In this regular column Gopal Srinivasan writes on a particular topic related to A R Rahman. This time he writes about what is in store for the new year 2002 for Rahman fans.

2002, coming after a year which was quite frustrating and disappointing for the average Rahman fan, one can only look at it with fervent hope. By all accounts 2001 was quite a disaster for Rahman, more so in the Tamil industry. Lagaan was the sole redeeming factor. Rahman is supposed to have spent much of his time in 2001 working on Bombay Dreams. One hopes that he can see some pay-off this year. Rahman has a whole bunch of projects on paper, atleast more than 20 at last count. but how many of them will see the light of the day is anybody’s guess. 2002 should see lot of action in Kollywood but not so much in Bollywood but Broadway is what all the eyes and ears are going to be glued in to.

Among the soundtracks expected this year, the biggest one is easily Kannathil Muthamittal. The music is on the verge of release even as this is being written and might be out when you are reading it. Rahman’s seventh partnership with ace director and mentor, Mani Ratnam, a partnership that has delivered outstanding music every single time although one might argue that Alai Payuthey was not quite in the same league as their earlier output. Cribs apart, clearly there is simply no other director-composer combination in Indian cinema today that can be trusted to deliver each time, every time. Naturally, the expectations are tremendous.

The subject is of the kind that is dear to Mani, a human story placed in the context of a contemporary issue. And a theme that has proven to be inspiring enough for Rahman in the past. I will stick my neck out to say that one can safely expect some satisfying music from Rahman in this one. This is what I initially set out to write. Since then Kannathil Muthamittal has released and is very unusual to say the least. Reactions have been mixed thus far. One could easily dismiss it as a lackadaisical effort from Rahman but there must be something about the music that appealed to Mani, whose movies have an unmatched track record when it comes to their music. The impending release of the movie should give a different perspective to the music.

The loooong delayed Udhaya may also finally make the finish line early in the year. Stuck in the cans for want of finance, rumours are that Rahman himself is seeking out producers to fund the movie to completion since he’s gung-ho about his music in the film. One song ‘Thiruvelikeni Rani’ is supposed to be the highlight of the film as also another song ‘Akasha Gange’ that has a few verses in Kannada. Director Perumal who saw some success with Dumm Dumm Dumm last year, in the process also revealing his taste for good music, appears confident about the movie and says that Vijay’s career will be described in pre and post-Udhaya phases. Will Rahman’s too??

Long time confidant Kadhir’s fourth movie with Rahman, ‘Kadhal Virus’ should also be up for release in the first half of the year. His movies are normally made on a huge scale having little substance but he has displayed a tremendous touch in getting market-savvy music for his films. All his previous movies with Rahman, Uzhavan, Kadhal Desam and Kadhalar Dhinam had extremely catchy music with the latter two riding wholly on Rahman’s score. Whether Rahman is inclined enough maintain his stellar track record in Kadhir’s uninspiring movies is the question that begs an answer. One of the songs ‘Miss Madras’ has been picturised glamourously with several models being flown in from Bombay a la “Akada’ in Indian. According to a Tamil magazine the movie is currently in post-production and is being readied for a February 14th release.

Rahman, rather uncharacteristically, coaxed producer Prabhakaran into launching a movie apparently to utilise the score that he had composed for an earlier aborted movie of the producer. And thus happened ‘Ashoka’ which was kicked off with much fanfare with Arjun and hot shot director of Malayalam action movies, Shaji Kailas roped in. And then they discovered that another movie with a similar storyline was nearing completion. Back they went to the drawing board. Will anything emerge out of it?? I don’t have an answer, not yet atleast.

A whole host of movies in Tamil that should take off this year. Atleast a couple of them are expected to be quickies which means there is a reasonable chance that they could make an appearance before the end of the year.

Rahman teamed up once again with the moderately successful Thenali team comprising Kamal Hassan, K.S.Ravikumar and himself with Amitabh Bachchan thrown in for good measure. But unlike last time this one was said to be a science fiction flick. The story was apparently about an ape that is converted into a man. The media given title for this movie was ‘Naran’.

The breaking news is that this movie has been abandoned with no reasons given and Kamal is making a new movie titled ‘Panchatantram’ , a comedy starring himself, Jayaram, Ramesh Aravind and another couple of actors yet to be finalised. While this movie is also to be directed by K.S.Ravikumar its not clear if Rahman is part of this project. His last attempt at a comedy, Thenali, met with lukewarm success. Normally Kamal’s movies are completed in quick time but this being a mutli-starrer it might be a while in the making.

Badly bruised from the fall of his first outing in Bollywood, Nayak, Shankar is looking to redeem himself and fast. Having put the long spoken about ‘Robot’ with Kamal Hassan in the cold storage Shankar was looking at a possible team up with Rajnikanth. That did not materialise and Shankar is now scouting for new faces to grace his ‘Boys’ a youthful film centred around five boys and a girl, the kind of film that both Shankar and Rahman are completely at home with. Should make for a really catchy score.

Another of the films which had a really high profile launch last year was Parthiban’s ‘Yelelo’. Rahman quickly kindled some expectations saying that he was looking at a fusion of Irish folk with Tamil folk music for the film. Carnatic singer Sudha Raghunathan was roped in to render a melodious song on the occasion. Then Parthiban got busy with his acting assignments and now we hear that Yelelo has been put on the backburner and he will instead direct a quickie in time for an April release after which work on Yelelo would resume, reinforcing the usual charge against Rahman-lack of time. I doubt if the film will get made and if it does in the manner that it was originally envisaged. Even as I write that, comes the news that Karunanidhi has written a song for the film, with the Pongal festival as the theme.

There are some directors that Rahman would do well to steer clear of. Like Pravinkanth. If Star wasn’t damaging enough the man returns with a movie titled ‘Thullal’. Pravinkanth took out huge advertisements in newspapers greeting Rahman on his birthday and claiming that he was composing for the film. Well, I am dead set against Rahman lending his name to any more reused scores. If its going to be another of those then its a sure recipe for disaster but if its going to be a fresh score then I dont have any complaints more so when considering the fact their first film together, Ratchagan had a likeable score. But isn’t this one film too many already?

Bollywood saved 2001 for Rahman in the form of Lagaan but Rahman is unlikely to see major activity there this year. Most of the Hindi films he has on hand, perhaps in a conscious move, are fairly offbeat ones which are unlikely to generate much excitement. But Rahman has shown his creativity in such films in the past and musically that should be a good thing.

The only Hindi film of Rahman’s that is actually on the floors is Rajkumar Santoshi’s ‘The Legend of Bhagat Singh’. Rahman recorded a couple of songs for the movie in December. The fact that several movies are being made on the same subject could spur it into a quick completion. Chances of this movie releasing in the course of the year are very bright.

The other movie for which Rahman has already done some work is the maverick painter-director Maqbool Fida Hussain’s ‘Do Kadam Aur Sahi’. This movie with an English version titled “A Tale of three cities and a bridge’ was originally supposed to star Sushmita Sen and Rahul Khanna with Tabu now coming in to replace Sushmita. Considering that his movies are as vague as his paintings Rahman may actually come up with something interesting if not appealing. There is a fair to good chance of the movie reaching completion in the current year.

Rahman who was actually the first choice for journalist-turned-critic-turned-script writer-turned-director Khaled Mohammed’s debut film ‘Fiza’, ended up composing only one song for the film donning the garb of a ‘Guest Composer’ for the first time. Rahman now returns to work full time on the director’s second film ‘Tehzeeb’ starring Shabana Azmi, Arjun Rampal and Karisma Kapoor. Though critics found more holes in Fiza than they would in swiss cheese, there is no denying Khaled Mohd’s keen ear for music amply justified through Anu Malik’s popular score for Fiza. The director is a self-confessed fan of Rahman and that could translate into Rahman putting in his very best for the director. Rahman is reportedly working on composing ghazals for this movie and has recorded a song with Hindustani classical vocalist Shubha Mudgal.

Veteran director Shyam Benegal repeats Rahman in his latest venture tentatively titled ‘Ganga’ starring Madhavan, Aishwarya Rai and Manisha Koirala. The movie is yet to go on the floors and may be a while in the making but if ‘Zubeidaa’ was anything to go by then watch out for some soulful if subdued music.

The first release in Hindi for Rahman this year would probably be Saathiya, the remake of Alai Payuthey, directed by Shaad Ali erstwhile assistant to Mani, and produced by the badshah of candyfloss romances- Yash Chopra and Mani Ratnam. While Rahman’s involvement in the movie is confirmed the nature of it is not. Whether the AP score will be reused it in its entirety or have any new compositions is not clear at this point. What is known is that Adnan Sami has recorded a song for the movie while another song which was to be sung by the Pakistani sufi singer Abida Parveen did not go ahead since she could not make it to Chennai for the recording. The music is slated for release as early as February.

Apart from these Rahman has a few other movies, all mired in uncertainty. According to some trade reports, Rahman has completed recording the six songs for a film called ‘Ada’ produced by Jhamu Sughand and directed by debutant Tanvir Ahmed. The movie stars Amitabh Bachchan and Dilip Kumar and with the tragedy king being indisposed for the last few months, the fate of the film is directly linked to that of the erstwhile superstar. And that could mean anything.

Before ‘Aks’ released, a much impressed Amitabh Bachchan , announced that his next production venture, variously referred to as ‘Bhairav’, ‘Awaaz’ and ‘Samjhauta Express’, would also be directed by Rakesh Mehra with Rahman signed on as music director and the three Bachchans essaying the key roles. Following the failure of the unconventional Aks at the box-office Amitabh has reportedly held back plans to go ahead with the movie. And Rakesh Mehra is lying low. Whether he will wait for the Bachchans to give him the green signal or move on remains to be seen. And whether Rahman was the Bachchans’ choice or Mehra’s will determine whether he will work on his next movie whenever that happens.

During one of his signing sprees Rahman also gave the nod to the directorial debut of one time actor Atul Agnihotri, ‘Dil Ne Jise Apna Kaha’ starring Salman Khan and Aishwarya Rai. The movie is centered around an army official and the makers are apparently waiting for the army’s permission to shoot on their premises. The movie was expected to roll in December but is now expeceted to go on stream in February. Its said to be a remake of ‘Pearl Harbour’

Rahman has also been signed on by Vashu Bhagnani. Vashu has also confirmed that his next movie will be the directorial debut of choreographer Ahmed Khan. With some older reports talking about Rahman agreeing to do Ahmed Khan’s directorial debut there is a possibility of the two converging. The movie is expected to be launched very soon. Informed sources say that Rahman is only reusing the songs of ‘Rhythm’ for this movie. And that means I am swearing off this movie. News just come in: Vashu’s film with Ahmed Khan has been shelved.

A.M.Rathnam, who has produced the most Rahman movies till date(dubbed ones included), has just signed him on to compose for his next movie, Nee Manasu Naaku Telusu, in Telugu, that will mark the debut of his son Jyothi Krishna as director. The movie will star the Telugu teen sensation Tarun(former child artiste of ‘Anjali’ fame). The movie will also mark the return of Rahman to Telugu films after 8 years. The shooting of the movie has commenced and is reasonably likely to release this year considering that mos Telugu films are made in a very short time frame.

Priyadarshan recently spoke of Rahman composing for a docudrama, in Malayalam, on the weavers of Kancheepuram eponymously titled ‘Kancheepuram’. This movie is right now only on paper and your guess on it being translated onto celluloid is as good as mine.

“The Return of the Thief of Baghdad’ was launched with much fanfare starring Chiranjeevi and a whole host of performers from Hollywood three years ago and then the movie was put on hold after the producers’ coffers dried up and somewhere along the line Salman Khan and Aishwarya Rai were pencilled into the movie and now the movie’s fate is shrouded in mystery. With even Rahman making ambiguous statements about his commitment to the movie, for all practical purposes the movie can be considered shelved.

Rahman’s ‘Maa Tujhe Salaam’ became the first film to be screened on IMAX in India last year and he also became part of childhood friend Bharatbala’s ambitious plans to make India’s first IMAX movie. Titled ‘Taj Mahal, the Great Indian Experience’ the movie is an attempt at recreating the legendary romance between Shahjahan and Mumtaz. The movie has got the support of a team of NRI Tech entrepreneurs comprising Kanwal Rekhi, K B Chandrasekhar and Gururaj ‘Desh’ Deshpande among others. Starring Aishwarya Rai as Mumtaz, Bala still seems to be in the quest for Shahjahan. When last heard, the movie was in the scripting stage. Certainly will not make it this year.

The only time Rahman ever rated himself and gave his effort all of 10/10. That was for his work in Deepa Mehta’s ‘Water’. A score to die for? Perhaps. Deepa Mehta has expressed her resolve to make the movie some day. Presently she is occupied with ‘Bollywood Hollywood’ for which she has shifted camp to Sandeep Chowta. Wait. It should be worth it.

There was much speculation about the possibility of Rahman’s duet with Michael Jackson ‘Ekam Satyam’ being included on his album ‘Invincible’ which released in September last. Alas, that was not to be. The track composed and recorded as way back as 1999 is yet to see the light of the day. Some sources hinted that it would find a place on an extended collector’s edition of the album that Michael Jackson was planning. But with Invincible not being sold exceptionally well, more money may not be poured into it.

Here we are, at last! Last, yes, but certainly not the least!! Bombay Dreams, someone remarked, will realise Rahman’s Broadway Dreams. Two years ago, two stalwarts in their respective arenas, Rahman and Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber teamed up for a musical, Bombay Dreams. Over the last two years Rahman has given it his all-time, efforts. Sir Andrew has spared no occasion to speak highly of Rahman, describing his work has the best musical he has heard in the last 20 years. On his part Rahman says he isn’t doing anything different composition wise-only the context is different.

The problem here is that a London West End or New York Broadway style musical is not popular with Indian audiences and Rahman’s brand of the musical may not appeal to the traditional patrons of this art form. Bombay Dreams is scheduled for opening in London in late April. The expectations back home are tremendous, almost undescribable. People are waiting and watching with bated breath. Some of them waiting for him to fall. Some praying for success like never before. Will Rahman’s efforts pay off? Will it be worth everything that he gave up back home? Will the world warm upto Indian talent? Will this open the doors to newer frontiers for Rahman? Can he pull it off? The questions are many. Only time has the answers.

© Gopal Srinivasan

Original Article Revived from Rahmanonline.com which was one of the famous fan websites created by Satish Subramanian in early 2000’s.