At a time when A.R.Rahman’s father R.K Shekar what working round-the-clock, he never cared about food or sleep. He used to spend all his time at the recording studio, having just tea and biscuits. Sometimes, he used to suffer from severe stomach ache, late in the nights. Unable to bear the pain, he would just lie down with a pillow pressed tight on his stomach. He would relax and sleep after the killing pain subsided. Barely an hour after he slept it would have already dawned. With the thought that, musicians would be waiting at the studio from 7 am itself, he would wake up and rush for the recording. He didn’t have time to even consult a doctor regarding his stomach ache. He would neither tell anyone about this!
The other sad story is that, though an amazing composer, Shekar had very few opportunities to compose alone for films, and he just worked for other composers. He gave 10 beautiful songs for the film “Pazhasiraja”. The song “Siragatru veeNoru kochhu thumbi” sung by AM Raja and S.Janaki, and the lullaby “Muththey va va va” sung by P.Susheela are a pleasure to listen to, even now! The song “Sahibe sahibe a-salam aleikum” became a trendsetter. After a long break, came the movie “Aayesha”. The song “yathrakaara povuga povuga” sung by P. B. Sreenivas for that film is one of PBS’s best songs. But, how long can someone financially sustain without getting proper composing opportunities?
Days passed, and the cruel hands of the disease clutched RK Shekar tightly. He became bedridden. The images of the young kid, Dileep, visiting his dad every day at the hospital became permanently etched in Dileep’s memory.
Dad is lying on the hospital bed, surrounded by his assistants. They note down on the music notes dictated by Shekar. A few directors come in and tell him “We feel bad to tell this now… But, our film scores will get completed only if you come. Not worrying about the agony caused by the disease, he listens to the tunes and writes notes for music arrangements. Popular lyricist, Sri Kumaran comes and holds Shekar’s hands in gratitude, and says “Get well soon, and come back. Let’s make music together”! Theirs was a successful combo, and had given some superb songs. Shekhar returns a dry smile in return, for he was well aware of the seriousness of his disease. The kid, Dileep, watches all this with a mix of amazement and confusion.
Dileep couldn’t understand what happened to his dad all of a sudden, for he would always be busy like a bee. All he knew was that his dad was a good musician. The collection of musical instruments and music-records formed Dileep’s world. Dileep believed that his dad would get well soon, and would be back to his music work very soon. But, that was not to be. Shekar’s health condition kept deteriorating each day.
Shekar got married only when he was 31, at Thiruppathi. He got married to Kanchana, and had 4 kids, back-to-back – Kanchana, Dileep, Bala and Rekha. Shekar had been making so many innovations in Malayalam film music industry. It was he, who introduced SP Balasubramanyam and Bala Murali Krishna to that industry. No one could even imagine penetrating into Malayalm music industry dominated by legendary singer KJ Jesudas. The song “neeyendre velicham” composed by Shekar and sung by P Susheela for the 1972 movie “Miss Mary” is still one of the most famous devotional songs in Kerala among all the devotees of Mother Mary.
The curiosity and eagerness of Rahman towards new technology, was evident in Shekar in those days. He often went to Singapore and hunted for new musical instruments and latest innovations in recording techniques. When we were all bored listening to the same voices, it was Rahman who broke the trend and introduced many new voices, and took the listening experience to a new level. RK Shekar was a forerunner for Rahman in that front too.
In those days, singing for movies was no ordinary feat. Recording studios were like iron-fortresses. It was not possible for anyone to get in so easily. Shekar opened the doors of the fortress for new singers. He introduced many new singers like Bramhanandan, Sadhanandan, Sudha Varma, Gopalakrishnan, Soman, Ponguntham Ravi, Jayalakshmi, Kasthoori Shankar, Manoharan, Ambly, Jayashreee. That legacy of encouraging new talent continues through A.R.Rahman.
RK Shekar composed 110 songs in Malayalam. Singers like Jesudas, Jayachandran, P Susheela, Vani Jaaram have sung several wonderful songs in his music. Even today, Shekar’s songs are mesmerizing the people of Kerala.
The last movie which had Shekar’s music was “Chottanikkara Amma”, which was released in 1976. The song “Manasu manasinRae kaadhil” from that album, plays as listener’s choice song even to this day. Shekar passed away on the same day that the movie hit the screens. He was 42. Dileep was just 9 years old then.
The rumour that someone had done black-magic against him, came up in the music industry and gradually died down. Certain people who were close to Shekar say, it was ulcer which killed him, as it was not treated on time.
Today, some of the most popular directors and producers of the country wait at Rahman’s house for his time. The producers are ready to pay any sum that is demanded! That’s the situation today. But, the fact that his genius dad didn’t get the right opportunities and couldn’t shine, still haunts him. Even now, he is affected by those memories.
“The first ever music I was introduced to, was my dad’s music. I used to go to the recording theatre, holding my dad’s hand. I would notice top film personalities treating my dad with so much respect, and would feel proud of him. Later, I became a composer, and only then, I understood how sacred his job was.
He would work on many films simultaneously. He would be a composer for one film, while he would work as a conductor and arranger for another one. I believe that he died due to his non-stop hard-work and exhaustion. When people who have been benefited by him come and thank me, I cant hold back my tears. His whole life is like an example for me to follow” says Rahman.
The shocking death of his dad, and the unexpected incidents that followed in his life were what transformed Dileep to Allah Rakha Rahman.
Article Credits to Vikatan Magazine. Original article was published in Tamil and was exclusively translated to english by Aravind AM.