Friday, January 27, 2017

Memories of Those School Bus Days

There’s a little kindergarten school at a short distance from my house. I hadn’t really given it much attention in the ten years I have lived here. But of late, whenever I go for my morning walks at around 8 AM, I notice their school bus whiz past me every day. It’s a tiny yellow bus, containing very tiny little inhabitants, but it manages to hold to my attention every time I see it. Perhaps more so because the children inside are now familiar with me. They seem to be fascinated with my extra tall frame and wave at me excitedly almost every day. I smile and wave back, laughing at times when I see them scrambling towards the end of the bus just to get a good look me with their excited little faces.

Interacting with these kids on the school bus every morning naturally makes me reflect on my own, very charming, memories of those school bus days. I think every single one of us will most certainly have some special memory or the other of those hours spent while riding to school and then returning home on the school bus. I, too, have a fair share of them as I traveled in it to school from my kindergarten days till the 7th standard. And those ten-odd years gave me enough moments and memories to reflect back on fondly from time to time.

I remember my first school bus quite distinctly. It was a big, navy blue bus with a streamlined front. There were just two rows of seats, parallel to each other on the inside and the name of my school was prominently displayed on both the sides of the bus.

While most of my memories of moments spent inside this bus are quite hazy, one, in particular, stands out. I was in kindergarten, Jr. B to be precise, and had stood first in the final exams. With the report card firmly held in my hand, I was elated and wanted to share my moment of joy with someone. Unfortunately, I hardly had any friends back then and had to contain my simmering excitement. I sat inside the bus and was admiring my report card when Ramakant, our scrawny and strict bus conductor who wore a big black square pair of spectacles and had really short wiry hair, came up to me.

“Is that your report card?” he asked.

I nodded. “I came first,” I said and showed him the card.

He took a look at it and said “Shabbash!” while ruffling my hair. I was extremely pleased as Ramakant was known to be this stern man who hardly ever smiled. Often during the bus rides, he would holler at the children creating a ruckus and even had a famous catchphrase - “Bada behuda baccha hai tu! (You are a really detestable child)”. Appreciation of this kind coming from him, hence, made my day. And through the years, even when Ramakant grew old and markedly subdued, I never quite forgot this gesture of his.

The school buses changed as I grew, having flat fronts and more space with countless rows of seats one after the other. More than its structure, though, the school bus became an important tool during that phase of my school life to exhibit my freedom. During my primary days, we had some very strict teachers and there would be days where we wouldn’t be allowed to speak even during the Tiffin break. The school bus, consequently, provided great refreshment and a chance to bond with my friends properly.

And speaking of friends…It was primarily courtesy of the school bus that I bonded with two boys who went on to become my best friends throughout the course of my early school life. One was a plump guy with a slight penchant for tantrums and the other was a rather canny fellow having wavy hair and an impish smile. Both lived at a little distance from my house and thus, as we would travel back and forth from school, we forged a great friendship.

The distance between our home and school was close to an hour and this gave the three of us enough time to bond over myriad things: sharing Tiffin, discussing cartoons and comics, and bashing the school teachers. We would really hate it when some teacher, too, would get on board the school bus as it would then force us to be silent or converse in hushed tones. Being the tall one, it was always difficult for me to conceal myself from the teacher and I would have to really bend behind the seats to talk to my friends. But the effort was still worth it.

It was bonding at its purest and we even began to hang out at each others’ homes soon. Both of their houses came after mine and when I would board the bus in the morning, I would usually go to the right end corner and reserve a couple of seats for them along with mine near the window. In the late afternoons, after disembarking from the bus on reaching my home, I would go straight towards its end where two hands – both belonging to my best friends – would be waiting for me to slap them as a mark of goodbye. It’s a method we had devised and followed quite proudly. Sometimes, some other fellow, too, would poke his head out from the window and offer his hands to me to slap and I would oblige; albeit a little half-heartedly. For the most passionate ones were always reserved for my two best friends.

There were quite a few other aspects that made life in my school bus quite interesting those days. Foremost among them would be the races we had with the other school buses, even from our own school. While entering Red Road – a long stretch with wide spaces that allowed vehicles an extensive and unhindered run – our school bus would generally come face to face with another one. And thus would begin the race which would last for just about a couple of minutes but would give all the inhabitants of the bus a great adrenaline rush. We would hoot and cheer raucously, egging the driver on to overtake the opposite bus. Children from the opposing bus would do the same and both the drivers would get caught in the moment and do their best to catch up with and possibly overtake each other. We would win most of the times and then mock and boo at the children of the opposite bus that often contained our classmates and friends. It was all great fun.

Another aspect that I found fascinating whilst traveling on my school bus was observing the other children. There were so many different faces with distinct traits and idiosyncrasies: the silent type, the brooding type, the always crying type, the always smiling for no reason type, the one who would mimic the bus conductor to enrage him regularly, the one who would pick up fights at the drop of a hat,  the one who would keep the proceedings in the bus alive with his incessant quips; all of them as a whole made the school bus a menagerie of intriguing creatures that left an indelible mark in my memory. Most of these were people I wouldn’t see or even interact with in school. But the school bus gave me the opportunity to spend some good time with them.   

Also, for some reason, I used to find observing the homes of the children in the bus quite fascinating. As each child would get off the bus and run towards their respective house I would peer at them even as the bus would move on, trying to imagine what the insides of their residence would be like. With the little imagination powers I had back then, I would mostly envisage the structure of their dwellings to be much like my own. Sometimes, there would be some parent – mothers mostly – to pick up the child and I would look on at them, to try and find if they had traces of my own mother in them.

Then there were those interactions of mine with the senior students inside the bus. Blessed with a rather tall frame, I would always come to the notice of the seniors. “Lambu” was my nickname and I would often be teased, quite harmlessly, for my extra long legs and pants that would get short ridiculously soon. These seniors were feared by the others in the bus. They would often be the last ones to enter the bus after school and would force anyone out of the seat – primarily near the windows at the back – they wished to plant themselves on. With me, however, they never did so and, in fact, went out of their way to make slight conversations usually bordering on “Ye height mujhe de de, lambu? (Give me this height, lambu.)” or “Padhai kaisa chal raha hai tera, lambu? (How are your studies going on, tally?)”. These were some of the moments that I didn’t actually curse myself for being tall.

There were a particular set of days during the school bus rides that had very distinctive flavors for me: the exam days, the end and beginning of the summer holidays, and Saturday afternoons.

During the exam days, a hush would descend on the entire bus with students mostly doing last minute cramming. The tension would be palpable and one could clearly hear the whirr of the bus engine amidst the tensed silence of the children gearing up to face the battle ahead of them. I wasn’t one of those who preferred last-minute cramming and whilst I would always have the course book in my hand, I would hardly be able to concentrate and would find ways to diffuse my tension by pestering my two friends. I desperately tried to hold on to that hour long ride in the exam mornings, as it kept me safe from the peril I was about to dive into.

Then there was the last day of the holidays, one of my ultimate favourites as the mood would be so light and buoyant. Everyone would be chirpy and giving each other backslaps and hugs while sharing details of what they were likely to do during the holidays. Starkly different from this mood, at least for me, would be the first day post the end of the holidays. I would sulk in gloom and would find a corner window spot where I could quietly wallow in my sorrow. Even as my friends would try and regale me with their tales of the summer, I would hardly find any interest in them and would just gaze outside the window at the streets whizzing past me, trying to find traces of my pleasurable moments from the summer gone by in them.

My most memorable moments of those school bus rides, though, came overwhelmingly from Saturday afternoons. I have some really pleasant memories of bubbling with excitement on the ride back home on Saturdays while leafing through the library book I had picked up that day and discussing how I was going to relish it with my wavy-haired friend. Saturdays, in any case, were my favourite day of the week. And the hour on the bus ride back home would give me enough time to plan and visualize how I would be spending my night reading a book and the Sunday morning watching the cartoon shows I adored. That is the one hour I really wish I could get to relive today.

In fact, just writing about these experiences makes me want to board a school bus, find a corner window seat, and just stare at the world whizzing by, without an ounce of tension in my mind. Sadly, I shall never be able to do so. But the memories I have had of those school bus days will always have a special little place in my heart, a place which I find myself visiting on some occasions when I wish to take a ride down a particular part of my formative years.

And with those memories lovingly tucked in my heart, I will continue looking forward to my morning walks and greeting those children in the tiny yellow school bus. In the hope that someday, perhaps, I shall see two hands hanging out from a window, waiting for me to come slap at them.

Monday, January 16, 2017

The 100th One...

This is a very special post.

This is not an article. This is not a feature story. This is not a short story. This is nothing like what I have been writing on my blog these past few years. But this is a very special post indeed.

This one right here marks the 100th post of my blog. And I thought that it would be good to celebrate this occasion.

I know that a 100 posts might not seem like anything consequential to many of you. But for me, this is a significant moment. Significant because it took a lot of time, patience, and effort in reaching here.

When I began this blog, about six years back, I was extremely skeptical. I was a novice and was just about finding myself. This was the time when I had just taken up writing as a career choice and wanted some way to exhibit my skills. I was inspired by some of my fellow mates at my journalism college who had classy-looking blogs having a lot of visitors and many congratulatory comments. I too wanted the same. And hence ‘Burning Bright’ was formed.

I remember the first post I wrote on my blog: “While We Were Sleeping”. It came from a sour personal experience and I had just vented my frustration down in it. The feedback I received for it was largely positive. I was delighted that all my Facebook friends whom I had forcibly tagged in the post sang great laurels about my writing, and knowing well that this was my first genuine blog entry, I was welcomed with gracious words.

Suffice to say, I was thrilled. I wanted to explore more and began writing on all the various topics that affected me at that point in time: wildlife, cricket, a bit of politics and some personal accounts. I remember tagging loads of people, even those who weren’t remotely interested in reading and sending the links to my posts as messages to countless others. I would mostly receive good to great feedback and a lot of likes and comments on Facebook. Naturally, I was pleased.

However, with time I began to realize the difference between forced and genuine feedback and also gauged the true potential of my writing abilities. I developed a taste for travel and story writing and this opened up new avenues for me. I began putting in a lot of thought and planning into each post. I would let my stories completely consume me and would plan the title, the beginning, middle and end in my mind while going to sleep while traveling and even while walking. Planning and executing each post would pump me up and it is an exercise that has stayed on.

With each passing post, I could feel my writing developing. I would not rest until I would derive great satisfaction from completing a post. Sometimes I would even pat myself for a particular line I wrote. I made it a habit to re-read each write-up multiple times, to the point that my brain began getting exhausted. This allowed me to spruce the writing and also helped enhance my editing skills. This is another habit that I have not let go and which continues to help me grow as a writer immensely.

Another thing I do is to never re-edit any of my old posts, right from the time when I began this blog. I find a lot of grammatical and sentence construction errors in them and if I want I can easily polish them up. But I don’t. I let them be as they serve as a reminder of the progression I have made as a writer. With each passing year, whenever I have looked back at some of my posts from the year gone by, I have realized a substantial amount of progression in my writing. And this provides me great contentment as this was the precise reason for the creation of this blog.

Over the years, I have realized that my blog has been like my best friend. It has been my source of motivation and inspiration. It allows me the freedom to let loose the true writer in me and nurture it lovingly, with a lot of patience and without the burden of being scrutinized or rejected. As a freelance writer, I write countless articles regularly, almost mechanically. And while I enjoy doing that as well, it is only my blog that enables me to really open up and explore and challenge my true abilities as a writer.  Sometimes I marvel at some of the pieces that I have written, the manner I produced some sentences and then wonder how I managed to achieve it. In times where I find myself feeling lost, these writings give me the boost to move on and refine my skills.

Through this blog, I have also found a few lifelong friends. These were people who I never knew. But they somehow chanced upon my blog and from thereon in went on to forge a great bonding with me which has lasted fruitfully over the years. A lot of unknown people from different countries, too, have often commented and even messaged me after reading some of my posts and have expressed their appreciation for them. It has truly left me pleasantly surprised and extremely overwhelmed.

Even now, when I find anyone reading some of my long posts (I do have a habit of piling on long ones) and liking it, I feel a tinge of surprise mixed with happiness. I can never thank those people enough, really.

And now, after about six years, I am writing the 100th post of my blog. I had often wondered when and how would I reach that landmark. Because I never post anything for the heck of it or to follow any current trending topic. I never wrote to increase my subscribers or my views. There are a lot of people who suggested that I should promote and campaign my blog on different platforms. I was shown the blogs of several top-notch professionals who write posts on a daily basis and have millions of followers. But frankly, I was never made to do all that. I feel uncomfortable in that space.

For me, my blog is now like an extension of my inner self. I scour my soul around to dig out the best of my abilities and then pour it out here in different shapes and forms. I take my own sweet time and patiently complete each post. I try and think of new and interesting topics to write on; not to impress anyone, but to challenge and please the writer in me. The views (1,33,000 plus at this point) have happened on their own accord. I have worked hard, very hard for developing my blog. Even though it hasn’t given me any monetary benefits, it has been a source of great fulfillment and has been the one thing that I always look forward to working on every month.

Sometimes, when a certain post which I had given a lot of effort into, hasn’t reached the desired audience, it has left me frustrated. But I have never given up. Even when the number of likes and comments from my friends from the initial days began dwindling, I did not give up. And I will not give up even when there is not even a single reader for my blog. Because writing for and reading my own posts in my blog has been very therapeutic. It helps me bloom. And I will not let it go.

I have worked on my blog like nurturing a plant. And to see it blossom the way it has today gives me a real sense of contentment. It is something I cannot really express properly in words. I am just proud that I have not given up on the dream I had when I started this blog – of thriving as a writer through it. That was the most basic, most simple and the initial thought I had when I ventured into this world and the dream continues to live on. Even as I write this, I have more than 20 topics lined up in my diary for my next blog topics. I feel excited as I keep thinking about how to go about their execution and feel really satisfied when I add a tick mark beside a topic I manage to successfully finish. It is an extensive and arduous but thoroughly fulfilling process.

We have both grown together, my blog and I. From ‘While We Were Sleeping’ to the present post, it has been a long and wonderful journey. In between the blog has taken different shapes and will, hopefully, keep evolving in the days to come. In these hundred posts, there have been various features, articles, interviews of varied personalities, short stories and tales of myriad kinds, along with some personal rants. Some have worked, some haven’t. But every single one of them has helped me in one way or the other. By the end of the next hundred posts, I would hope to explore some new genres and styles and bring in some fresh variety in my blog. That is the kick that keeps me moving.

For now, I just want to sit back and pat myself on the back for this accomplishment. Because only I know the kind of toil that has gone into the making of these 100 posts. So I congratulate myself on achieving this and sincerely thank each and every one of my reader who has ever taken out time to genuinely read my blog posts. Even when one of you appreciates my writing it makes my day; it eggs me on, and it forces me to shed off my laziness and work hard and keep improving.

So in the belief that there will be more intriguing writings and genres to explore, more friends to make, and, ultimately, more growth as a writer to be made in the future posts, I sign off. In the interim, I will eagerly look forward to the 200th one…

Monday, January 9, 2017

When Cartoons Made My Life: A Tribute To The Golden Age Of 90’s Cartoons (Part -2)

In the previous post of this series, I had discussed in detail about the Golden Age of cartoons in India and how they made my life back in the 90s so glorious. As I had promised there, I will be discussing, at length, about all the cartoon shows that left an impact on me from that phase in the remaining chapters of the series.

Here I present the first chapter (I will have two more to follow in all probabilities, but may extend it to another one). Do take note that I am not listing these shows here in any chronological order. I am just presenting them in the order as I deem fit. Also, bear in mind that these are not Wikipedia posts; I will just discuss what I loved about the particular cartoon show, what set it apart, its takeaways, and the likes.

Since there are too many cartoon shows that I loved to list here, I am dividing them up as five for each post. Hopefully, by the end of the last one, I would have covered all the ones that I dearly loved.

Suffice to say, delving into my memory lanes and finding out the various facets that I loved of my favourite cartoons shows has been a thoroughly pleasurable experience. It triggered a host of beautiful memories and allowed me to meet the wide-eyed child inside me once again. Hopefully, whilst you are reading this, some of you will feel something similar.

Tom and Jerry:

To actually put into words what I actually feel about this show, I will perhaps need a separate article altogether. In fact, it wouldn’t be an overstatement to say that it was Tom and Jerry which actually kindled the love for cartoons in me as a child. If I am not mistaken, the show initially aired on Saturday evenings and early Sunday mornings. It didn’t require much time for me to get hooked on to the awesome adventures of this cat and mouse. The stories were delightfully comical – mostly laugh-out-loud funny – and the animation was just so clean and adorable.

While Jerry was cute, I actually loved Tom more. The way he always got into troubles despite being so cocksure all the time, and his myriad expressions of anger, overconfidence, and fear, among various others, just had me howling with laughter. I could watch the show all day and actually waited eagerly for Cartoon Network to air the Tom and Jerry marathons during holiday seasons. What was more was that even my mother loved the show, laughing loudly and clapping in delight at the misadventures of this cat and mouse.

There were two productions of the show back then – one by Fred Quimby and one by Chuck Jones. I personally loved the Fred Quimby ones; their storylines were hilarious, music was really pleasing and the animation was just gorgeous. And although I did watch the Chuck Jones episodes as well, I remember I would groan every time they would telecast theirs instead of Fred Quimby. Regardless, this was an absolute golden cartoon show which entertained generations of children and made holidays that much more pleasant. I could just curl up into my blanket like a ball, watch endless Tom and Jerry episodes through the day and never get bored.

Tom and Jerry will always be the show which actually defined my cartoon love during my childhood years. I am yet to find a cartoon show which has such an incredible repeat value. And I doubt anyone ever will.


This was another cartoon show which had a significant impact on my childhood. Dubbed in Hindi for Indian audiences, this Disney series showed the adventures of the billionaire duck Uncle Scrooge and his three nephews Huey, Dewey, and Louie. Set in the fictional town of Dukburg, the series was simply fantastic; a perfect children adventure show having thrill, suspense, comedy and a lot of jolly good fun. The show worked for me mostly because the stories had that real feel-good effect to them. And I remember that on several occasions, I had imagined myself taking a dip in a pool of gold coins, just like Uncle Scrooge.

I especially loved the lucid animation style and the terrific voice acting by the Hindi artists; most notably of Uncle Scrooge. (A bit of research tells me that he was some Mr. Kamelkar from Pune who passed away last year. May his soul rest in peace. He really did charm the lives of several children during that age with the majestic way he voiced Uncle Scrooge.)

And lastly, the theme song of the show was something that I really enjoyed. I remember me and my cousins singing along when the show would begin and yell “Woo Hoo!” every time the particular words would be sung on screen.  Even today, I sometimes listen to the Hindi opening theme of DuckTakes just to get a feel of my childhood. Because listening to “Zindagi Suhaani Hai…” still reminds me how suhaani my childhood really was.

Dexter's Laboratory:

What a marvelous little show this was! I discovered this in my mid-teens and loved it thoroughly. I remember coming back from school and immediately switching to Cartoon Network to catch Dexter's Laboratory which aired in the 5 PM slot then. This show usually had quirky plotlines – centered around a young boy genius Dexter with his own laboratory and his eccentric sister Dee Dee. The stories would be absurd, far-fetched and a lot of fun.

All the characters in the show, including Dexter’s parents and his arch-nemesis Mandark, were absolutely wacky and extremely comical. Above all, what I really loved about the show was Dexter’s regular squabbles with Dee Dee, who, I must say, stole the show whenever she would be on screen. Dexter’s voice – which I found out much later was given by a woman named Christine Cavanaugh – was another brilliant feature of this series.

Overall, Dexter's Laboratory was a funtastic  cartoon show and will hold a prime place in my memory.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1987):

This one, I think, aired on Star World, and was an immensely enjoyable series. It had that classic animation style and real fun storylines filled with action, drama and comedy along with tongue in cheek humor.  

The stories revolved around four turtles – Leonardo, Michelangelo, Donatello, and Raphael – who are transformed into humanoids by a strange ooze. The turtles, who live in the sewers, are trained as ninjas warriors by a human martial arts master, Hamato Yoshi aka Splinter, who himself is changed into a humanoid rat and helps them in fighting crime.

This show fascinated me on several counts. First, the distinct weapons used by the four turtles – sword, nunchucks, staff and dagger – had me fixated. This was the first time I had come across such weapons and I would often imagine myself wielding the four weapons and vanquishing the bad guys on idle hours.

This series also introduced me to pizza for the first time. In those days, pizza wasn’t a prevalent snack in India and when I saw how the turtles relished eating it, it got me really interested. I assumed then that it must be a sweet-tasting food item but found out later how mistaken I was. Then, there was the voice of Shredder, the main villain of the show, which I really found fascinating. His deep, booming, and a tad robotic voice had me entranced and I and my brother would often try to emulate it. It was great fun.

While I never really tried rewatching Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the show holds a memorable place in my cartoon-watching memory for its immense fun-filled action, great camaraderie between the characters, lovely animation, and silly and goofy fun.

Batman: The Animated Series:

For me, this is by far the best representation of Batman. As a child, I wasn’t really much into Batman; he didn’t have superpowers like Superman and there weren’t any great shows, films or comic books for me to know more about him then. But once I discovered Batman: The Animated Series – it started airing in the mid-90s on Cartoon Network – I was blown over.

Right from the terrific opening theme to its myriad other features, this show was simply awesome. Brilliant animation, great voice acting, engaging storylines with the perfect blend of suspense, drama, and thrill made it one of the best television cartoon series I have watched. Batman’s cool gadgets, his cheeky humour, coupled with his fighting skills and sharp wit made me his fan instantly. The colourful cast of villains was great and how Batman eventually thwarted them was not always linear. This show helped me understand Batman properly and made me fall in love with him.

Although the series was goofy and cheesy at times, it could also get quite dark and heavy during several storylines which is why watching this was so captivating. The show was a combination of superb storytelling and dark atmosphere with a good hint of wit mixed in. It is one of those very rare cartoon show that has genuine repeat value for adults and children alike and can still lure you into its gripping world with relative ease.


So these were the first five selections of my favourite old cartoon shows from the 90s. In the subsequent posts (probably two of them), I will discuss some of the other cartoon great cartoon series that impacted my life during that golden era of animation in India.

For now, I will eagerly look forward to work on the next chapter. Very few things, after all, get me excited as much as discussing my love for cartoons from the Golden Age.  
Adios until then.

Friday, January 6, 2017

27 Underrated & Forgotten Gems of Music Maestro A.R. Rahman

About 25 years from now, I remember sitting in an old theater near my house and watching the film ‘Roja’. The Mani Ratnam-directed drama had become a sensation that year and people were thronging the cinema halls for repeat viewings. Apart from its incredible story, the film had also become immensely popular for one more thing – its music.

Roja introduced me and most of India, to one of its greatest ever musicians: A.R. Rahman. While watching Roja, I remember when the song ‘Yeh Haseen Waadiyaan’ came on screen, my mother, who sat next to me, exclaimed, “His music is so soothing.” I nodded quietly and instantly became in awe of him.

My elder brother, who, too, had become an ardent Rahman fan, then helped in intensifying my fascination for this genius over the next few years. He would excitedly buy the audio cassettes of all his famous albums – even dubbed versions of his Tamil hits. Dozens of cassettes and countless wonderful hours of listening and re-listening to numerous chart-busters of this musical maestro followed in the coming years. Those were very special days. Bombay, Dil Se, Humse Hai Muqabla, Vande Mataram, Taal and Lagaan, among a host of his other delightful gems from different films, made my growing up years that much more magical and memorable.

Even today, I always look forward to a Rahman album eagerly, even though it’s quite few and far between these days and despite the fact that people keep trying to write him off and prefer the younger generation composers in these times. I love listening to Rahman as he still offers something different and his compositions still have a unique soothing effect on me.

Last week, a friend of mine on Facebook - Nishant Mishra - who happens to be a devout Rahman fan himself, tagged me in an article which had listed 20 underrated gems of A.R. Rahman. After going through the list, which had some very obvious selections, I scoffed at it and proclaimed I could easily come up with a much better one. Nishant then urged me to do precisely that. And thus came the idea for this article. In the last few days, I and Nishant compiled this list of some truly underrated and forgotten gems of Rahman. It was fun assembling the list with him, really. It gave me an opportunity to travel back down memory lane and listen to some golden hits of my favourite musician. Both of us kept exchanging songs with each other and debated which one should be kept and which should be excluded. And if we had it our way, the list would have gone on to over 50. But mercifully, we have shortened it out to just 27.

I genuinely believe that our list is unique. While we have all heard of the legend’s famous chart-toppers on umpteen occasions, some of his underappreciated melodies deserve to be heard and given due merit as well. And I can vouch that every Rahman fan if they go through this list patiently, will have a smile on their face and have their memory tingled after they are through with it. So, enough of my rant now. I will let Rahman’s compositions do all the work from here.

Gurus Of Peace – Vande Mataram (1997):

Sung by Pakistani legend Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, along with Rahman himself, this was a true treasure hidden in the album Vande Mataram which had the monster hit ‘Maa Tujhe Salam’.  A genuinely heartfelt and touching number whose lyrics, perhaps, stand true today more than ever.

Kismat Se Tum Humko Mile Ho – Pukar (2000):

A delightful romantic track from the movie Pukar which had bigger hits like ‘Que Sera Sera’. Sonu Nigam and Anuradha Paudwal were fantastic in this track which should perhaps be heard while traveling to the mountains. Evokes a sense of longing this one.

Na Shiqwa Hota – Tehzeeb (2003):

This is not one of Rahman’s more popular albums. But the song is a real treasure. With soulful lyrics from Javed Akhtar and a profound rendition by Sujata Bhattacharya, the track has a terrific usage of lovely instruments and goes straight to the heart.

So Gaye Hain – Zubeidaa (2001):

It’s real unfortunate that Lata Mangeshkar the nightingale of India – worked with Rahman on very few instances. But whenever she did, the two created magic. As was the case with this number. An absolutely haunting melody which, if you are listening to it in solitude, sort of goes deep into the soul and churns it upside down.

Thoda Thoda – Indira (1995):

This is, apparently, a translated version. Regardless, it is a soothing romantic track, with the classic Rahman feel and is sung by two of his favourites - Hariharan and Chitra. The duo has given countless hits with Rahman and this one really tugs at the heartstrings delicately.

Ghoom Parani  - Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose: The Forgotten Hero (2004):

In an album which had a lot of wonderful gems, Ghoom Parani was a subtle and lovely number which has that old-world charm of Bengal in it. This Hindi-Bengali song has been sung by Sapna Mukherjee and Satyanarayan Mishra and feels like a soft lullaby being crooned by one’s grandmother.

Ek Mohabbat - Taj Mahal (1999):

It’s cruel how little Rahman utilizes his own brilliant voice. His charisma infuses life into this beautiful anthem for the film Taj Mahal. Lovely, uplifting and rousing. A true Rahman number.

Sun Ri Sakhi - Hum Se Hai Muqabala (1994):

Hum Se Hai Muqabla was a colossal musical hit. And this romantic song was drowned in between ‘Muqabala Muqabala’ and ‘Urvashi Urvashi’. But Hariharan is yet again at his marvelous best here in this song which leaves one all warm and fuzzy.

Do Qadam Aur Sahi -Meenaxi (2004):

Meenaxi is probably one of the most underrated Rahman albums ever. It is filled with some fabulous gems. And this one here is one of them. Sonu Nigam pours his heart into the romantic song and Rahman’s tuneful chords just caress our hearts lovingly.

Heera – Highway (2014):

Another song which was drowned in the bigger hits of its album. Highway’s ‘Pathaka Guddi’ and ‘Maahi Ve’ stole the show completely, but Heera was such a soulful piece that it should be given due significance. With lyrics penned by Irshad Kamil, Kash, Krissy, and Sant kabir, this beautiful song feels like a sweet lullaby which a mother is singing to her child at night. Really endearing.

Mera Rang De Basanti - The Legend of Bhagat Singh (2002):

A patriotic Rahman number which doesn’t get enough credit. The Legend of Bhagat Singh has a few classics up its sleeve and Mera Rang De Basanti stands right up there. The lyrics, obviously, are well-known, but Rahman’s deft use of musical instruments and the vocal chords of Sonu Nigam and Manmohan Waris make this a classic patriotic song that will stand the test of time for years to come.

Dheemi Dheemi  - 1947 Earth (1998):

This is another truly underrated Rahman album and features some wonderful tracks. Dheemi Dheemi by the evergreen Hariharan is a deeply endearing romantic melody and should be enjoyed in the evenings while sitting on your balcony, watching the sun go down.

Nahin Samne – Taal (1999):

Taal was one of Rahman’s biggest hits as a composer. We are well aware of ‘Taal se taal mila’, ‘Ishq Bina’ and ‘Ramta Jogi’. However, ‘Nahin Saamne Tu’ is such a stirring, profound and heartfelt number that it should get much more acclaim. Hariharan is in tremendous form here and the track really plucks at the soul poignantly.

Man Mohana - Jodhaa Akbar (2008):

Jodha Akbar will always be cherished as one of Rahman’s best works. Sadly, this track did not get the praise it should have. A beautiful devotional song, rather an expression of love from a devotee to her Lord, which is just charming to listen to. The more you go deep into the song, especially towards the very end, you will realize that this is an absolutely haunting melody sung spiritedly by Bela Shende.  

Apne Desh ki Mitti - Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose: The Forgotten Hero (2004):

A song which makes us yearn for our land, our country. Although not in the same vein as ‘Ye Jo Des Hai Tera’ this is a really wonderful composition that deserves to be kept in your playlist, especially for times when you are away from home.

Ajooba – Jeans (1998):

Hariharan and AR Rahman never fail. And this track corroborates the same again. In an album which didn’t have many hits, Ajooba is a soft, adorable number which is really captivating. This is a classic Rahman rendition of the 90s that just alleviates the heart.

Naina Neer - Water (2005):

Based on Raag Bhatiyar and rendered movingly by Sadhna Sargam, Naina Neer is beautiful, sad, soulful and soothing at the same time. Water has many underrated Rahman gems, and this song really does stand out because of the way it directly touches the soul.

Sarfaroshi Ki Tamanna (Sad) Legend of Bhagat Singh (2002):

Sonu Nigam gave all his soul to this beautifully composed patriotic song. While these lyrics were legendary much before this song was released, but the poignant manner in which it has been presented deserves kudos. This is a sad, heart-rending, and extremely passionate piece.

Festival (Instrumental) – 127 Hours (2010):

Rahman should also be celebrated for his beautiful and innumerable instrumentals as well. This one here is from the Danny Boyle-directed film 127 Hours. The music leaves you feeling roused, uplifted, inspired, emotional, and happy. It is one of the best ending music used in a film and is a must-listen when one is down or seeking some inspiration. Trust me.

Khamosh Raat – Thakshak (1999):

A song which has, perhaps, been long forgotten even by the most ardent Rahman fan. Roop Kumar Rathod breathes life into the sublime lyrics from Mehboob in this real underrated Rahman treasure. The song has an eternal feeling of longing and, as the name suggests, deserves to be heard on a silent light while gazing up at the moon. Guaranteed to take you into some other world.

Hawa Sun Hawa – Ada (2010):

This terrible film was lit up solely because of Rahman’s fantastic numbers. Among the many, Hawa sun hawa, deserves a mention as it has the perfect magical blend of Rahman and Sonu Nigam. A truly brilliant romantic number.

Dheeme Dheeme - Zubeidaa (2001):

Rahman is a master when it comes to composing period pieces and Zubeidaa was no different. Dheeme Dheeme sung by Kavita Krishnamurthy is a charming and delightful song that has an evergreen essence to it. You can hear it at any time of the day and this lilting composition is bound to lighten your mood up.

Boondon se Baatein - Thakshak (1999):

This is a melodious tune which deserves to be heard for Rahman’s masterful use of the flute interspersed with superb beats, and for Sujata Trivedi’s smooth and flowing voice. The song has amazing depth and heart and has an overall cheerful warmth. A true underappreciated Rahman composition.   

Do Nishaaniyan - Jhootha hi Sahi (2010):

This song went completely unnoticed but was a real find. Sonu Nigam and Rahman yet again come together to create a soulful and calmative number. It makes us yearn. It makes us feel and has real heart-melting qualities. Really deserves more appreciation.  

Chikku Bukku Raile(Tamil) – Gentleman (1993):

This is a Tamil dance number and might feel a tad odd in this list. But this one holds a lot of prominence in my life as it was my eternal favourite through my boyhood days. I was crazy about this song, really. Without knowing the lyrics, I would attempt to garble out the words while listening to it on our old cassette player and dance like mad. Prabhu Deva’s incredible dance moves obviously played a significant part in making me love this song, but Rahman’s mix of traditional with western music in this one is outstanding (especially of the moving train). Even when I listen to it now, I feel like getting up and dancing my heart out. A really uplifting dance number if ever there was one. A timeless Rahman classic.

Masoom - Vande Mataram (1997):

For some reason, this lovely song went unnoticed from the album which had other, more renowned hits. Regardless, it is a superb track sung beautifully by Rahman himself. It is meaningful and emotive. It makes you think and fall in love with your country and countrymen. Perhaps this mellow number is much needed in these times.

Pyare Panchi Bahon Mein –Hindustani (1996):

It's been close to 20 years I think since I last listened to this wonderful song. The very moment I hit the play button on this, I was instantly transported back to my childhood and immediately my eyes welled up. Within a second...The very first memory that came with it was I and my elder brother listening to this song on our old cassette player. The song has simple and beautiful lyrics, a soulful rendition by Yesudas and, of course, the magic of Rahman. Really takes you back to time when life was simple and reminds you that it still can be.


So here is our exhaustive list, then. If you have gone through it, I am certain you would have felt pleased somewhat; in spite of feeling that some of your own underrated favourite Rahman classics should have been featured here.

Nevertheless, I really enjoyed doing this. It was something unique and not something I have ever done for my blog. The process allowed me to fall in love with the genius of A.R. Rahman once again. More than anything else, though, this activity reminded me of those simpler times... I, my brother, our old cassette player, and A.R. Rahman...Good days they were...

So I will sign off now, in the hope that the legend of A.R. Rahman will live on forever. And in the hope that I may somehow turn back time one of these days and then get to rediscover his magic … Much like that wide-eyed kid who once listened to him for the first time while watching Roja in a dingy, little theater.

                                                                                                                                                                                      In collaboration with Nishant Mishra