AR Rahman's Wembley concert was probably better without misguided 'fans' spoiling the show

O the horror, the horror! Some AR Rahman fans walked out of his Wembley show on 8 July because the maestro sang 12 Tamil songs and only 16 Hindi ones. And then they did what most insular, bigoted people do these days: rant on Twitter.

There is always a silver lining for every Twitter controversy though. At least the Hindi-speaking AR Rahman fans discovered that the language is 'Tamil' and not 'South Indian'.

Of course, there were ardent fans like @archana_ssawant, who said: “#ARRahman #Ssearena #mustberefunded #falseadvertising #wishweknew all songs in southindian #disapointment. Why #JavedAliji not singing more”.

Or take @saurabh_sethi25 whose idea of a perfect concert by Rahman is more “Hindi Punjabi”. “Need more Hindi Punjabi songs #ARRahman #Wembley #ssarena feels like come to a South Indian concert.” Then you should’ve bought tickets for Mika, you ignoramus. Of all the languages that Rahman is associated with, Punjabi is probably the least.

AR Rahman on stage. Image via Facebook/ShutterCraft

AR Rahman on stage. Image via Facebook/ShutterCraft

AR Rahman has two Academy Awards, two Grammy Awards, a BAFTA Award, a Golden Globe, four National Film Awards, 15 Filmfare Awards and 16 Filmfare Awards South.

Just to do the maths for our insulted Hindi folks: Slumdog Millionaire was an English film dubbed in Hindi and other regional languages. Set in Hindi-speaking Mumbai, the soundtrack of the film had 13 songs, of which only two were in Hindi. The Academy Awards were for an English movie, one award being for a Hindi song and the other for the whole album. He dedicated his Oscars to God by saying “Ella Pugazhum Iraivanukke” which loosely translates to “I am not worthy of this praise; All glory to God”. That was Tamil, not Hindi.

The Golden Globe was for the movie’s score (which is not limited by language). The two Grammys and BAFTAs were for an English film, of the four National Awards he won three for Tamil films, 15 Hindi Filmfare awards and 16 Filmfare Awards for South Indian films.

Even the most ardent Rahman fan would agree that 'Jai Ho' is among his most mediocre works, even though it gave him world-wide validation, not recognition. He was already a feted musician and composer, working on international projects and collaborating with world famous musicians before Slumdog happened. So what gives the Hindi-speaking fan that unbearable sense of entitlement over Rahman’s setlist? This, of course, is the Hindi debate all over again, this time in the garb of music and culture. But what better an opportunity to address language chauvinism than with music?

Music transcends language, geographical and cultural barriers. In most cases at least. This same sanctimonious Hindi brigade would be bobbing around to Psy’s 'Gangnam Style' or doing the 'Macarena' or even swaying to Dhanush’s 'Kolaveri Di'…another “South Indian” song.

So you buy tickets for a concert titled “Netru, Indru, Naalai” (which translates to Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow in Tamil) NOT Kal, Aaj, Kal. Really, what did you expect? The man is called The Mozart of Madras. Madras, which is today Chennai, the capital city of Tamil Nadu, a state with predominantly Tamil-speaking people.

Oh let me make it clearer. He’s a Madrasi, yaar. A real one. Not that Madrasi from Karnatak (without the A) or Keral (again without the A). From the land of Rajnikanth, who incidentally has a major following in Japan; a country full of closeted Tamil speakers perhaps. Then again, just to mess with his Hindi-obsessed fans who conveniently ignore the Madras part of his moniker, Rahman should’ve employed all his Trinity College and Western Classical music education and played some Mozart pieces. What a googly that would’ve been!

Some people felt out of place at the concert because there were just about as many Tamil songs as there were Hindi. Mind you, he did sing more Hindi songs but the Tamil was just too jarring for some fans like @RitaMistry who felt he sang 99 nine Tamil songs (which means she needs language, music AND math lessons).

Just look at his discography and you’ll see that Hindi doesn’t take up more than 40 percent of his body of work. Yet his Tamil-titled concert had more Hindi than Tamil songs. As a Tamilian, I should be taking offence to this because I apparently have nothing better to do than decipher lyrics instead of listening to the songs in totality. Unless these fans were subtitlers, they cannot be calling themselves music fans if their repulsion for what they don’t understand supersedes their fascination for what they experience. How much more disdain can we Indians have for “the other”? Just because it is not something we’re “accustomed” to, does that mean it deserves our disregard? Replace the literal “Holy cow” with Hindi and this situation becomes all too familiar. Much like those misguided Indians who believe Hindi is the only national language in India.

These fans haven’t affected AR Rahman as much as they’ve done a great disservice to music lovers. He is perhaps the best example in the world today of doing something that isn’t bound by all those things that preoccupy a closed mind. Thank God those fans walked out of his show. The atmosphere would’ve been purer at the Wembley gig without them.


Published Date: Jul 14, 2017 01:53 pm | Updated Date: Jul 14, 2017 01:58 pm


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