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Bright launch

WHAT DOES ``Bombay Dreams" foretell for Rahman and things Indian in the West? A. R. Rahman has received two offers from Hollywood. Given the response of the audiences to his music, there could well be more. Not all of the music works, of course. Nor can it be expected that all of the15 songs in the production will be equally hummable. It is true also that the catchiest of them all is "Chhaiyan Chhaiyan", in the original. From the old labels ``Yai Re Yai Re" does not work particularly well. But there are at least two new ones, ``Love's never easy" and ``The Journey Home" that stay well past going home time. And of course the splendour that goes with ``Shakalaka Baby" alone makes it memorable. With a mixed bag of all these, Rahman hopes to make his mark in the West, and not just with Indian audiences.

London is the place to launch from. "It's just eight hours from Bombay, six hours from New York, ten hours from Chennai and one hour from Paris," he puts it simply. This is the first time his music is going out directly to a Western audience. "I want Indians to come to the musical of course, but I also want Western audiences, Chinese, Japanese, I want everybody to come."

Rahman wants audience fusion outside India, in India. "We should not think of Chennai and Bombay, we should think of India and India," he says. "The minute you think of states and language and religion, you only divide things." Rahman wants Indian singers to go global. And go for the Grammy awards. Why not? ``We have fantastic singers but we need a new attitude that can bridge the gap between east and west," he says. ``Sometimes what is very good for us might not be welcomed outside, and so we need to do something about that," he says and continues, ``It's been quite a change doing the music for songs in English... I've done music for commercials in English but this is the first time I'm doing whole songs... I think it's not bad."

For someone who has made so many films successful, Rahman is not a fan of much of Indian cinema in recent years. ``Until `Lagaan' there was no hope in Bombay films after `Hum Aapke Hain Kaun,'" he says. People had thought that only those wedding kind of films would click. Aamir Khan might well have been starring in ``Bombay Dreams" if he had not been so busy with `Lagaan,' Rahman says. Also, ``singing-wise it was a bit difficult for Amir."

Andrew Lloyd Webber says Rahman will go far in the West. ``Rahman is popular and writing really good tunes, as Paul McCartney did 30 years ago," Webber says. ``He is, in my opinion, writing that sort of quality of melody. His quality of melody and his musical structure are not Western, but I think they will have an appeal in the West, I really do. It was great to have Rahman doing the music for `Bombay Dreams.' It's a very good score, it's a wonderful score," he says.

``At the end of the day a musical comes down to just this; is the story any good, and are the songs any good. And I think I could say that in this both are first rate."

The critics have been less then generous to ``Bombay Dreams." The Times critic says this musical will be lucky to outlast the cricket season. But oddly, bookings are rising by the day, and the advance period is lengthening. It's still early to say how long this musical will last, but The Times is more likely than not to have to eat its words.

S.S

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