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Rahman ho!

Just when you thought you were unable to digest the media coverage on Slumdog Millionaire, here’s more, keeping in mind that the Oscars are just around the corner.

music Updated: Feb 17, 2009 12:29 IST
Parag Kamani

Just when you thought you were unable to digest the media coverage on Slumdog Millionaire, here’s more, keeping in mind that the Oscars are just around the corner.

Both the country and the rest of the world are eagerly anticipating how well the movie will perform. More importantly, how triple nominee, music director A R Rahman, will fare at the annual Academy Awards.

With due respect to Rahman’s talent, Slumdog –– the word being an amalgamation of slum dweller and underdog –– is certainly one of his weaker soundtracks and, none of the songs from it, really, go beyond the passable.

Oscar does it
Nevertheless, my personal opinion should not devalue the magnitude of Rahman’s international recognition. More so as only two Indians have won Oscars so far: Satyajit Ray was honoured with a life time achievement award in 1992 and, in 1982, Bhanu Athaiya won an award for best costume design for Gandhi.

From keyboard player to music composer, from composing jingles and scores for television programmes to composing soundtracks, from Dileep Kumar to Allah Rakha Rahman, his transition has encompassed virtually every music genre, ranging from pop to rock, and from Western classical –– for the trivia-minded, Rahman has a degree in this genre from the Trinity College Of Music, London –– to world music. TIME magazine pronounced him as the “Mozart of Madras”.

Supporting artiste
In all this fanfare, let me not overlook the fact that O saya –– one of the songs nominated –– features the presence of London-born, Sri Lankan-based eclectic sensation M I A (original name: Mathangi Maya Arulpragasam), who co-wrote the song with Rahman, and contributes vocals.

Access to this recent Grammy Awards performing artiste’s solo songs –– an amalgamation of music genres hip-hop, electro, dancehall, ragamuffin, grime, and baile funk –– can be easily streamed on the net.

While Rahman has had a fair share of international exposure in the past through his composing for stage play Bombay Dreams in 2001 in conjunction with British composer Andrew Lloyd Webber and, subsequently, for the stage adaptation of Lord Of The Rings, the worrisome issue for him is manifold.

In the category for ‘Best Original Score’, he competes with four Hollywood soundtrack stalwarts with a staggering 22 nominations between them.

Winner takes all
In the ‘Best Song’ category, Rahman captures two of the three nominations with Jai ho and O saya (Thomas Newman and Peter Gabriel complete the trio of nominations with Down To Earth from Wall-E), but my perception is that O saya appears to have the leading edge of the two as it features M I A.

But in all this enthusiasm and fervour, nothing changes the fact that the Academy Award members may split their votes between the two Rahman nominations, leading to an open door for Newman/Gabriel. Indeed, like all Indians, I hope that I am proved wrong.