Dileep, who started playing keyboards for Ilayaraja at a young age, was amazed that Raja was making wonderful music, without any bad habits. “His sage-like appearance and his calm and composed way of composing, was very different”, says Rahman. Bubbling youth, with cash on hand, and unlimited freedom – despite all this, Rahman did not get into any bad habits. The reasons for this were his mother’s love and the fact that he was inspired by Ilayaraja.

“Rahman became busy right from his childhood. We could never predict when he would come home, just like how it was for his dad. But he was very disciplined. He started going abroad when he was just 17-18 years old. But, no bad habits trapped him. Always calm, composed and humble. Very rarely have we seen him angry. My son, who was soft by nature, was further refined by Islam. Though my son started earning well by playing for recordings, I kept praying for him! ‘He is destined for much bigger things. God mus show him the path for that very soon’, used to be my constant prayer”, says Rahman’s mom.

Very soon, their dream realized.

Though Rahman was playing for popular composers, he was longing for something more – a strong craving to do something much more than all this. But, what more? That he couldn’t fathom.

In the meantime, he played for iconic musicians like Vikku Vinayakram, TV Gopalakrishnan, Kadri Gopalnath, and bands like Shakthi and accompanied them in world tours. Money also started pouring in and the financial situation of the family improved.

He often went on world tours along with Zakir Hussain and Kunnakkudi Vaidyanathan too. He played keyboards for the album “Colours” along with Zakir Hussain, Kunnakkudi Vaidyanathan and Sivamani.

Tabla Maestro Zakir Hussain goes back to those days – “I remember seeing Rahman as a 19 year old boy. Even in those days, he would amaze us with Jazz, rock and carnatic. He would not leave the studio even after his recording got over. He would sit there listening to other musicians. His eyes, ears and heart would be on just music. He understood people’s taste in those days itself. That’s what has earned him such a huge success. When I look at his growth from Dileep to Rahman, I get reminded of R.D.Burman. Both are geniuses with extra-ordinary music sense, who understood the taste of public.”

Though he worked with renowned musicians like Zakhir Hussain, there was still some unsatisfied hunger in Dileep. The question “what can be done new” kept haunting him. Played for bands, did music arrangements for famous composers, foreign tours too kept happening with world-famous musicians, cash flowed in. Was this enough? No… He needed to go further. That’s when he met a very talented keyboard player – Viju Manuel. Viju worked as the main keyboard player with Ilayaraja. Viju’s friendship opened a new door for Dileep. That was the advertising industry. Till then, Dileep never realized that was such a creative field.

Viju asked Dileep to play for the jingles he was composing, then. Dileep didn’t know much about the advertising industry. He looked at it as just another way to earn money.

“Strange thoughts used to occur to me in those days. I would get a fear that how would I sustain my family if film music industry ceased to exist all of a sudden. So, I learnt driving in the hope that I could survive by becoming a car-driver”, says Rahman laughing!

Only when working with Viju Manuel on jingles did Dileep realize what an interesting job it was. New windows opened, and through those came music in a different form.

Composing for ad jingles was a very challenging job, for it was just one minute that composer and the director got to prove their talent. The ad and the catchy tune must reach the hearts of the public.

Dileep liked this new challenge. He worked for Viju Manuel for many jingles. He started understanding the nuances of this industry. Slowly Dileep’s fame started spreading in the ad music world. The Malayalam ad music industry was dominated by composer and director, Isaac Thomas. He had completed his Direction course at Pune Institute and had worked with director Aravindan. Later, he turned composer.

Isaac Thomas who had composed for 4 movied of Adoor Gopalakrishnan, had composing for a tamil film too, named Varnam. He heard about Dileep from Viju and invited him to compose for an ad film he was directing. Dileep grabbed the offer immediately, as it was his first individual composing opportunity. That was just a 30-second jingle, but it became a huge hit.

Yet another turning point was his composition for Harvest Oil advertisement. That ad film directed by Rajeev Menon required the sound of breaking of a ceramic plate. That sound needed to be very clear and precise – as though it was breaking just in front of us. So many people tried, but Rajeev Menon wasn’t satisfied with the sound. He then heard of Dileep, and invited him. And Dileep totally rocked. He produced a sound, which was so precise and so different. That ad became so famous. Dileep followed it up with another hit ad jingle – Alwyn Trendy watches.

Several more opportunities came beckoning. Almost for 5 years, Dileep focused all his energy towards music for ad jingles. One of the most notable ones out of all those was his work for Trish Productions. Sharada Trilok of Trish Productions speaks about this – “We made a film about the ill-effects of drugs, and we were looking for a young musician for that film. We heard about Dileep and signed him for the project. He made wonderful music for the film. The film won many awards. Then came the ad for Leo Coffee, which is on air even today. That ad brought Dileep and us, the award for best music in an advertisement. I used to be amazed at the talent of the young boy. He would always come with several music instruments. In his soft voice, he would talk only about latest music technology. I always felt there was so much musical talent in this guy, which is why I spoke about him to Mani Ratnam. I never imagined it would take Rahman this far! Rahman is just amazing!”

When Dileep was at a crucial juncture in his music career, a strange disease affected one of his sisters. She suffered from severe stomach-ache. This reminded the entire family of the pain and suffering during Shekar’s last days.

Though they consulted several doctors, everyone gave up. The condition was getting severe day by day. Everyone in the family were troubled by the same questions – Is there any cure for this? Can this be cured? Is this going to affect the entire family one by one? Will she survive? Which God will come to save her?

That was the period when there was a ocean of change in Dileeps thoughts about religion.

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