Rahman and the Oscars

I am really happy for A R Rahman. He is a musical genius, and deserves everything he has got. In fact I gave him the title “Mozart of Madras” and it caught on. But does the West really get his art and his genius ? I remember getting into an argument with Andrew Lloyd Webber about allowing A R Rahman to explore his own creativity for Bombay Dreams. We had co produced the show and I had introduced Rahman and his music to him.
I asked A R Rahman to score the music for Golden Age, and even then I was allowed only to take him as a co composer. And I watched as the studio rejected the most beautiful compositions from A R Rahman, because they did not get or were not willing to embrace something from another culture. As it happened the score of Golden Age was not half as good as it could have been.
Recently Rahman did the score for my short film that I did for Swarovsky, called Paasage. The one I shot in Argentina. One of the pieces in it is a beautiful song and an aria in French. I ask people to guess where it is from, and they search for all the great composers of the western classical form. And are stunned when I tell them the piece was composed by A R Rahman, sung by an Indian girl from his Music Academy, and produced in his studio in Chennai.
That is the genius of A R Rahman. Then why do we need the West to tell us how great he is ?
And that’s why I don’t understand why this hype of the Oscars for A R Raham in Indian Media (Rah Rah Rahman was the TOI headline).. He is bigger than the Oscars Slumdog is not his best work. His music has been far more evocative than in Slumdog.
We in India have a far greater culture of music. Our depth of understanding of music, its resonance, its culture, be it classical or modern, is far greater than any culture I know. So why don’t I see that the West celebrates when one of their artists becomes popular here in India ? Why don’t we see headlines in the LA times then ?
Why do we admire the West so much. Even in my career I thought that Bandit Queen was a far far better film, a more heartfelt film, and a much more meaningful film than Elizabeth or any of the other films I made in the West. But in India I was suddenly celebrated as a film maker after Elizabeth. I even was awarded a Padma Shree after that film. Why ? Because the film was nominated for 7 Oscars, and Bandit Queen was not.
When will we stop being aspirational towards the West ?

57 Responses to “Rahman and the Oscars”

  1. Sumit says:

    In my openion Rahman is not a music director, he is a good technician who ‘creates’ music and a good business man who know what would sell.
    If you are familiar with arabian music, you would know where the source is, and when he does melody, it is nothing but the influence of Maestro Illayaraja, a school where he got the training.
    Rahman to me, is a good technician, with very good ear to sound, and good business man. I would not ever rate him as a music director

  2. visshoo says:

    “Rahman is a good technician, with a very good ear for sound”
    well said Sumit.

  3. santanu says:

    There are good films and bad films. Most of Bollywood and Hollywood is trash. A R Rahman is good, but there are musicians who are far more exciting. Awards are all about timing. And they don’t always mean much. And Shekhar you accepted the Padmashri, so why worry about it?

  4. santanu says:

    and plz Shkhar, Rahman is not the Mozart of Madras. That sounds corny man! Mozart was a bad boy, Rahman is like the boy you’d like to take home to your mother. Sometimes Rahman’s overuse of electronics gets to me. But he is good at what he does… though I don’t listen to him. My 3-yr-old daughter likes his ‘pappu can’t dance saala’…. it is his work, right?

  5. Saif says:

    Shekhar,
    My take on this is that, we are still living in our colonial past. We have not yet come out of our hangover that we have been ruled by them for more than 300 years.It is more intriguing that people never like their rulers however we continue to accept them our masters not by our words, but by our deeds while we people of the subcontinent cannot see eye-to-eye of our brothers/sisters living across the border.
    I don’t understand why we are so mesmerized as well as obsessed of Western Charm, while the real beauty lies here in our own country?

  6. emm. amazing 🙂

  7. Dr. Nisheeth Kumar says:

    sir a relevant blog i put here i wrote long ago. before that i would like to say i am a great fan of your indian works masoom, mr. India and bandit queen. here is the blog sir.
    Sleep deserted me on the night before the academy awards ceremony and tiredness gave way to anticipation mixed with fear on the fateful morning as the program started. Hugh Jackman is a favorite but i waited restlessly for his act to end so that the real action unfolds. Gandhi happened when I was a 2 yr old so this was going to be the biggest Indian moment for me with respect to OSCARS. Resul won and got his award from Will Smith and my hopes and expectations soared higher. Then Rahman came on stage and gave a mesmerizing performance and it was a treat to watch. This was followed by the entry of the gorgeous Alicia Keys with the High School Musical star Zac Effron with nominations for the best music score and lo A R RAHMAN was an OSCAR winner. After that I was sure the second trophy had to go to hugely popular JAI HO and of course it did. Rahman created history that day and became the toast of high and mighty of Hollywood. A.R. Rahman has created masterpieces countless times before and we in India have always known his calibre. Indeed he should have won the Oscar ages ago as surely many of his compositions had at least the same merit as his work in Slumdog Millionaire. Nevertheless the west had to wake up one day to his magic and he has asserted his place of supremacy in music firmly. Jai ho to RAHMAN: a true musical genius. Some people feel that OSCARS are overhyped and should not be given much importance countering it with something like their movies not getting filmfare awards and see it as an unnecessary hunger to seek appreciation from the west. Shekhar Kapur on his blog says that RAHMAN is bigger than the OSCARS and I fully endorse his views that the Oscars were more honoured in presenting the award to the great man rather than the other way around. But still I feel THE OSCARS retain a certain charm and aura and it does give a sense of pride and happiness that we got those OSCARS. I am not ashamed to say ki meri chhati garv se chaudi ho gayi us din.
    Since childhood while going through GK BOOKS i read how BHANU ATHAIYA was the lone co-winner of OSCAR for GANDHI and SATYAJIT RAY got lifetime achievement Oscar. So guess i feel VINDICATED for us. The last Olympic Gold ,the last Oscar and the last Cricket World Cup all happened before I was five. And it took about 25 years to see it accomplished again in this YOUNG INDIA by REHMAN and RESUL , ABHINAV BINDRA and MS DHONI and HIS BOYS . It has been a long wait and while to some it may look like an odd deal in that for a billion people one olympic gold and a world cup in a game played by handful of nations or again an award which we should be indifferent to creates such a massive hooplah among others i can quite recognize and appreciate the enormity of these efforts and proudly proclaim to belong to the latter category. MAY INDIA GROW BY LEAPS AND BOUNDS.JAI HO BHARAT.

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