Which one is hate and which one is love, Dilip Kumar Mudaliar@A R Rahman?
by S V Badri on 25 Feb 2009 92 Comments

This is not to belittle the genius and success of A R Rahman. This is just to connect his recent statement at the Oscars to his background, and to reveal the unknown face Rahman was so clever as to keep under wraps. This is to bring to surface the second Rahman – one who took to hating his natal religion the moment he took to Islam.

To the entire world, he is humility personified. He is pious, religious, genius, the very best. So be it.

His second Oscar acceptance speech gave him away. It allowed us a sneak preview of the core of Rahman:
All my life I had a choice of hate or love. I chose love, and I’m here

To understand the statement, one must dig into his early life. It shows deeply hidden hatred for Hindus and Hindu Dharma, ever since he converted to Islam. Even I, who had seen him work from very close quarters on two projects in his pre-Roja days, was bowled over by his simplicity and humility. He nurtured this fine art for years to win over many of his producers and the public.

The early days of A.S. Dilip Kumar

He was born as A.S. Dilip Kumar to R.K. Sekhar and Kasturi (now Kareena Begum) in a Tamil Mudaliar family, the second of three children. His sisters are Kanchana (Rehana after conversion, which resulted in divorce from her staunch Hindu husband), and Fathima.

Kanchana’s son, G.V. Prakash, who has shot to fame as a music director having already scored music to many films starting with Veyyil and Rajnikant’s Kuchelan, is also a staunch Hindu like his father. G.V. Prakash was the synthesizer player for Chettinad Vidyashram’s music troupe as a nine-year-old when my son, Aditya Kasyap, then in class XI, was the music club secretary and lead singer.

R.K. Sekhar (Dilip aka Rehman’s father) was an immensely talented musician, with no real breaks in the film field. He was more a conductor of orchestra for Salil Chowdhary and Devarajan in Malayalam filmdom (Mollywood). Yet his father’s passion for music was so embedded in Dilip’s genes that when he was just four-years-old, he started playing the harmonium. Later he learnt piano under the famous Dhanraj Master. His father gifted him a Synthesizer bought on a trip to Singapore, and this instrument so fascinated young Dilip that it became the source of sounds that would change the Indian film music world later.

In an interview, he says: “My father passed away when I was 9 years old. My mother used to narrate many tales about my father which used to make me very happy. My father was regarded to be highly knowledgeable in music by many people. I still listen to many of the old songs tuned by him. I think that it’s his enormous knowledge of music that has come down to me by the grace of God.”

Sekhar died ironically on the day of the release of his first film. Young Dilip had tagged along with his mother, hopping from one hospital to other, including CMC, Vellore, and to Bible-toting pastors and Sheik Abdul Qadir Jeelani (Pir Qadri), but it was too late…

He became an atheist. When 11 years old, he joined as keyboard player in Illayaraja’s troupe, struggled hard and slowly made a name with his popular jingles. His loss of faith in God continued through his teens when in 1988 one sister fell seriously ill. Medicines, havans and Bible-reading pastors failed to revive her. The family finally tried the same Pir Qadri, whom they called very late in the case of Sekhar. Dilip’s sister made a miraculous recovery. This was attributed to the Pir and Dilip slowly came under his influence. Gradually, the entire family converted to Islam; Kanchana even accepted divorce as the price of conversion.

Thus A.S. Dilip Kumar became Allah Rakha Rahman. Today, Rahman says “Islam has given me peace. As Dilip I had an inferiority complex. As A.R. Rahman I feel like I have been born again” [http://members.tripod.com/gopalhome/arrbio.html]

Asked what prompted him to convert to Islam, he said: “I remember my father suffering. He was taken to eight to nine hospitals, including the CMC hospital in Vellore and the Vijaya hospital in Madras. I saw him suffering physical pain... I remember the Christian priests who would read from the Bible beside his hospital bed... I remember the pujas and the yagnas performed by the pundits... by the time the Muslim pirs came it was too late. He had already left us. After my father passed away, for some years when I was a teenager, I believed there was no God. But there was a feeling of restlessness within me. I realised that there can be no life without a force governing us... without one God. And I found what I was looking for in Islam. I would go with my mother to dargahs. And Pirsaab Karim Mullashah Qadri would advise us. When we shifted to this house, we resolved to stick to the faith.”

The family’s penchant to check with astrologers did not desert them even after converting to Islam; an astrologer chose Dilip’s Islamic name! He gave him the name Abdul Rahman, but insisted that he should have two initials, so he became Abdul Rahman Rahman. Later, Naushad turned ‘A.R.’ to Allah Rakha, and Dilip Kumar became Allah Rakha Rahman.

It is reputed that G. Venkateshwaran of GV Films and his brother Mani Ratnam had some misunderstanding with Illayaraja, and that is how Rahman was picked for Roja; the rest is history.

A Roja becomes a slumdog - Hate vs. Love

All my life I had a choice of hate or love. I chose love, and I’m here.”

Was the Oscar stage was so intoxicating that the truth had to come out? Dilip alias Rahman must explain what ‘hate’ is and what ‘love’ is. Does he mean that Hindu Dharma is ‘hate’ and that is why he deserted it; that Islam is ‘love’ and that is why he embraced it? Could he achieve these musical heights in any of the known Islamic paradises now blooming in the neighbourhood? Above all, is not this music itself the gift of Hindu Bharat?

A colleague and Rahman apologist mumbled that the musical wonder actually meant ‘Wahabi Islam’ when he spoke about ‘hate,’ and that ‘love’ referred to Sufi Islam – I am too old for such stories. If that is indeed what Rahman meant, then that is what he should have said – that too at a moment when he had the whole world’s attention, and adulation.

Tail Piece

It is pertinent to recall that in the immediate aftermath of Partition, the Peshawar-born and immensely talented Yusuf Khan took the film name Dilip Kumar to deflect possible non-acceptance by a Hindu audience. In the same era, however, Waheeda Rahman boldly stuck to her maiden name, and proved that Hindu Bharat was above petty prejudice and openly nurtured talent.

Certainly Dilip-Rahman deserves his success. But I am disappointed with his ‘hate’ versus ‘love’ acceptance speech. This was actually the moment for him to say Vande Mataram.

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