannan and "Reformed" said it all. I have nothing but all respect for A.R.Rahman for what he has achieved and what he is as a person. I was only trying to bring my viewpoint on what I thought was unique about him and factors that I thought were behind his success.

Zombie said...

Amazing article man!! Not all can think in this direction, keen observation of Rahman's actions can only give such an insight. Lets forget if we are comparing Illayaraaja or ARR, the point is - We all can learn how to be a little more intelligent by adopting these steps to reach greater heights. This formula works not only in music, it works everywhere. Hope ppl appreciate Rahman's intelligence and learn from it & not get into fighting who is the best!!

karthiks_india said...

Apples keep doctors away is good as a proverb but medically apple doesn't have any value. It is rich in carbohydrate and if taken in large quantity will increase only obiesity.

On the other hand Oranges have Vitamin C in them in large content. You can google and find out how importnat Vitamin C (Citrus fruits) is for human body. Also, Citric acid in Oranges give it a long life as it acts as a preservative.....
Can I infer from your blog that ARR's music is vital for any music lover and has a long shelf life to it?

Prabhu R Shankar said...

kumaresh- there is a normal belief among followers that if there is a talk of comparison between rahman and ilayaraja, it has to be in praise of one and a criticism of the other, i think u should stop viewing it with a mindset that Emjay is a ilayaraja follower so it must be obvious that he is criticising rahman. its a preconcluded mindset u have read the article with i guess!
i presume this because i dont see this degrading either while it has been a just analysis of both of them..
and more than everything, this is a blog with an individual's expressions towards music, i think he has a right to express anything from his point of view.

Fan said...

"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."

okay article except for the above junk. Rahman is what he is now mainly because of his talent. Vidyasagar? Deva? What a joke? I could also argue that if Chandrabose had learnt Western Classical in London, he would have reached great heights too (like Raja). eriyuthilla? I know it is silly. Your conclusion above that Deva and Vidyasagar would have achieved what Rahman achieved had they followed these "strategies" is silly too. That is, probably, what irked Kumaresh.

Emjay said...

Fan -

You are entitled to have your viewpoint and the same way, I believe in what I said. Thoughts differ and we should agree to disagree and move on.

BIGLE ! பிகில் said...

Rahman's Rise had nothing to do with his Musical Genius ( Not that doesn't have one) It was completely about the Social and Potical change that ushered India into the 90s which when Globalization arrived with MTV .. Rahman, the youngest of the lot that time was free of any musical idealogy or tradition... jumped the Boat and then Media took over.. If the "Uber Kewl" Yuvanshankar woul've been around that time then the Media might've orphaned Rahman..

One good thing however is Rahman was able to sustain his place by scoring only a few albums so far thus greatly reducing the risk of number of Flops.

Good thought this post

thiyagarajan said...

you are not mentioning harmony to
A.R.Rahman first HJ and Praveen mani
Sivamani like lot of stallwarts with
him now in 2010 everybody left,now
i think ARR struggling.His wave reduced.your article is wonderful
touching all management aspects
Remember ARR intiated by Mr.Maniratnam M.B.A

thiyagarajan said...

you are not mentioning harmony to
A.R.Rahman first HJ and Praveen mani
Sivamani like lot of stallwarts with
him. Now in 2010 everybody left,now
i think ARR struggling.His wave reduced.your article is wonderful
touching all management aspects
Remember ARR intiated by Mr.Maniratnam M.B.A(ahah he is also

mohanr said...

Nice article.

I want to add a couple of things:

1. Rahman did invest great amount of time in polishing his music. That shows his hardworking nature. And I think that is the biggest difference to me between Rahman and Ilayaraja. No one (in recent Tamil film music) can get away with the least amount of composing time on a song as Ilayaraja did and still have the audience hearing them decades and decades after they were composed. It's simple math. The speed at which Ilayaraja composed has bewildered many in the industry. That's because Ilayaraja is a genius. An eccentric - anthrophobic - not-such-a-great-business-minded - happy-with-composing-music-alone genius. While Rahman has a bit of genius in him (more with the things surrounding his music such as distribution, marketing and business of it rather than core music itself), his music is a result of his sheer hard work, discipline, passion and patience. And that is where the difference shows after repeated listenings over decades.

2. As long as we are comparing food items I have my analogy too..
I think of Rahman's music as commercial food - hotel, packaged ..etc. Its fun to consume once in a while in limited quantities. And Raaja's music is like home food - though you grow tired of it at times, and it sometimes tastes like the same thing over and over again, you come back to it nevertheless for comfort and health. (In this aspect I would consider pure classical music - carnatic & hindustani - as Raw food - fresh vegetables and fruits). Ofcourse I agree that a number of people of today would prefer to eat outside most of times (they either prefer taste over health or can't see the better nature of home food). Its a matter of taste - can't blame anyone really.

And I have to add here that after watching a number of interviews of Rahman, I have come to love him more for his personality (clarity of thinking and humbleness and spirituality and compassion) than for his music. It is a big challenge - to keep your humbleness in show biz and that I think is his greatest achievement and biggest lesson to others. I love and respect him for that.

mohanr said...

and.. forgot one more thing..

BGM - I think no other musician in India has done so much work on BGM. Most of them are just that - musicians who re-purpose humming/instrumental versions of the film songs for the film's BGM. Ilayaraja is the Music 'Director'. His BGM compositions stand uniquely shoulder to shoulder with the songs and sometimes surpass them. He inhales the story and his BGM carries the story in it's shoulder along with the director and cameraman (and actors). Ilayaraja's BGM were so good that they even shouldered the stories to success when the director failed in many cases. My biggest complaint is that none of the younger musicians (including Yuvan) seem to realize/care about this. And the old directors fail to acknowledge this (due to their ego or something). That I think is the reason why stalwarts like Balachandar, Bharatiraaja ..etc (only exception being Manirathnam) fail with their recent films without Ilayaraaja.