Wednesday, October 03, 2018

Memories Of Yore

It took the violinist Balabhaskar a few attempts before he was able to meet his idol, composer A R Rahman. He recounted his feelings in an earlier interview even as his wife Lakshmi remembered their love story

Photos by Manu R Mavelil 

Shevlin Sebastian

Whenever I went to Chennai for work, I would make sure I would go past [music composer] A.R. Rahman’s house,” said Balabhaskar at a meeting on Marine Drive, Kochi, a few years ago. “It was like visiting a temple. I would see the house and feel good inside.”

Bhaskar heard the soundtrack of ‘Roja’ when he was in Class nine and became a fan. His next attempt to see Rahman was when singer Chitra Iyer [who sang the Rahman hit, ‘Alle, Alle’ in the Tamil film, ‘Boys’] took him inside. But Rahman was sleeping. “I was heart-broken,” he said.

But fate finally smiled at him. For the audio release of director T.K. Rajeev Kumar’s film, ‘Seethakalyanam’, Rehman was invited to Thiruvananthapuram. Kumar asked Balabhaskar to play a tribute on the violin. “It was a great opportunity,” said Balabhaskar. “I was playing Rahman’s songs, like 'Tu He Re' from ‘Bombay’, and doing some improvisations. And I was thinking, ‘My God is sitting so close’. It was the greatest experience of my life.”

After the programme, Rahman invited the violinist to his hotel room. “One of the first things he said was, ‘Hey man, you seem to be popular,” said Balabhaskar. “What are you doing?’”

Balabhaskar told him about his band and Rahman responded by inviting him to visit his studio in Chennai. “He was so simple and humble,” said Balabhaskar, as he closed his eyes and a look of bliss appeared on his face. “When I left, I was shouting on the road. I was so thrilled.”

Wife Lakshmi remembers

The first time Lakshmi met Balabhaskar was at University College, Thiruvananthapuram in 2000. Soon, they began to meet regularly. After a while, Balabhaskar proposed marriage. “I felt he was joking,” said Lakshmi. “So I told him to get lost.” But Balabhaskar was not upset. He said, “Your answer does not change my feelings for you.” So, he kept on proposing. And Lakshmi kept on rejecting him. “But one day, I finally realised he was serious about me,” said Lakshmi.

Balabhaskar went and met Lakshmi's parents. “Like most parents, they were against the idea,” said Lakshmi. “They told me that both of us were so young. And Balabhaskar had no job.”

So, without informing their parents, they had a registered marriage, on December 20, 2001, at Thiruvananthapuram, in the presence of a few friends. Eventually, both sets of parents accepted their marriage.

Asked to list Bala's plus points, Lakshmi said, “He was committed to his music. Bala put in 100 per cent in whatever he was doing, whether it was a jingle or a song. And even though he was always busy, travelling from city to city, he would never say, 'I cannot do this for you because I am travelling or busy'. He was always there for me.”

And Lakshmi had got used to the fact that music was his greatest passion. “I did not have a problem with that,” she says. “Because music made my husband so happy. I could see it in his eyes when he was performing. He became a different person on stage. Bala loved to do shows, and got encouraged by the vibes of the audience. A performance was a kind of meditation for him.”

Tragically, Balabhaskar died on October 2, aged 40, following a car accident. His two-year-old daughter, who was in the car, passed away earlier. Lakshmi remains in hospital. 

(The New Indian Express, Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram)

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