We are more influenced by our parents than we want to be. My mother believed Bose (the man, not the speakers) was the only one worth listening to; my father, on the other hand, believed the speakers weren’t good for anything other than pop—Bang & Olufsen or Sonodyne were the way to go.
I was 8 when Roja released, and there was always a chance that you would hear Chhoti Si Asha blaring out of every house in your apartment building if you were running up the stairs during the evening music programming on TV.
My mother was deeply upset by the upstart who had dethroned his mentor and guru, Ilaiyaraaja, and decided she didn’t like A.R. Rahman. His sound was “too synthesized”. And because I was 8 and obedient, I too decided I should not like Rahman.
My Rahman turning point came not with Bombay (1995) or Dil Se.. (1998) but eight years later, when I saw Rajiv Menon’s Kandukondain Kandukondain, a very colourful and very musical adaptation of Sense And Sensibility starring Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and Tabu. The soundtrack featured eight songs, including a poem by Bharathiyar. Somebody enterprising had set up a stall selling audio cassettes outside the movie theatre in Mumbai, and I bought one. I found all the songs singularly beautiful but Kannamoochi Yenada (Why this hide and seek, Krishna?), a song based on a Carnatic raga and sung by Chitra, became my Rahman song. All the Tamil I speak now consists of sappy lyrics from this soundtrack: “The roses must bloom as soon as I plant them”; “If you dream a hundred dreams, won’t six come true?” Maybe it’s because love, music and Ayn Rand get to you deeply when you’re 16, but nothing can dethrone this original for me.
A.R. Rahman is destined for more greatness. But even if he decides never to create a tune again, and even though I no longer own the cassette, I’ll always have Kandukondain Kandukondain.
Whether you lean towards the adventurous tracks or the raga-based classics, everybody has a favourite Rahman song. For this issue, marking 25 years of Rahman in the movies, we asked our columnists and staff writers to pick theirs. What’s yours?