The 81st Oscar Awards presentations yesterday ensured that all film enthusiasts woke up early and spent nearly five hours glued to their TVs. Indians had a special reason to rise early since it was for the first time that fellow countrymen were nominated in such a manner, all for one film ‘Slumdog millionaire’, A R Rehman for ‘Best original score’, A R Rehman for ‘Best lyrics’ for ‘O Saya’, A R Rehman and Gulzar for ‘Best lyrics for ‘Jai Ho’, and Resul Pookutty for ‘Best Sound Mixing’.
The whole country rejoiced in the stupendous success of the Danny Boyle directed story of Jamal Malik, (played by Dev Patel, an NRI actor settled in England) the slum dweller who strikes it big in a game show to change the course of his life, ignoring the temptations to take a short cut to wealth and a better life by choosing a path of crime that his brother Salim, played by Madhur Mittal, another promising young actor, chooses. That he manges to win over his girl Latika, played by another little known Bombay girl, Frieda Pinto, is what holds the audience spell bound. In this wonderful tale you want the good guy to win all through. It is as if the elements and God himself conspire to make him succesful. It is this wonderfully simple message that has had the global film audiences enthralled.
But one pauses to ask, was it a victory of Bombay Film Industry in anyway ? I dare to say ‘NO’. If at all it was a victory of good cinema over the usual mediocre stuff that the Hindi (rather Indian) film Industry churns out week after week, year after year. It was a thumbs up sign to those who want to achieve excellence in every aspect irrespective of whether or not anyone notices.
I am reminded of the story of a sculptor who was working on a statue in ancient Greece. An observer saw that there was an identical statue lying nearby and asked him why he had made two identical statues. He said he needs only one but had to make the second one since he had accidently chipped the nose of the first one. The observer asked where it was going to be installed and the sculptor replied ‘on top of that pillar’ pointing to a pillar about 5 meters high. ‘At that hieght who would know that the nose is chipped’ said the observer. The sculptor replied ‘I would know’.
The pursuit of excellence is what earns laurels and increasingly commercial success too since audiences have become so discerning that anything that is irrational, illogical and shoddily produced doesn’t last beyond the first two days at best in this age of instant nirvana with such rapid dissemination of information. A movie or a book might as well be dead by the first Sunday after release if it is shoddy. Those who have realized it and make the effort continue to rake it in while those who think they are smarter than the audiences and can take a short cut to fame and fortune are seen sobbing hysterically when it is all over and the audiences abandon their movies on day 2 if not on day 1 itself.
Rehman epitomises excellence in ones work, treating his work as worship. It is his humility that people talk about. His humble beginning and his ability to stay grounded even after achieving such magnificient height of success is what gets written about. His quality of film music is something that has become a kind of hallmark for film music in the last fifteen years or so that he has been on the horizon. Who can forget his excellently composed numbers be it from ‘Roja’ or ‘Bombay’ or ‘Dil Se’ or ‘Lagan’ or ‘Rangeela’ or ‘Swades’ or ‘Rang de Basanti’. Who can forget his rendition of ‘Vande Matram’ and ‘Maa Tujhe Salam’.
Even his signature tune for ‘Airtel’, India’s leading telecom company, is testimony to his musical genius. I am sure many artistes would willing trade a lifetime of ordinary work to author a composition such as the Airtel signature jingle.
Every Indian, from all walks of life be it films, music, politics, sport or public life are gushing, tryng to place on record their feelings for the genius that is A R Rehman. In this moment of glory one needs to pause and ask, Where were Sukhwinder Singh, who sang Jai Ho in the movie and was slated to perform live at the Oscar awards ceremony and Gulzar, who wrote those excellent words that captured the minds of the global audiences, ‘Aaja aaja dil ke shamiyane ke tale, aaja zariwale neele aasmane ke tale, ‘Jai Ho’?? I hope the allegations that are flying thick in the Indian media about A R Rehman sabotaging their visits are untrue because I wouldn’t want to see my Idol with feet of clay.
A R Rehman has produced such great compositions at such a young age, he is only 43, that one can selfishly wish that he lives for a hundred years to enthrall us for our remaining days on this earth.
image courtesy ; Mark J. Terrill / AP