The King (A.R.Rahman) and I
It is too late to be writing about meeting Alla Rakha Rahman. In fact, two and a half years too late. But as I listen to 'Swades' now, the past comes rushing back ...
The first time I met the man, he just sprung up on me. Literally. It was one of those cocktails-dinner press con in London for the music launch of Raj Kumar Santhoshi's Legend of Bhagat Singh. Sometime during the spring of 2002. Thanks to my mate Rithika, who was then happily employed as the London Correspondent of the Asian Age, and who I was shacking with temporarily in London. But, of course, she din't have to ask me twice.
We were waiting hours, was it four, for the men to turn up. Especially A.R.Rahman. The Western media couldn't care less, though. That left just us, a clutch of Indian journalists, mostly women sitting together, getting moderately angry at the delay, but holding on, just in case...
Well, just in case happened. When we least expected it, this very familiar guy walks right upto us and says, "Hey, am I late?" And we are like, "Hey, you are A.R.Rahman!!" That is the dramatic opening. He went on to chat a bit, say hello all around. I think he was excited when I said I was from The Hindu, Chennai - so excited, he even parted with his international mobile number. And we parted with the promise of meeting again, to talk about his Broadway venture - Bombay Dreams.
We did. The next time I saw him, A.R.Rahman walked casually late up the steps of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Really Useful Group office in London, his precious laptop bag hanging from one shoulder and his Nokia 9210i Communicator in one hand. He had taken the tube from Holburn and again said, "Hi, am I late?!" I'm not going to labour on about what we spoke, for this post is not about that. However, if you are interested you can check out the following link.
And then we settled down, in a rather fancy glass-house setting in Weber's office. We joked about 'sparkling' water (soda) and he offered to make a cup of tea for me. We spoke about how relaxed he seemed, his new movies, progress on 'Baba' (at that point of time, he was sending scores from England via the net) and of course, Bombay Dreams. When I was leaving, he wanted to know if I could come for the opening night of Bombay Dreams. You are all assuming I said yes. But I said No. The President of Wolfson College, Cambridge was throwing a party and we were invited. I had accepted and it would be rather offensive not to turn up. These things are just not done in Cambridge. Sigh!
I later on went to see a performance with my Indian friend Swati and Kiwi buddy Tony. All three of us loved it. And later, as we walked to the tube station, we saw this rather oldish English mem with an umbrella in front of us. Suddenly, she broke into an impromptu little jig, singing "Shakala baby..." As we walked past, bemused, she told us, "I just love it!"
Oh, by the way, I even have a production music CD of Bombay Dreams. I'm hoping to become rich and famous with that one day! I'm banking on the fact that Sotheby's will one day want to bring the hammer down on my personal production CD of BD!
After all, I can dream too, can't I? :)