February 2009, the name of one man who elevated the country in his field reverberated throughout the country. Many news channels were airing documentaries/clips of this man, narrating his story, and Telugu & Tamil music channels played his songs that people always celebrated. The whole country was proud of him. What did he do?
He made a mark in history by becoming the first Indian composer to win two Oscars for Slumdog Millionaire.
All my life, I had a choice of hate and love. I chose love, and I’m here. God bless.
I was ten years old at the time, and though my father was (and is) a fan of music and films, I barely heard about this man, though I heard his songs (in Telugu). So the first film of ARR that I watched on screen is Shankar’s Enthiran (Robo in Telugu), and my admiration for him grew as I heard the songs he composed.
Now, let’s discuss the authorized biography of ARR written by a young author, Krishna Trilok, whose second work is “Notes of a Dream.” Before delving into the book, let me clarify: I am not into reading nonfiction books. But, being a fan of ARR, I read this book to know a lot about him and be in good spirits while the situation in the country is terrible that affects our mental health awfully.
Krishna Trilok compiled the anecdotes after interacting with ARR’s family, friends, his team, and a few filmmakers, putting out the facts of ARR life events, with ARR giving voice-overs like Gautam Menon’s films’ protagonists. Danny Boyle, the director of Slumdog Millionaire, has written the Foreword for this book, briefing his experience of working with ARR.
The book is divided into phases of ARR life, similar to that of the great epic Mahabharata, with chapters in each phase that delve deeper into the life of ARR, his musical journey, with interactions from his team members, family, and friends. Though primarily linear, the book touches upon the later life of ARR, connecting it with his early life because, as a person, he is still the same. However, he had made it internationally; his humility, curiosity, and good nature that everyone around him happily mentions haven’t left him, nor did he lose them.
The book puts out the facts on his life, his father’s impact on him, and his mother’s wise decision of sending him to work for the family even before he turned a teenager, the struggle he had faced during his early days, embracing Islam that made him more grounded that led him to the path of spirituality, with the conversations the author had with ARR, his friends/team like Karan Grover, Samidurai, and filmmakers — Imtiaz Ali, Mani Ratnam, Bharat Bala, and ad-filmmakers — Sharada and Trilok Nair.
The author uses words that even a person with little knowledge of English can understand, and his work on making the book easily readable is commendable. The book has this flow that I felt that something was boring not even in a single page. See, ARR is like an ocean. You can extract everything from him, but still, you have many things that you can still know and learn from this person.
My father is a fan of Ilayaraja, and obviously, I had to go with ARR, though we exchange a lot of words on music and movies. He’s the one who introduced me to ARR’s music (the world of film, for that matter), and when I was narrating what I read in the book about ARR’s life, my father was excited, quite surprisingly. This book moves everyone; even if you don’t know who ARR is, give it a read. Even if we aren’t interested in movies/music, many of us would have heard at least one of his songs and felt good about it. This book covers his experience of working for many of the landmark films that we have witnessed.
There’s the chapter on the Oscars night, where ARR’s feelings, his sister’s feelings were captured and written brilliantly, that I was crying with joy when reading out the lines that mentioned his two Oscar wins. I am honest here, though this happens to be the first time when tears rolled out of my eyes while reading a book. I mean, when you travel with the man and are entirely immersed in reading his life, you get that high when your protagonist succeeds, that too, internationally.
Like most ARR fans, I feel that Slumdog isn’t the best of ARR’s works; remember that all his previous works helped him get into the film, which acted as a platform to shine internationally. But, listen to this song, the quality of the music that he composed for Mani Ratnam’s Thiruda Thiruda back in the 90s, and you’ll feel the same:
This happens to be the first biography that I read since I had a feeling that browsing the internet, reading Wikipedia gives us an idea of a person, and this book proved me wrong. The high of reading a book is something else, that has to be experienced if you are interested to know a lot more about a person. The book covers ARR’s plunge into filmmaking, which I was completely unaware of. The world-class studio he’s building near Chennai and the philanthropy this person is doing for humanity, for music.
My respect grew for ARR while reading the book, and I learned many things about spirituality, discipline, sense of humor, humility, and love for people. I was feeling low these days for what’s happening in our country, and I felt reading this book is the perfect thing to do, be able to have good vibes, be grateful for what we have, and it worked wonderfully.
Give it a try, and I am sure you’ll feel good about deciding to read this book and to know about the person who knows nothing but love for his music, his people, and his country, who’s trying to put the country on par with the global standards, of course with his art. Remember, when you’re honest about your work, no matter what, the universe rewards you not once but twice. Watch any of his interviews, and you’ll not stop appreciating this guy, the good vibes in his words, subtle humor, and his way of looking at life.