Producer Christian Colson, along with the cast and crew, accept the Oscar after the film "Slumdog Millionaire" won best motion picture of the year during the 81st Academy Awards Sunday, Feb. 22, 2009, in the Hollywood section of Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Triumph of hope
The only thing lacking at this year’s glittering Oscar awards ceremony was the glint of surprise. Positioned as the runaway favourite — having already dominated the Golden Globe and the Bafta awards — Slumdog Millionaire has continued its golden run with the film juries, winning eight out of a possible nine Oscars. Danny Boyle’s spellbinding exploration of love, hope, and determination — told through the intriguingly simple device of a boy on a game show and set against the backdrop of the cold and pitiless reality of urban India — is a most deserving winner. Inspired by Bollywood, Slumdog Millionaire is an intriguing contradiction — a fantasy underpinned by raw and gritty realism, a romantic fairy tale punctuated with torture and scatological humour, and schmaltz with the purpose and edgy energy of serious modern cinema. The field against which it was pitted was formidable — including such films as Milk, a crusading biopic of America’s first openly gay public official, The Reader, a haunting tale of complex affection set against the backdrop of the Holocaust, and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, a stylish and meticulously crafted reminder that while life must be lived forwards, it is best understood backwards.
The staggering interest in the fate of Slumdog Millionaire at the Oscars and the delight and celebration at its sweeping victory is a reflection of a curious but revealing fact. Although it has been made by a British Director and funded by a European company, it is seen by many at home as an Indian film. Unlike in Richard Attenborough’s Gandhi (which also won eight Oscars and which was also about how one man overcomes insurmountable odds), the cast of Slumdog Millionaire is almost entirely Indian. More importantly, the style that permeates the film is a curious amalgam — one that represents a true cinematic union between Hollywood and Bollywood. This interesting marriage was represented also in the choice of the film’s music, which earned India’s finest modern musician A.R. Rahman, whose compositions reflect a fusion of west and east, two richly deserved statuettes for the best original score and the best song. The recognition earned by the man who was once described as the Mozart of Madras should go a long way in opening Indian popular music to the world. India impacted on this year’s Oscars in another way, and one that deserves a special mention: the best documentary award to Smile Pinki. Shot in Bhojpuri and Hindi by Megan Mylan, it is a story about an Indian girl with a cleft lip who is socially ostracised before a social worker helps her avail of free surgery. In the midst of the delight over Slumdog Millionaire, we need to pause to also celebrate the victory of this life-affirming documentary about a real fairy tale.
_____________________________________________A.R. Rahman, left, accepts the Oscar for best original song "Jai Ho" from the motion picture "Slumdog Millionaire" from Alicia Keys during the 81st Academy Awards Sunday, Feb. 22, 2009, in the Hollywood section of Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Allah Rakha Rahman, simply translated as God Save Rahman. And that's what India said Monday for the man who became the first Indian to win two Oscars for his score in 'Slumdog Millionaire' and for the film's theme song 'Jai Ho'.
Rahman, credited with taking the Indian sound across the seas, has for long comfortably straddled the worlds of not just classical and popular music, but also Bollywood and Broadway.
From Kollywood to Bollywood to Hollywood
Tracing the musical evolution of Allah Rakha Rahman
— Photo: Special arrangement
A.R. Rahman with his mother Kareena Begum (centre) and sisters.
CHENNAI: In the summer of 1992, the nation experienced a new sound. Be it ‘chinna china aasai’ or ‘choti si aasha’, the song captured hearts, marked a beginning and introduced a name. Allah Rakha Rahman. A name that became a chant on Monday.
As a four-year-old, Dilip, as Rahman was then known, was seen toying with a harmonium. That was when the composer Sudharshanam Master playfully tossed a towel over the instrument. Undeterred, the boy repeated the tune he had been trying out — to the astonishment of his father R.K. Shekhar. It was the early sign of genius.
Not surprisingly, academics did not figure high on his priorities. His sister Rahane recounts that all his school notebooks remained literally unopened. “Nothing interested him as much as music.”
He lost his father when he was barely 10. “Yes, it was a challenging time. But our mother made sure we did not feel the burden,” says Ms. Rahane, recalling a time that brought the siblings close to one another.
Malayalam music composer M.K. Arjunan was the first to assign Rahman keyboard duties for his 1981 film Ernadu Mannu. Rahman was paid Rs. 50, his first income from the film industry. The keyboard took him to maestro Illayaraja’s studios too.
In the mid and late 1980s, Tamil audiences savoured the Leo Coffee ad which had Rahman’s signature stamped on it. The world of jingles had found its new poster boy.
But he belonged elsewhere. Kollywood was then hunting for a new music director. “Mani Ratnam referred to me a boy named Dilip who was doing a lot of good jingles,” says veteran director K. Balachander, recalling the making of Roja.
“The first song which was recorded was ‘Chinna chinna aasai’.” A tape was sent to him for approval. He listened to it driving his car. He ended up listening to it 15 times over. “I sent a note back to Mani Ratnam saying this was the best song of the decade.”
What followed reads like a long-list of ‘best songs of decades to come’. Be it Prabhu Deva gyrating to ‘Chikku bukku’ in Gentleman, the magnificence of ‘Chandralekha’ in Thiruda Thiruda, the tug-at-your-heartstrings ‘Uyirae’ from Bombay, or the stirring ‘New York nagaram’ from Sillunu Oru Kaadal – any attempt to pick favourites falls flat.
Charmed by his lilting blockbusters, Bollywood did not take long to embrace Rahman.
There was no ‘Kya Karen ya na karen’ dilemma in continuing the journey that began with Rangeela in 1995. From Sukhwinder Singh’s ‘Chaiyya chaiyya’ to ‘Masakkali’ in Dilli 6, his romance with Bollywood continues.
The West first spotted his talent in Bombay Dreams, an Andrew Lloyd Webber production in 2002. From then on, recognition in Hollywood was but a small step.
Rahman rode on the Slumdog Millionaire sensation across the United States picking up several awards in the run-up to the Oscar night.
— with inputs from M. Dinesh Verma, Ramya Kannan and Meera Srinivasan
Rahman an amazing innovator, says Gulzar
New Delhi: Lyricist Gulzar, who shared the Oscar for his song “Jai ho” in Slumdog Millionaire with A.R. Rahman, has admitted that he never thought Indian lyrics could win the golden statuette.
It was “beyond my wildest dreams that Indian lyrics can ever win an Oscar. Indian songs never had a place there [in the West] and the credit for this recognition goes to Rahman,” Gulzar told a news channel.
The lyricist was profuse in his praise for the composer.
“What a team to work with. You see the spirit of a film in his music. It’s a pleasure to work with that man. He is an amazing innovator – the way he innovates the sounds is just amazing.”
“He is the one who broke the clichéd methods of music composition in the country and his innovativeness is the reason he has reached the Oscars. I am really proud of him,” Gulzar said. – IANS
Great composer, greater human feted
Ramya Kannan and Meera Srinivasan
Every Indian has to be proud of Rahman and his team, says P.C. Sreeram
— Photo: Special arrangement
A childhood photograph of A.R.Rahman and his sister Fathima with their father R.K. Shekhar.
CHENNAI: For a moment on Monday morning, things stood still in India. The silence was deeper in Chennai during the seconds it took for the announcement to be read out: A.R.Rahman. As Chennai’s own genius walked the polished floor at Kodak Theatre to get his own little statuette, it is possible the southern city cheered the loudest.
The encomium kept pouring in ever since. Many feted not only his talent for music but also his humility and simplicity.
S. P. Balasubramaniam, whose rendering of Rahman’s ‘Thanga Thamarai Magale’ in Minsara Kanavu won him a National Award says: “Rahman is a great composer and a greater human being. I think seniors and juniors have a lot to learn from him, from his humility. Even after the Oscars, he will be the same. He is a genius!” For yesteryear composer M.S.Viswanathan who has sung one number for him, “Rahman is not only exceptionally talented but also a very good person.” “Special victory”
Kamal Hassan called it a special victory and joked that they had given him two Oscars, so it would be easier for him to balance the statuettes.
Rahman’s favourite playback singer P. Suseela reciprocates the admiration he has for her. “Honouring the great musician, who is an Indian, on such a global platform is rather special. Like a double century, he has bagged two awards.”
Pitching in with the patriotic angle, cinematographer P.C .Sreeram says: “Every Indian has to be proud of Rahman and his team.” He feels there is a bond between sound and light that can’t be explained in words. “Certain songs make you react in a particular way. Yes, I think some of my best expressions in light have come with his music.”
And then there was Tamil pride to the fore as well, with actor Prabhu and lyricist Vairamuthu congratulating him on speaking in Tamil at the Awards ceremony—“Ella Pughazhum Iraivanukke.” Vairamuthu says: “I am doubly happy that a Tamilian has won India such an honour. I had written ‘Ennai inda boomi sutri vasa aasai… (I want the world to go around me)’ in the Roja song ‘Chinna china aasai.’ Now, I am elated that the world has begun going around him now!”
Rahman’s sound engineer S. Sivakumar says the composer would lose track of time while at work. Senthil Kumar, director, Real Image, points out, “Rahman pioneered the use of synthesisers, sequences and multi-tracks. He is one of the best keyboard players.”
Actor Suriya, whose on-screen romancing has often been embellished by music from Rahman, reveals how it also played a role in his off-screen romance with Jyothika.
“Apparently he had stopped singing love songs, but we were surprised when Rahman sir volunteered to sing the stirring ‘New York Nagaram’ from Sillunu Oru Kadhal. Since it was just before our wedding, it was like a great wedding gift for us,” Suriya says.
Actor Madhavan’s career-launching film, Alaipayuthe sizzled the screens and not in any small measure due to Rahman’s score. He has since gone on to do five more movies with Rahman. Maddy says, “I think we missed giving him one more Oscar—to the nicest person in the industry.”
Gopal Srinivasan of the A.R.Rahman Fan Club is one of an ecstatic world-wide band of brothers and sisters. A group of hardcore fans watched the Oscar awards live at Bangalore together. To celebrate, they went to a local orphanage, wrote out a cheque for the kids and sponsored a meal.
A larger celebration is being planned, with the idol himself. “We know it is going to be hectic immediately after the awards. We will wait until things cool down,” Gopal says. To the team of diehard fans, the Oscars come as recognition for the fantastic body of work Rahman has produced, instead of applause for just one song or one movie.
Rapper Blaaze who worked on Slumdog Millionaire, was mentioned by Rahman in his speech at Kodak Theatre. He says he is rendered speechless by Rahman’s kindness. “His message after the ‘Jai Ho’ song when he said, ‘All my life I had choices, love and hate, I chose love—and here I am…’ is the message for the world right now. It is a historic moment for over a billion hearts…”
Tanvi Shah, who was among those who sang the award-clincher ‘Jai Ho,’ spoke excitedly from the United States where she flew to get a taste of the Oscar magic. “I’m just really happy and thrilled that we won for the best score and best song. For me, it will be a really special day for the rest of my life,” she gushes. “I am glad that I was part of this big project, and I think hard work and patience pays off at some point. ARR deserves every bit of the glory.... all I can say is JAI HO!”
Praveen Mani, a music director in his own right, worked with A.R. Rahman as an arranger/programmer in his team on Slumdog Millionaire.
“As a close friend, I truly admire his dedication to music, his humility as a human being, and he surely deserves way more than this for his awesome talent. Hats off to the music whiz kid from Madras! You simply rock!” That sums it up for Chennai.
“A total Indian evening with Americans watching it”
It’s a starting point for India, says A.R. Rahman
A.R. Rahman, who on Sunday scripted history by becoming the first Indian to win two Oscars, feels the success of Slumdog Millionarie can be seen as a starting point for India to attain centre stage in Hollywood.
“People here have aversion to any other culture and it’s great how this film has been accepted by the Americans. It felt like a total Indian evening with Americans watching it,” Rahman said.
“The love and response that we have received has been immense. I was expecting nothing, actually had no expectations at all. There had been speculation here that we would not receive the award as the music is very Indian. So I was completely engrossed and concentrated on the performance,” the musician said.
“When I got the first award I was quite numb. On receiving the second, I realised the impact,” he said.
According to him, one had to work without expectations. He had never thought that the music would go so far. “When you have strings attached, you only want to please certain people...I feel it is a corruption in the mind. I believe that you have to work without any expectations. I feel that you have to be true to the film and its emotions,” he told an audience in Mumbai through audio conferencing.
On the Oscar-winning song ‘Jai Ho’, penned by veteran lyricist Gulzar, he said: “Words have power. Words lead to action and inspire life. I often tell lyricists not to use words that have a negative impact.”
The idea of ‘Jai Ho’ came from Subhash Ghai when he was working on the music of his last film Yuvraaj, the music director said.
“I am very excited and grateful for the good wishes, prayers and love of the Indian people and Americans who voted for me,” he added.
Responding to a question on whether winning two Oscars would mean bidding goodbye to Bollywood, he said: “I do not know. I have taken advances from my producers in India and I have already spent it. So I am committed to completing all my projects.”
On whether Indian talent was being treated on a par with Hollywood, he said: “Everybody treated me as an equal.. Hollywood stars like Angelina Jolie, Steven Spielberg and Penelope Cruz, came up to me and congratulated me for winning these awards.”
Meanwhile, director Danny Boyle described the film’s clean sweep as “absolutely thrilling.” He said that he made the film because he loved making it, regardless of what happened to it. “India is a reservoir of talent. Talent is indisputable and it will open its own doors to international opportunities,” he said, replying to a question on whether opportunities would open for Indian talent on the global platform.
He hoped to return to Mumbai to make a thriller. “I am already in talks with a couple of people on this project,” he added.
Actor Anil Kapoor, who plays the role of a game show host in the film, said the success at the Oscars was a defining moment for Indian cinema.
Kapoor said: “At the awards function, I felt I was in Mumbai attending a Hindi film awards function. There was so much of Bollywood in the awards night here.”
Expressing happiness at Rahman and Resul winning Oscars, Kapoor said it was an emotional moment to see Resul, a technician from Kerala, collecting his award on an international stage.
He said the film had opened new avenues for Indian talent overseas. .
Actor Irrfan Khan said: “It is a proud moment for us, for India. As Rahman came on stage everyone started crying. Our dance was performed at the Oscars. I hope we understand the significance of it.”
“The awards were finished and we were still on stage as everyone was congratulating us. The kids were dancing. Such a moment rarely comes in life,” Irrfan summed up the emotions of the team.
“It is like a fairy tale, the journey that the film has had and kids here had. It’s really fantastic,” said co-director Loveleen Tandon.
“It is not about boundaries, it is not about nationalities. The film moves to cut across and reach as many people as possible,” said Ms. Tandon. — PTI
A country-wide toast to Oscar winners
Awards for three Indians a recognition of their incredible talent: Pratibha
– PHOTO: RANJEET KUMAR
“JAI HO!.....”: Slum children in Patna celebrating the success of Slumdog Millionaire on Monday.
NEW DELHI: “Jai ho!” – the song that put music maestro A. R. Rahman among the Oscars – was the greeting of the day on Monday as India rejoiced over the eight awards bagged by the trans-national film Slumdog Millionaire. And India’s cup of joy brimmed over with another film based on an Indian story, Smile Pinki, walking away with the Oscar for ‘Documentary Short’.
President Pratibha Patil led the nation in toasting the success of the Slumdog Millionaire team. The awards for the three Indians — Gulzar, Rahman and Resul Pookutty — are a recognition of their incredible talent at one of the highest levels by their peers, the President noted in her message which also made special mention of Smile Pinki.
In his message, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh congratulated the creative genius of the Oscar winners from India. “The achievement of the creative teams of Slumdog Millionaire and Smile Pinki is recognition of their vast talent. Their achievement is a tribute to the Indian film industry which is a reservoir of multi-disciplinary talent which the medium of cinema embraces.”
Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee said the conferment of these awards was a resounding statement of India’s ascendance in the world of quality entertainment. Congratulating the two teams, he said: “I am confident these achievements by our creative legends will inspire the talented youth of the country to realise its infinite potential and prove its mettle globally.”
Delighted by the Indian presence among the awards, Congress president Sonia Gandhi said Gulzar, Rahman and Pookutty had done India proud as have all the Indian actors, technicians and support staff who participated in the making of Slumdog Millionaire. “They represent the finest traditions of our film industry and are an inspiration to all of us,” she said, extending her greetings to the producer and director of the film.
External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee has sent separate letters of felicitation to the three Indian winners. In his letters, the Minister described the recognition as a richly deserved milestone in their artistic journey. He has also sent a congratulatory letter to Vikas Swarup, India’s Deputy High Commissioner at Pretoria in South Africa, for his best-selling debut novel Q&A from which Slumdog Millionaire has been adapted.
Congratulating the teams of the two films, Union Minister of State for Information & Broadcasting Anand Sharma described this as the finest hour of Indian cinema in the global scenario.
For the Bharatiya Janata Party, spokesman Prakash Javdekar said this was a proud day for India, particularly the children of the Dharavi slum who were part of the Slumdog Millionaire team. The Congress sought to place the Oscars that came India’s way as part of a larger sense of achievement that the country has been feeling since its government took office at the Centre. Though Congress spokesman Abhishek Singhvi sought to clarify that the party was not taking credit for the success at the Oscars, he said: “We are proud that in the conducive environment of good governance by the United Progressive Alliance with special emphasis on inclusiveness, we have been an achieving India.”
Chairman of Bharti Enterprises Sunil Mittal said the global acclaim for Slumdog Millionaire mirrors the growth story of India. “This signals the arrival of India on the world entertainment stage,” he said, particularly pleased with the two Oscars bagged by Rahman who composed the signature tune for his mobile service, Airtel. (The Hindu)
Labels: Cinema, Personality