In 1992, as I was about to embark on a 24-hour train journey to seek admission in an engineering college in Chennai, a kind friend gave me his threadbare walkman and a cassette tape of Roja.
‘But I don’t listen to Tamil music,’ I told him haughtily.
‘Maybe it’s time you did,’ he replied, bidding me adieu.
Throughout that journey, I spent my meagre “train allowance” on batteries. I skipped a meal, endured the shocks that the semi-naked wires the headphone gave me and, to the annoyance of my fellow travellers, insisted on singing tunelessly along with the melody playing between my ears. Two things were happening. One: I was rediscovering Tamil film music. And two: I was discovering the genius of a young debutant composer named A. R. Rahman.
For the next four years, followers of Bollywood heard the hand-me-down versions of Rahman’s compositions while I smugly enjoyed the pristine Tamil versions of the same songs. All that changed in 1995 with the release of Rangeela.
And now, we finally have the maestro's story from his own mouth, thanks to a newly released book titled A. R. Rahman: The spirit of music by Nasreen Munni Kabir.
Here's my review of the book on Dawn:
Tracking the cosmic rhythm
If you're a Rahman fan too, hark back!