THE ROW OVER A R RAHMAN - RABI ṬHAKUR
The Row over A R Rahman - Rabi Ṭhakur to the rescue !
"Where the world has not been broken up into fragments By narrow domestic walls ... into that heaven of Freedom let my country awake ...." Robi Thakur - one of the greatest and most creative minds of India wrote in the Pre-independence era (published in 1910). Fast forward to 2017, over a century later, when consumer trips are being planned into outer space, when probes are being sent out to look for signs of life on other galaxies - we have the media of an entire nation and social media across the world ablaze with debates about Hindi/ Bollywood bullying, homogenization of Hindi / India, parochialism and whatnot, and all over what ?
"A few disgruntled consumers who supposedly walked out of an A R Rahman concert since the music offering was not to their liking !"
Big Deal ! Or is it ??!! Before humming, hawing and hating on anyone, let us first look at the points of view of all parties involved in this furor: 1) The Walk Out Gang and Their party : They paid good money to buy tickets to attend a concert that their favorite "AR Rahman" would be performing. They did not bargain for almost 50 % of his songs to be in Tamil, a language they did not understand. 2) The Rahman Supporters (largely South Indian / specifically Tamilians) The concert was titled in Tamizh (the correct way to pronounce this, btw) - "Netru, Indru, Naalai .." - which literally translates to "Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow". When the title itself was in Tamizh, then how could people be offended that he had Tamizh music featured in the performance. Tamizh speakers stake a claim to the heritage of AR Rahman since he is after all, the "Mozart of Madras" and Tamizh is his Mother tongue. Why then, and how dare the non Tamizh speakers insult him by walking out of the Wembley concert ? 3) The General opinion : The most abused cliched "music has no language" - and we had so many people from the South Indian music fraternity chiming in, Chinmayi Sripada eloquently stated her point about how AR spoke in Tamizh on the world stage at the Academy Awards, Singer Srinivas said AR 's music spans languages and a large body of his work is in Tamizh, Arnab Gowswami defended AR expressing outrage at the sheer parochial mindset of the people who walked out, and how this was an insult to a legend. Debates ensue even as I write this up with no logical conclusion - arguments are rife over how many songs were Hindi or Tamizh in his set list etc.; all parties are disgruntled, each one, riding their high horse rather than taking the high road. What do I mean ? Let me explain. Today, it is the walkout from the Wembley concert that has caused this furor, but, this type of intolerance of Non- Hindi songs by a Bollywood singer or musician has been happening for decades. Perhaps, it is the AR name, that has drawn so much attention, but if you look deeper and objectively analyze the concerts of musicians who perform overseas, several South Indian musicians who are brilliant singers, like Shankar Mahadevan, Benny Dayal, Vijay Prakash, KK, Chinmayi Sripaada, themselves have faced this issue, even with their incredibly robust Hindi / Bollywood Discography. They are such talented and versatile artistes who have such a vast repertoire of songs, not just in Hindi, but, in Tamizh, Telugu, Malayalam, Kannada etc., yet when the time comes to the concert itself, a large population of the diaspora concert-going audience, will walk out of the auditorium when the artiste switches to a different language. Many concert-goers, who are Hindi speaking, will not even buy the tickets without an assurance from the promoters that it will not be an "Aandu Gundu" concert ?!!! (Sic)
Yes ! There, I said it ! Every South Indian language is ruthlessly lumped together as a "madrasi" bhaasha and in more colloquial terms, "Aandu Gundu". To many hailing from the northern parts of India, everything south of Madhya Pradesh is "Madrasi". This has been happening for ages, so much so, that some new age singers are hesitant to perform their signature HiT songs in regional languages in a Hindi concert for fear of retribution or hate rants. How is this fair to any artiste, let alone AR Rahman ? The problem, then, does not merely arise out of a "disdain" for just Tamizh or for that matter, a "disappointment" at attempting to overpower with Hindi or the undermining of the same, but out of a sheer "lack of respect and tolerance" for anything "different"! The irony is that no two people are exactly the same; every single one of us is different. Yet, we kid ourselves into believing that we can change the world and those around us to be exactly like us. Instead of being aware, cognizant of our uniqueness, and attempting to learn from the rich diversity that surrounds us, we crib, cry, crow, curse over how everything that is different from us is largely distasteful ! All it takes is one moment to pause, listen, and empathize; make a genuine attempt to appreciate the difference whilst looking for common ground to make meaningful relationships - personal, business or otherwise.
Now, think about this for just one second -
Does laughter have a language ? Does love have a language ? Does the rhythm of your breathing have a language ? Does the sound of the waves have a language ? Does the cooing of the cuckoo bird have a language ? Does the rustle of the leaves have a language ? Does the whistling of the wind have a language ? Perhaps, it does, but we don't know it -- yet we are soothed by it, yet we enjoy it. That is "Music". The late Mahima , a genius in her own right, used to tell us about the beauty in the ingenuity of AR Rahman. She would say it is all these sounds of nature, the surroundings that AR found music in - his brilliance in composition comes from his observation and experimentation of the differing sounds from everything that surrounds us and the mellifluous incorporation of these sounds into his compositions. She also schooled us in the ideology of art being above any language. When people would question her on the radio about her expertise in 9 different languages and what her mother tongue was, she would always deflect with the answer that she spoke the language of "love"! I know, I know, the skeptic in many of us would consider that answer to be such a corny response. Oh, but wait, is that not just what the world needs ? "LOVE" ? When there is love in the heart, there is no room for hate or consternation. When there is love in the heart, there is a harmony, a song on the lips and a dance in our step.... then, corny as it may be - it is Love that we need, that the world desperately needs, that the "walk out" gang at Wembley needs, the folks lashing back at the non- Tamizh audience need. What we do not need is divisive rhetoric, hateful commentary, incendiary media coverage and most of all, a north v/s south, anti-patriotic sentiment. You see, that's what us, the true music aficionados have - a genuine "love" for the music, whether it is a "Tamizha Tamizha" / "Bharat Humko Jaan Se Pyaara Hai.." or the "Jai Ho" of "AR Rahman" or a "Suno Gaur Se Duniyawaalon" of Shankar Ehsaan Loy or "Kehte hain humko pyaar se India wale" of Vishal - Shekhar or "Chak De India" of Salim-Sulaiman or "Tu Bhoola Jise ... " of Amaal Malik or "Jahaan Daal Daal Par Sone Ki ...." of Hansraj Behl or "Hai Preet jahan ki reet Sada.. " of Kalyanji Anandji and so many many many more musicians who have given us so much to be proud about our country in their own form of creative expression ! So, everyone who is arguing, debating, snickering, smirking, quietly watching from the sidelines, wanting to be politically correct in this regard, I urge you to, pause, if only for five minutes and listen to the beautiful lines penned by the later Indeevar in the song from Purab Pashchim
"Kuch aur na aata ho humko ... humein Pyaar nibhaana aata hai .... hai Preet Jahan Ki Reet Sadaa Mein Geet wahan ke Gaata Hoon .... Bharat Ka Rehnewala hoon .. Bharat Ki Baat Sunaata hoon"
"Whether we know anything or not, we know how to express our love, and where Love is the way of life, I will sing you a song from there, the land of love, the land I live in, I will tell you about my motherland, Bharat (India)".
Let Love Reign - let our creative geniuses from all parts of the world, drench us in the love and joy of creativity and music. let us open our minds and hearts to all the love and joy that surrounds us instead of building narrow domestic walls ..... into that Heaven of Freedom, let all of us awake ! Let Rabindranath Tagore's words manifest in our love for humanity, our celebration of differences (why become a melting pot when you can enjoy all the textures of a mixed salad), and let us celebrate the Mahima of Bandhutva (Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam - the world as one family).
Let the Rahmania be restored !
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