I have been looking forward to reading this book. I was not aware there are other biographies of AR Rahman. Anyways this one is touted to the “official” one. So, I just gave it a go.
Up to the first 8 chapters, it was a very frustrating read. What can be said in 5 word is being said in 25. This book seems to be more like a promotional book for AR Rahman’s Movie making debut – 99 songs. Throughout Phase 1 of the book (which has chapters 1-7), it mostly goes on and on about how humble AR Rahman is, how down to earth AR Rahman is, how shy AR Rahman is. Breaking news! Every person who grew up listening to his music knows this! And I felt this repetition very tedious. It is not just Phase 1, the entire book is written in this vein.
It is only from phase 2 of chapter 9, things started picking up. Movies are discussed, the albums are discussed. Even then, there are no personal details. The book just has the information that anyone can easily google up nowadays. for eg. if the movie Bombay is being discussed, it is common knowledge, what the story is, how the reception of the movie was at that time and what a phenomenal hit the songs were. Where is the personal element to all this? Where is the detailing of any problems that he went through? How did he cope up with it? How did he overcome it?
It is almost like, the author (therefore AR Rahman himself, since it is an “official” biography) is apprehensive about treading some toes. Every sentence, which may have some content which may be interpreted otherwise, there are atleast 5 sentences trying to justify it or sort of soften the blow. Eg. The book says that Saira, the wife of AR Rahman takes some tough business decisions. the sentence goes “She makes sure that everybody in his employ is working right. Nobody can fool around her”. Which is immediately followed by “This is because she loves him and does not want anything bad to happen to him or their family”. So now what is wrong in being a tough decision maker? Why does that sentence have to be qualified by love for the family? The entire book is sprinkled with similar examples and this makes the tone of the author more wishy-washy than humble.
But where Krishna Trilok shines is when he is picks up a song and describes it. Here finally, you hear the original voice of the author, because the rest of the book is just a wikipedia article. In these segments where he is trying to explain the feel of the song, we can feel through his words, the beauty of the song and its impact on people and specifically him.
Maybe the target audience of the book is not a person like me at all, a person who has grown up listening to his music, who can sing almost all his songs made in the 90s and 00s, a person who didn’t bother listening to any other music director maybe until Harris Jayaraj rocked the scene with Vaseegara. Since AR Rahman is looking at an international release for his movie, maybe he wants to market himself to the international community, to make them familiar about him, his music and his repertoire. And hence this book.