This goes back to the August or September of 1991. I was the lead singer one of India’s most respected and trend setting Rock Band of South India ‘ NEMESIS AVENUE ‘. Those were times of the Rock band Shiva in Calcutta and Rock Machine in Bombay. When MTV was just making a entry to India and Indian Rock was looking for International recognition. Although the favorite Rock band that I ever sang for will always remain ‘ OUR SOULS ‘ ( Rajat Sood, Vero Desa , Mitesh Asher and myself ) a band that was among India’s first Metal Bands. We covered Black Sabbath, Ozzy Osborne, AC/DC and the likes, days when I was studying in Elphinstone College Bombay, the most talented and gifted contemporary Indian Rock musicians that I ever played with will always be NEMESIS AVENUE.Original line up Paul Jacob, Calistus D’Costa,Suresh Peters, Sudhin Prabhakar, Donna Murray and myself on Vocals. The band in time played with all the leading musicians of Chennai. You name it, Jim Satya, Uday Balasundaram, Eugiene D’Costa and anybody else who was of any stature in the Rock N Roll circuit of the time.
The biggest name among the studio musician of the time in Madras ( now Chennai ) was a Dilip Kumar. Known through out the Industry and even making a mark in Bombay the Advertising capital of India. He was known as ‘The Jingle King’.Suresh Peters our drummer was than working with an Advertising Agency and had done some work with Dilip and told us he is the greatest Keyboard player he has heard and he was interested to perform with a Rock Band !!! Paul Jacob our Bass guitarist screamed ‘ bring him on lets hear this guy ‘. So Suresh set it up and in our small house in Sabhapaty Steer Aiynawaram Madras which Paul, Uday and myself had taken up as a Band pad we were as usual practicing and waiting for this ‘JINGLE KING ‘.
A small simple guy walked in with a small Keyboard in his hand in a Ambassador car. This was Dilip Kumar. We all smiled greeted each other and introduced ourselves and Dilip set up his Keyboards. Once he was all geared up Dilip asked ‘ Which song ?’ as we had given him a list of songs we perform. Suresh Peters said ‘ Tom Sawyer ‘RUSH. Everybody said Yea yea Tom Sawyer. Suresh gave the count with his drum sticks and we started….. ATOM BOMB ! That sound that day in the practice room was the hottest sound I have heard of a Rock band in practice and mind you I had sung with some of the biggest Rock Bands of the time including Rock Machine of Bombay but this was something else. My hair stood up. I looked at Sudhin. He had a big grin on his face and all the band members were smiling. We had never heard NEMESIS AVENUE like this before. Dilip was seriously playing oblivious of our excitement. The first show we played together was ‘JHIVE LIVE’ an Aids Awareness concert organised by ARFI ( Aids Research Foundation of India ) an organisation working on awareness of AIDS which was a super hit and the band was in the next few shows soon featured on MTV although that was the only show Dilip featured with us.
The music Industry in India was just opening up and we were keen to make our first album.We soon approached Shashi Menon and Nikhil Raghavan who had a label calld INTUNE music and were tied up with Crescendo music Bombay who had a tie up with International label BMG.
Shashi straight away felt this was a good package and offered to produce the album. We were all excited this was our big break. Dilip offered to be Executive Producer and we recorded one song together’ Boogie Man’ . Before we could record our next song Dilip told us that he had an offer to Direct music for a Tamil Film and we should wait till he finishes it before we get back to our album.
I was restless and after some debate in the band we decided forget Dilip lets do this album ourselves as we had the Producer and could hire any Sessions Keyboard player from the market. The Band broke down Sudhin, Suresh and Uday quit and our Bass player Paul and me were left with our songs so we went ahead and released the album as SIGN of 4. Critically acclaimed the album was doomed as everybody had a sour taste in their mouths about the whole thing. I left Rock music for good and moved to London and then joined a Hospital in Vellore as a Media Coordinator making Documentary Films.
The same year Dilips first Tamil Film ROJA was released and he had taken his new avatar which we learnt was a personal spiritual decision with guidance from a family sufi mentor and India heard for the first time the sensation A.R. RAHMAN . Over night he became a Super Star, sensation and personally ‘Chinna chinna Ahsai ‘ is one of my all time favorite top 10 commercials songs. His genius was just making its impact all over the country.
Years past and we all moved on with our lives and than one day I was visiting Chennai thought will go and pay him a visit and meet my friend The Super Star A.R. Rahman. When I reached his house I was shocked he was on Z level Security and was scrutinized of who I was ? After some discussion they realized that I am indeed an old friend and let me in. I walked in to the small office of Noel ( then Rahmans Manager a close friend ) and after some chit chat was taken in to meet Rahman . He was as usual sitting on his keyboard and met me with a big smile. This may sound unreal but I mean it I felt like I could see a glow around his head. It was unbelievable this was definitely not the Dilip Kumar that I knew. He said Hi How are you ? I replied Great and he got back engrossed in his work with me sitting in his studio quietly. Suddenly he was replaying a song he was working on and I said “Aye “. He got alert and said What What and went back to the piece. There was a sound which was flat he looked at me smiled and corrected it. We were still sitting in silence.Then he dropped the Bomb.
What happened to that Album we were supposed to work on ?
It pierced me like an arrow straight to my heart. I just put my head down and remained silent.We had no conversation what so ever and finally I said ‘ Chal, I’ll leave’ . He smiled looked up and walked me till the door when I looked back at him his only words were ‘If you ever do any work in Public check your name with a numerologist and believe in God all will be well’. I smiled and we said Bye and I left. The meeting has always had a deep impact on my life as he humbled me.
Today years later when I sit back and reflect on it and if I ever get to meet him again. The only thing I will tell him is ‘ Yes Rahman Bhai. I too now personally believe there is a God and he is a kind and loving God and we can see him everywhere it is for us to identify him as I see it he is in us and we are in him’.
Written by Chandran Tattvaraj also known as Chandran Christian.