November 4th the town of Markham, Canada, close to downtown Toronto, received the extremely rare honor of hosting Oscar-winning, global music superstar A.R. Rahman. In a ceremony organized by the Indian International Film Festival of Toronto (IIFFT) the world-renowned composer joined with the local city government, invited media and a bevy of lucky guests to accept several honors from his ardent Canadian fans, including his own commemorative stamp and the official announcement of a formal “Allah-Rakha Rahman Street” for the city of Markham.
The occasion was a part of IIFFT’s mission to celebrate 100 years of Indian cinema and paid tribute to a man & philanthropist who has had an immeasurable impact on global music, cinema and Broadway, educates the world’s brightest young musicians and consistently preaches messages of peace.
The Vedic Cultural Centre in Markham was filled with ardent “Rahmaniacs” inching for a close up view of their favorite composer, who entered without any flair or pomp, but simply his signature humility and smile.
Markham Mayor Frank Scarpitti joyously welcomed Tamil Nadu’s pride to his city, and after discussing how the diversity of Markham fit perfectly in line with Rahman’s universal anthems of ‘infinite love’ and welcoming IIFFT, spoke specifically about how he had the chance to visit Rahman’s birth place and explained how he recognized the greatness of the people of Chennai, burgeoning with many different talents, and visibly proud of their “Mozart of Madras”.
While honoring AR Rahman with a brief summary of his career the mayor himself seemed taken aback at the sheer number of accolades Rahman already has to his name at such a young age – over 100 awards, including 2 Oscars, 1 Golden Globe, 2 Grammys, and 28 Filmfares. Scarpitti also pointed out that Rahman is currently in the running for a 2013 MTV Europe Music Award.
When it came to the true wealth of Rahman’s genius, not measured in statues but instead in the amount of fan devotion he receives all over the world, the Consul General of India to Toronto, Mr. Akhilesh Mishra best summed it up with: “your music is not the product of the instruments you play, it comes from your heart, and that’s why it touches hearts all around the world.”
After a few more speeches from IIFFT’s Chairman of the Board and Directors to thanking Rahman for honoring us with his presence on such short notice, the Mayor unveiled Markham’s newest street sign and had the quiet Rahman chuckling with amusement when he proclaimed it would only be fair that Rahman returned at least once a year to sing on ‘his street’ for its future residents.
The ceremony comes on the cusp of Deepavali, one of South Asia’s most celebrated festivals that is heavily commemorated in Canadian culture as well. In speaking to Behindwoods Markham Councillor Logan Kanapathi explained how “diversity isn’t just being talked about in Markham, it is working” and how it is the perfect time to have not only a South Asian superstar but an internationally known musician visit a place full of his diverse fan following at “this festive time of year when Diwali is not just for India, or South Asia, but all of Canada as well.
Rahman, of course, was a man of few words, who took to the microphone only briefly to thank the city of Markham and IIFFT for these honors and to proclaim his desire to continue spreading Indian culture in diverse lands such as Canada, because with it comes incredible happiness and color, as seen in Indian cinema.
The celebration was enjoyed by all present who were no doubt in agreement that chances like these, to see South India’s pride & joy, and one of the most influential people of all time at
such close range, and join in the honoring of a man who has melodically changed the course of history, come about very rarely in a lifetime.