I never get much comments on my birthday posts, but this one I have hopes! I am picking, maximum, only 50 songs. Which means I am obviously going to be leaving brilliance out. You get to point out the important things I missed in the comments!
1. 1. I love you because the Tamil film industry loves you, after the death of your film musician father, they took you in and gave you work as a young teen so that you could support the rest of your family.
2. I love you because you didn’t stop in the comfortable place of session musician, but kept driving yourself on, starting your on jingle writing business for advertisements.
3. I love you because your return to film is one of the great stories of a director and composer coming together, Mani Ratnam hearing your jingle and seeking you out and convincing you to turn down a scholarship to the Berkeley Conservatory of Music and instead stay in Madras and work with him.
4. I love you because your very first soundtrack was a classic that made you immediately popular not just in Tamil Nadu, but through out India once it was dubbed into other languages.
5. I love you because your immediate national fame did not effect your commitment to remaining in Madras and in the Tamil film industry.
6. I love you because ROJA (I really love the way they shout it out in the chorus).
7. I love you because your next big national Ratnam hit introduced Tamil hip-hop sound to India.
8. I love you because Bombay is still the top selling album in India, every song a classic. This one is my favorite.
9. I love you because you wrote the ultimate song of love and longing.
10. I love you because that same year, you did your first straight up Hindi film, with Ram Gopal Verma, and made another classic soundtrack.
11. A soundtrack with a very different sound as was appropriate for this very different director.
12. And a joyful memorable title song that set the tone for the whole film and announced the arrival of a new composer and a new director who would change Hindi film forever.
13. I love you because in between Roja and Bombay and Rangeela, you squeezed in another important collaboration, writing the most famous song for the best dancer in India, “Urvashi” and Prabhudeva.
14. I love you because you worked with Prabhudeva again and this time created songs that perfectly captured what he was trying to do in his dance, whether it was a clever challenge song.
15. Or a dreamy Gene Kelly style love song.
16. I love you because within 5 years restarting your film career, you had become an international superstar, so important that producers from all over India came to your Madras studio, eager to work with you.
17. I love you because you stayed focused more on the music than the fame, not slowing down your output or its quality.
18. I love you because all your soundtracks are good, but the ones for films with messages you believe in, or directors you respect, are a little extra good.
19. I love you because it has been 25 years since you burst on the scene, and you have only gotten better.
20. I love you because you were the first Indian artist to break out of Indian film into the west and you have handled it with grace.
21. I love you because you only did 3 movies in 1998 and they were all classics. First, Jeans, for which you wrote “Poovukkul”.
22. Then Dil Se, which brought you to international notice. I love every song from that movie, but this is my favorite I think.
23. And finally, Doli Saja Ke Rakhna, with this super cute stalker song.
24. You were the soundtrack for Akshaye again in Taal. Which is also the soundtrack I listened to while falling asleep my first two years in college.
25. One more Taal song! So we can appreciate young Shahid Kapoor.
26. Moving on! The 2000s started with the amazing combo of Madhuri, Prabhudeva, and AR Rahman.
27. You followed that up by a return to your start, another love story with Mani Ratnam, possibly the greatest Mani Ratnam love story.
28. Much though I love Alaipayuthey, I think this may be my favorite Rahman song of the year.
29. 2001 was maybe your most Hindi year. Starting things off with Zubeidaa.
30. Following it with One 2 Ka 4.
31. And finally, Lagaan!
32. I love you because after Lagaan you began to get more and more Western offers from movies to stage shows, and yet you kept your best stuff for your Indian work.
33. I love you because you have kept your private life primarily private and the focus on your work. You are married, you are Muslim (by conversion, not birth), and you have children. But beyond those basic facts, there isn’t much you feel we need to know about you.
34. I love you because you do massive stadium concerts all over the world, bringing your music to the people who love it.
35. I love you because you aren’t afraid to put your soul into your music, giving us religious hymns, patriotic anthems, along with silly little love songs.
36. I love you because you have remained above all divisions. Language groups, religious communities, politics, you avoid it all.
37. I love you because this song is somehow both simple and complex, the perfect version of spirituality.
38. I love you because you have rearranged “Vande Mataram” twice. First the version which is now the accepted classic.
39. And then again for Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Sey
40. I love you because along with remixing the unofficial national anthem, you also remixed the official one.
41. And you wrote a patriotic anthem for those living overseas.
42. I love you because you also wrote “Rang De Basanti” twice. First for Legend of Bhagat Singh.
43. And then again, my preferred version, for Rang De Basanti.
44. I love you because Rang De Basanti is my all time favorite of your soundtracks, and this is my all time favorite of the songs on it.
45. I love you because my second favorite of your albums is something totally different, Tamil and silly and light. Which just shows your incredible range.
46. I love you because you also captured mature love, in your delightful married love song “Tere Bina”.
47. I love you because you kept challenging yourself, working with new directors like Gautham Menon.
48. And Abbas Tyrewala.
49. And Imtiaz Ali
50. But you still saved your best work for your first director, your true creative partner.
And finally, the bonus 51st reason, the song that still dominates the global consciousness of Indian film, the song that has been used by everyone from Spike Lee to Andrew Lloyd Weber.