1. Leo Coffee
Leo Coffee may not be the first advertisement that A.R.Rahman composed music for, but it is the jingle that put on him the spotlight so bright so that Maniratnam could not help but notice. From those few seconds of jingle music, it was evident that Dilip had in him, what was needed to become A.R.Rahman. Even in those 30 seconds long piece of music, there is a definitive musical motif. The piece is structured with a well defined beginning where the motif gets introduced, a transient middle that sustains the mood set by the main motif, a neat ending where the theme reprises.
It is early morning. A traditional south Indian wife is doing her chores. A Veena plays a serene melody that sounds as traditional as the woman and fresh as the hot brewing coffee. She puts the coffee powder in a container that collects the decoction. The strokes on accompanying Tabla are hesitant. The Coffee is still in the making. A flute plays a flourishing melody, with which Rahman gives a musical nod to the group of birds that are flapping their wings off for a breezy flight in the morning light.
Meanwhile, when the woman goes to do her other jobs, the piece drifts from the main theme and plays to the surreal montage. The cuts in the visuals are quicker, and fittingly an energetic Thavil rhythm replaces the lazy Tabla strokes. Also, there are no pauses between phrases in the melody. Coffee is ready. When she brings the Coffee to her man, the main theme reprises again and brings the musical piece and the visual montage to a most satisfying closure.
We do not know for sure whether the music for Leo Coffee was composed for the visuals, but while watching it now it is difficult to assume otherwise. We do not know if composing music for jingles helps a musician to become a song composer, but if it is done in the way it is in Leo Coffee advertisement, it sure will help them become a film music composer – the kind who writes music for images in motion. If I listen to such a jingle now, I would think of the composer as someone who could be a decent film score composer.
It is an extremely challenging and daunting task for a jingle composer to write background music for a full length feature film, which typically is 150 minutes long. A.R.Rahman himself admitted in an interview that he was quite scared about scoring for a full length feature film. We may never get to know whether Maniratnam thought about the background score of the film when he chose A.R.Rahman for Roja, but Rahman spell the same magic in the background score of Roja as he did in the songs.
Maniratnam believed in Rahman. Roja happened. You are reading this book.