Rahman back with Oscars to rousing reception in Chennai

Music maestro AR Rahman, the first Indian to win two Oscars, returned to his home city to a rousing welcome by his fans and friends in the wee hours of Friday. A report by MR Venkatesh.
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Updated on Feb 26, 2009 02:58 PM IST
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Hindustan Times | ByMR Venkatesh, Chennai

The beats of a group of traditional drummers from Kerala just outside the arrival lounge of the ‘Anna International Airport’ here reached a crescendo in the early hours today as the music composer AR Rahman arrived to a tumultuous welcome with his two Oscars, around 2:30 am.

Hundreds of fans surged forward, many took vantage positions on baggage carriers and several even clung to his BMW car, as though to welcome “their God” amid the drum-beats by members of the ace drummer Sivamani’s troupe. The “super star” finally touched down from Los Angeles via Dubai, ending their hours of anxious wait.

“Music is back home with Oscars,” read prominent Rahman banners as his fans sang and danced to chants of Jai Ho. “Our hearts are throbbing with job,” declared another banner. Scores of his youth-fans wearing ‘Ace of Music’ T-shirts, voiced “Ella Pugaz Iraivanukke” (All Glory to God), the electrifying Tamil one-liner that Rahman said at the ‘Oscar’ ceremony.

After being formally greeted with bouquets at the reception area by close members of his family including his elder sister Ms Rehana, the Tamil Nadu Information and Culture Minister, Mr Paruthi Ilamvazhuthi, Sivamani, Tamil actor Parthiban and others, Rahman was swiftly whisked away by black-cat commandos to his car. His Mother, Kareema Begum, sporting a gentle smile, and his wife Saira, also arrived with him.

Nearer his Kodambakkam home, the riotous welcome by his fans almost resulted in a near-stampede at his house-gate. Amidst huge banners of Rahman on the roads and one exceptionally well done which features also his Mother, a huge moral influence and psychological support in his life, the entire street leading to his house was illuminated.

Sivamani and his drummers had put up a stage just outside Rahman’s house and people waking up from their sleep, briskly paced up in hundreds to have a glimpse of the Oscar-hero. A large billboard packed with graffiti on Rahman’s musical achievements culminating in the Award-winning ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ set the backdrop.

Unmindful of the noise at a time when many people normally catch a few snatches of sleep, even women-folk from the neighbourhood thronged Rahman’s house. Barely did he manage to enter his house to a cute welcome banner, “Home, Sweet Home,” the gates were shut and for the next half hour to 45 minutes it was suspenseful to his fans.

The crowds got too restive and at one stage Sivamani had to come out and assure them that Rahman will come out and “accept your greetings”. To keep the crowd in good humour, Sivamani did some scintillating pieces on his drums with his other trouple members, even while declaring, “Rahman has opened the gates of Hollywood for us.”

As press photographers, television crew and reporters jostled for space outside the gate, eventually they managed to get in to Rahman’s house in small groups. In brief, separate interactions with the media persons, Rahman who by then had got into his casual-wear, was brimming with energy and humorously said, “please switch of your cell-phones”.

Alternating in Tamil and English, Rahman said, “I am extremely happy about the Oscar Awards,” even as he held the two Oscars in his hands for another photo-op with the National and local media. “I have accepted these Awards on behalf of the artistes’ fraternity.”

“I consider this (Oscars) as the first step; I am sure more youths would go ahead to win it,” said Rahman unassumingly. Noting that three Indians winning this Award this time has boosted “confidence levels” among the youth here, Rahman to a question on the road ahead said, “Our music has found good acceptability in the West.”

With the World having “shrunk” today, there was lot of scope for cultural exchanges and “I believe a lot of good things will happen,” said Rahman. Describing his own personal experience to winning two Oscars as a “remarkable journey,” Rahman when specifically asked by a questioner whether he was considering opening a studio in Hollywood replied that it was premature to say that now, though “I am thinking about it.” “Let us see how things take shape,” Rahman added.

Later, Rahman came out to greet his fans and well-wishers on the street who lustily cheered him. He got on to the stage and to his cries of Jai Ho thrice, the crowd responded with greater emotive fervour. In a brief address in Tamil, Rahman said, “I am very happy that you have all turned up here in such large numbers.”

“It must be getting late now; you all would have to go to your offices and your children to school. I am going to be here after-all,” said Rahman touchingly, in a toast to Chennai before signing off. It was then already past 5 am. As his fans dispersed, one of them said, “what impresses me most about Rahman is that he respects his Mother.”

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