“I was suffering from inferiority complex when I was Dileep. After I became Rahman, I felt as if I was born again!” said Rahman once. But, after the conversion, he had to endure lot more difficulties due to the fame he attained. One of those was the allegation that he financed terrorists. Rahman had to give long explanations to quash the rumours.
Post the conversion, if there was one thing that interested Rahman apart from music, that was Islam philosophies. He totally believed that his talent and all his successes were attributed only to God. Wherever he traveled, he always carried the prayer mat along with him. He never fails to complete his five prayers each day. He even has a small prayer room in his recording studio. He has done the Haj pilgrimage twise.
On one hand, Rahman is a person with deep faith in religion. On the other hand, he is very modern person with respect to his musical thoughts. In his childhood days, he was attracted by Michael Jackson’s music, dance and hairstyle. While he was playing for bands like Nemesis and Roots, his attire, coolers and hairstyle were like that of a pop-singer.
Roja released on 15 Aug, 1992. ‘Chinna Chinna Aasai’ (Chhoti si aasha in Hindi) became the anthem in musical circles. ‘Pudhu Vellai Mazhai’ (Yeh Haseen Vaadiyaan), ‘Thamizha Thamizha’(Bharath hum ko), ‘Kadhal Rojaave’ (Roja Jaaneman) gave a new musical experience to the music-buffs because of the superior recording quality and digital sound. Soon after the audio launch, Rahman became famous throughout the country.
In those days, composers normally posed with a harmonium for press photos. Ilayaraja had posed with a guitar many times. The small ‘kid’ who gave ‘Chinna Chinna Aasai’ smiled for the cameras with a keyboard, and it was totally new!
There were many who said he was a ‘one film wonder’. But he followed it up with Yodhaa and Pudhiya Mugam which had so much variety and freshness and also became huge hits. (Many of his hardcore fans say Yodha was the first movie album composed by Rahman, not Roja.) Gentleman, Gangmaster (Telugu) and SuperPolice (Telugu) which followed, were also hits! Rahman showed the world that he was not a one-film-wonder, but a trendsetter. A young fan following started forming, for Rahman.
He stunned everyone suddenly, wearing modern attire, sporting long locks of hair, carrying a national flag, and running on the desert sands singing in ‘Maa Tujhe Salaam’ in high pitch! People were amazed that Vande Mataram could also be made as a rock/pop music video. Sufi Maestro Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan rendered a song in the album. Rahman, who was a great fan of Ustad ji, went to Pakistan and recorded the song with him. Apart from that the other 7 songs were sung by Rahman himself, which was a sweet surprise for his fans.
But on the other side, a case was filed in the court claiming that Rahman had insulted the sacred Vande Mataram with his techno music. Noted critic Subbudu mentioned that it is not ‘Vande Mataram’, but ‘Vandhu Emaatharom’, which in tamil means “we come and cheat”. Though the case was dismissed, these criticisms did affect Rahman.
Though Rahman had so many successes in his young age itself, he was shaken by criticism coming from unexpected quarters. Hindu Fundamentalist orgainsations claimed that Rahman was insulting the hindu song Vande Mataram. A few Muslim fundamentalists criticized him that, being a Hindu, he has elevated and popularized a Hindu song!
That was when government provided security for Rahman, fearing threat to his life. All these totally ruffled Rahman.
Then, he opened his heart out – “ God and religion are something personal to each one. Be it mosque, or temple or church – it’s all within the heart. But, it has now been politicized. I’m uncomfortable to have security guards around me all the time. It shows the lack of trust on fellow human beings.
It is funny that there are rumours that I’m funding terrorists, when government itself is providing me security as my life is under threat from terrorists.
I help many social service organizations, without discriminating them as Hindu, Muslim or Christian organizations. Those are very small amounts. Weapons can’t be bought with that amount!”
Then, another rumour sprang out that he was forcing people close to him, to convert to Islam. Rahman brushed away this one too, with a smile. “Look at people close to me – Noel, Sridhar, Sivamani, Sivakumar! I’ve never spoken to them about religion. My religion is mine; their religion is theirs. That’s all”
Finally, all those ridiculous criticisms and rumours which were started by some due to jealousy stopped. Rahman’s thundering successes silenced those who spread such rumours.
Article Credits to Vikatan Magazine. Original article was published in Tamil and was exclusively translated to english by Aravind AM.