When Rahman entered the Tamil and Telugu film industry I do not know how it
affected them, but when he came to Hindi films with Roja his entry was noticed and
much talked about. Detractors started saying, "He’s repetitive" etcetera, but Rahman quietly continued doing his work and they fell silent and his music grew on them.
Here people take a lot of time in accepting anything new. That’s a peculiar quality we seem to have. He used folk and classical and blended it beautifully. He used western sounds and electronics and used them in Hindi music and they didn’t sound foreign at all. He blended them so well into our music..
For the lyricists, he made a very important contribution. He changed the age old format of the film song-- the asthayi and the antara and then a cross line to match the asthayi -- that has been our format since the inception of film music. Rahman let it go and I for one felt greatly elated because I have always used blank verse and I was very comfortable with this form. He liberated the film song from the earlier shackles. I had used this kind of writing earlier in songs like meraa kuchh saamaan tumhaare paas paRaa hai etc but his coming made it acceptable.
In our music today, Rahman’s presence has made a whole lot of difference. What else can we ask for? Not only in India, he has opened up the horizon in the west also. It needs courage to experiment the way he does. His Bombay Dreams was an experiment which succeeded beautifully.
He is totally obsessed with work and, whatever the platform, he enjoys trying new things. That’s how he has reached a level where he hasn’t lifted one but two Oscars. When he lifted one, he lifted two!
I must add that in the Jai Ho song which won the other Oscar, there was a magic voice whose contribution cannot be missed -- that of Sukhwinder Singh. There have been times when the singer and the lyricist have won awards and the composer has not but that doesn’t lessen the role of the composer.
Rahman is this era.
As told to Lata Khubchandani