Growing up with ARR

Sometime back I clicked on a notification from Spotify about the release of the album of 99 songs, when I came across an astonishing realisation. I don’t know how I would’ve felt about the album had I listened to it in isolation but the very fact that it was an AR Rahman’s composition set a mood and a smile on my face even before the first tune began playing. It isn’t an exaggeration when one says that his songs are much more than mere music. At least for me, it isn’t! So I decided to pen down how I grew up listening to ARR through the various stages of my life. 

The Infant

My earliest memory of the maestro probably dates back to 2002. There I was sitting and irritating my little brother when the huge black tape recorder (probably one of our most prized possessions back then) started playing Jana Gana Mana from Aayutha Ezhuthu. It started then. The unhinged admiration for the man and his music. This phase was also the introduction of movies into my life. I remember having this huge, bright plastic frame, that I’d love to wear and sing Ooh La La La while jumping around the house like one of those jokers from the song. It usually ended with a metal spoon flying towards me from the kitchen but that didn’t stop the pure joy of my mini karaoke sessions.  

The Schoolgirl

One thing that I’ve undeniable heard every human being say is that - Music has been a huge part of my life. Rightfully so! Especially if its Rahman Sir’s music. It’s what I grew up with! A lot of my childhood memories revolve around his music. You would hear the loudest grunt of disappointment coming from me every time Humma Humma would go on to play Ek ho gaye hum aur tum instead of Andha arabi kadaloram. It was also the time when I’d started exploring the whole concept of being able to record songs on cassettes. And thus obviously, it wouldn’t be difficult to guess what songs most of our cassettes were filled with. Amma would often say “Adhuku vaay irrundha, adhu azhudhurukum” (which vaguely translates to it’d have cried if it had emotions). That’s how much we played the tapes over and again.  

Some of the biggest arguments in school came from which was the original one? Yeh Haseen Vadiyan or Puthu Vellai Mazhai. And I’d never give up on the Tamil version! The pride on my face while listening to his tunes being played in the native language, in a city that doesn’t recognise it. Oh, man! I would glow amidst the few hundred strangers surrounding me as I try to slyly mouth the words of the song that I proudly remember memorising. 

The Lover

Through all the teenage crushes, the love and the heartbreaks, one thing that remained constant was the idea that my life was a part of a film that was being guided by an ARR song. Like I was standing on a crowded railway station and mindlessly dancing to the tune of Masakali playing on my earphone. It was also the time that pop culture majorly began influencing my life and my bathroom singing talents deceived me to believe that I was any good. I would print sheets and sheets of lyrics, trying to sing and act along like the heroines in his songs.  Subconsciously, every line became a running commentary on my head. When the cute curly-haired boy passed through the corridors, I could swear I heard myself telling him Yaeennn idhayam udaithaai norungavae? Helloo (In my head of course)!! But this constant teleportation to a world more musical and cinematic than mine was an experience I thoroughly enjoyed. Luckily, I never grew out of it!

The Soldier

As time progressed, the friends changed, the houses changed and so did I! To a frustrated, angry, rebellious young woman. But the man, his music and the magic remained! Even through all that anger and the disinterest, I always found solace in it. A hope for a better tomorrow.

As I sit in my room writing this down, wondering what I am even trying to convey through this blog here, I have nothing but gratitude for the man! For his music and the way, it has taught me to live mindlessly. He said and I quote - 

If music wakes you up, makes you think and heals you... Then I guess the music is working.

Thank you for always making sure your music works sir! 


Swetha Pillai.

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