Rajni is a Super Star, who is always careful to maintain that image. Rahman, on the other hand, belongs to the next generation and is very innovative and keeps doing new things. Some critics doubted how he could compose for a Rajni movie! Before Muthu audio was released, many even mocked at, saying it is a ‘weird combination’!

So, the soundtrack of ‘Muthu’ had great expectations riding on it. After a long hiatus, it was ‘Muthu’ which made music fans queue up in front of music stores to purchase an album. Immediately after the release, fans weren’t satisfied with the music. “What’s this? Udit Narayan singing for Rajni? We can’t digest it”, commented a few! All this lasted only for a few days, as the songs ‘Thillana Thillana’, ‘Oruvan Oruvan’, ‘Kuluvaliley’, ‘Kokku Saiva Kokku’ and ‘Vidukathaiyaa’ became super hits. Specifically, ‘Thillaana’ reached No.1 spot in every chart!

This was the movie, which created a fan base in Japan, for super star. The music and songs of the movie impressed the Japanese fans, and Rahman’s popularity reached Japan too. Muthu songs were played regularly in radios there. Japanese youth danced to Kuluvaliley in discos!

It was Rahman who brought in the trend of ‘Catch-lines’ in film songs. He would insist on the first lines being short, catchy and different. Starting from ‘Rukkumani Rukkumani’, Rahman has followed it all along – ‘Urvashi Urvashi…’, “Mukkaala Muqabla’, ‘Maya Machindra’, ‘Mustafa Mustaa’, ‘Shakalaka Baby’, ‘Chaiyya Chaiyya’ to the recent ‘Masakkali’, ‘Maula mere maula’ and ‘Taxi Taxi’. The catchline fever has spread to the entire Indian music industry!

Owing to the success of the music of movies like ‘Bombay’, ‘Rangeela’, ‘Muthu’ and ‘Dli se’, Rahman became an international composer. His music kept getting better day-by-day. One important factor for this was that the creative situations set by English and Hindi directors with whom Rahman worked with. Another factor was the world tours.

Noted director Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra compares him with Chinese travelers who lived 2000 years ago – “The Chinese travelers traveled around the world in search of unique experiences and cultures, and learnt a lot of new things. Rahman too, is like them! He carries his music to the world like a journey. He seamlessly blends in his music, the various world music styles which he has come across in his journeys.”

Rahman’s music created a lot of ‘new-wave’ singers and composers. Ad film Composer Shantanu Moitra, who was busy with his jingles entered film music only because of Rahman. He listened to Dil Se, which inpired him to take up film music! “I thought there’s no room for music of such quality as world music and no room for melody in Indian film music. But Rahman brought in both in to film music. I’m a film composer only because of the confidence I got from listening to Rahman’s music!”, says Hantanu Moitra.

Composer Vishal too tells a similar story – “I grew up listening to RD Burman’s music. At one stage, I felt that Hindi film music was just noise, and was reluctant to listen to them. It all changed after Rahman’s entry in to the scene. I got a strong desire to become a music composer only as I listened to more and more of Rahman’s music”, says he.

According to him, Dil Se is the Encyclopedia of modern Hindi film music!

Rahman had a wonderful experience working with directors like Mani Ratnam, Ram Gopal Verma, Shekar Kapoor, Deepa Mehta, Rakeysh Mehra, Subhash Ghai and Ashutosh Gowariker. He collaborated with noted artistes like Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Adnan Sami, Amjad Ali Khan, Bupen Hazarika, Pandit Vishwa Mohan Bhatt. Similarly hiw works with lyricists like Javed Akhtar, Gulzar and Prasoon Joshi yielded unforgettable songs. Gulzar once said – “We lyricists were like trapped in a cocoon. Rahman gave us freedom. Rahman broke the traditional antara-mukhda structure of the songs, and thus gave us unlimited creative freedom. All lyricists owe it to Rahman for this change.”

Though Rahman has given so many super-hit albums in Hindi, Dil Se was his first international Super-hit, with the album rocking the charts in the US, England and many European countries. The song titled ‘Chaiyya Chaiyya’ introduced a chocolate-boy named Sukhwinder. The song was played repeatedly in many FM radio stations in the UK, and it spread throughout Europe. Noted Romanian film critic, Mihail Cirilov, who is also the creative director of Transilvania International Film festival, says “When I first listened to Chaiyya Chaiyya, I felt very fresh! It was what one would call ‘Ear Candy’. I didn’t like it instantly. But on repeated listening, it created a fresh state of mind. It was a very modern music. It was a song which blended Indian music with modern world music”.

Later, this same person listened to Lagaan songs and became a huge fan of Rahman. He talks passionately about Rahman – “I know a lot about bollywood music. But, one man took it to a new level single handedly, and that was Rahman”.

Rahman’s style of developing a song layer by layer using computers baffled the Bollywood composers. Some purists in music industry criticized this style. Rahman responded – “We are in 21st Century. Some do not want to leave their 19th century practices. I don’t understand what’s wrong in infusing latest technology into music.

The computer which I got about 6 months back, takes 3 minutes to make. The computer which I’ve got recently can be made in just 3 seconds. World is moving so fast, shouldn’t we too run at the same pace? I can carry my music on a small hard disk as I travel through out the world. I get a chance to blend world music during those tours. Technology is like a huge beast. We should understand how to tame it and bring it under our control. It took me two years to ‘tame’ the music software and bring it under my control!”

True! Rahman doesn’t carry his studio alaong when he travels. He just carries a small hard disk which has various software and his music. Be it London, New York or Paris – wherever he goes, the hard disk travels along. He can plug it onto a computer and start composing, and can send the music as audio files to his Kodambakkam studio through email.

IT magazine Express Computing says Rahman is the most knowledgeable Indian composer when it comes to latest in music and technology. Rahman was the first to bid farewell to tapes used for recording. He’s also the first composer to compose a song on his flight journey. He’s the one who turned a recording studio to a technology park!

Apple Macs are his favourite. World over Apple computers are the most preferred systems for many musicians. In Rahman’s studio, there are 12 Power Macs in his studio, 2 Power Book Laptops, and iBooks. (Rahman upgrades his computers and music instruments frequently. So, these could be different now!). A musical recording can be edited lakhs of times in these systems. Rahman often says “This is not just a machine. It has an attitude of its own!”

Rahman, who currently uses Apple 3G processors, is soon going to upgrade to the next generation. The systems in Rahman’s studio are not networked. Each system is a kingdom on its own. The music processing that is done on each system is then combined mixed in one system. Rahman himself has designed this system, like an expert computer engineer.

Ok.. all this is technology. But, apart from this, Rahman believes there’s one more factor, which is the secret of his success… What could that be?

Article Credits to Vikatan Magazine. Original article was published in Tamil and was exclusively translated to english by Aravind AM.