It is because of his dad, that Dileep got interested in music and music technology right from his childhood. Dileep who grew up listening to music, was scared coming face to face with the sudden bad-health of his dad, and the suffering which he had to go through for 3 years. When similar troubles kept affecting the family repeatedly, an unknown fear engulfed all the kids in the family.

Rahman’s mom looks back at those unforgettable days – “Kids were going to school, when he was bedridden. I felt that my whole world had become dark. I had to manage my time between looking after the kids and looking after my husband. I would keep shuttling between our home and hospital. He suffered so many days at the hospital, and finally passed away. We were shattered. Rahman, who was always with a harmonium, was affected so much. He couldn’t even concentrate on his studies because of this. I was forced to send the small kid on jobs, to the studios. But, I wholeheartedly believed that, it will dawn for us one day!”

When the disease became more severe and R.K Shekar was admitted at CMC Hospital, Vellore, Dileep and his sisters visited him often. Even when the disease troubled him, Shekar would hide all that and smile when he was with his kids. “Study well. Don’t bunk school, Obey your mom”, he would advise them. When talking to Dileep, there would be an extra affection, and he would embrace him. There was a reason for that!

Rahman’s elder sister, composer Raihanah says “When my parents got married, someone told my dad that he’d have a son, and he would become very famous. My dad was also waiting for that to happen. But, I was born first. Though he was very affectionate towards me, that longing (for a son, who would become famous) was always there in his mind. Next, when Dileep was born, he couldn’t control his joy!”

Wonders do happen in life, and they happen through God – This is the belief that is there in everyone in Rahman’s family. It is said that, in different stages of Rahman’s life, there has been some one or the other, who has come up, foretold the future and blessed them. An Islamic guru is said to have blessed them, and advised them to build a set up studio at the place where Shekhar breathed his last. That was where Panchathan Studio was built. That was where “Roja” blossomed.

“When born, Rahman was a blue-baby. Survival of the baby was a big question mark. Our dad was tensed. Somehow, the baby survived. There was a huge relief on dad’s face. As the baby started growing up, dad noticed the huge musical talent in him, and was excited. He would always show a special interest towards my brother. He introduced Rahman to the music world, by taking him along to all recording studios. But, without any partiality, he put us in Guitar and Piano classes with Pilot Edwin and Dhanraj Master. He would enjoy listening to our singing and playing musical instruments. During those days, our entire family used to be such a happy one, filled with music and dance. All of us were so fond of our dad. Everything was given to us by him.

What a wonderful life! But, we were shocked when he died”, continues Raihanah.

What happened after that?

RK Shekar’s contemporary, Arjunan Master, who is also a Malayalam film composer, now resides in Kottayam in Kerala. Even at his current age of 73, he still is busy with film music work. Though his voice stutters a bit, he has retained all those memories in his heart.

“Honestly, I would say Rahman’s mom is a visionary. Dileep was a kid, when Shekar passed away. She would approach music-directors like me and say ‘He’s very talented. Please give him opportunities’. ‘He’s our Shekar’s son, you don’t have to convince us. Ask Dileep to come here’, we would say. He used to play keyboard, very well. He would fix faulty musical instruments, very easily. I felt, we can make him play keybords, but also thought he was too young. He totally rocked, when we gave him an opportunity. Only then, we realized that he was a musical prodigy. The fact that his mom could realized it before we could, is great! We paid him only a meager amount as salary, then. He would accept it with a smile, without a word! That composure and maturity have elevated Rahman to this level.

Rahman’s dad’s death was an important turning point in his musical career. He was faced with the question – Which one should he choose – School education or Music? Dileep who was just average in studies, chose music over studies. He did not have an anxiety about his future, due to this decision.

Though he studied in reputed institutions like Padma Sheshadri and MCC, his mind wavered between music and studies. He was not a natural at studies, but it was not so, when it came to music. Music was flowing within in him like a deep river. The floodgates were waiting to be opened. In the absence of his dad, the economic situation of the family was in dire straits. There was desperation to do some thing!

There’s a Japanese Haiku which goes “a single flower had blossomed in a burnt, ruined house”

Similar to this, Dileep started afresh – he dropped his books, and embraced musical instruments. He embarked on a whole new journey.

Musicians who had lots of respect for R.K Shekar, welcomed the little boy, Dileep, with love. They embraced him. A brisk kid entering the studios carrying musical instruments, was an unusual and astonishing sight for everyone. They felt like they were staring at another incarnation of RK Shekar.

Everyone liked Dileep’s calm nature, his permanent smile, and his soft-spokenness. Before long, Dileep became a pet of all composers.

“I feel excited witnessing that kid, win the Oscars now. It feels as if Shekar is watching all this from another world. Now and then, Rahman calls me up and speaks to me, without fail, and it makes me happy! I feel, blessings of the almighty are always there with this good-hearted boy”, says Arjunan Master with pride.

The story of rapid success of Dileep, who entered studios when he was 11, is an exciting and youthful one.

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