A.R. Rahman postpones* remainder of his North American tour [Updated]
A Bollywood megastar and prolific film composer estimated to have sold more than 350 million albums worldwide, he’s revered as a musical demigod across the Indian diaspora. In the U.S, of course, Rahman is best known as the guy behind the "Slumdog Millionaire" soundtrack who nabbed two Oscars, a Golden Globe and two Grammys for his propulsive scoring contributions to the hit 2008 indie romance.
So earlier this month, as he embarked on his "A.R. Rahman Jai Ho Concert: The Journey Home World Tour" -- which was scheduled to reach the Forum in Los Angeles on Sunday -- Rahman’s plan was twofold: to connect with his adoring Desi fans while also tapping into his newfound popularity among non-Desis, packing sports arenas across North America and Europe along the way.
Steeped in spectacle and exerting a high-tech razzle-dazzle more in step with, say, Lady Gaga than a composer dubbed "the Mozart of Madras," the dates went off without a hitch in New York, New Jersey and Chicago. But disaster struck when Rahman hit Detroit last Saturday.
According to artistic director Amy Tinkham, the infrastructure at the Motor City’s Pontiac Silverdome was not strong enough to support a lighting rig and buckled beneath its weight. The apparatus came crashing down, destroying part of the stage. Worse still, equipment and sets specially designed for the tour were rendered unusable.
"It’s a miracle my team escaped with minor injuries," Rahman said Monday on Twitter. After initially postponing dates in Detroit and Toronto, Rahman made the agonizing decision Tuesday evening to cancel his remaining North American tour stops in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Vancouver and Houston while sets were rebuilt and producers scrambled to ascertain which elements of the current show could be salvaged. A spokeswoman for Rahman said there was no plan to cancel the tour’s European and U.K. dates; North American "Jai Ho Concert" dates most likely will be rescheduled for September.
The predicament represents a significant setback for Rahman – who was named to Time magazine’s list of the world’s most influential people last year – in his quest to connect with Western audiences like no South Asian pop star before him while still relatively hot off his "Slumdog" success.
Combining Bollywood, Broadway and a rock circus, "Jai Ho Concert" was intended as a gateway into the American mainstream. The plan to cross over with non-Indian audiences also includes continuing soundtrack work in Hollywood (after "Slumdog," Rahman was hired to score the 2009 romantic comedy "Couples Retreat") and a potentially lucrative deal with Interscope Records.
The Times will have the rest of the story on Rahman's attempt to bring his polyglot sound to America in Sunday's Calendar section.
*Update: An early version of the headline to this post indicated that the remainder of the tour has been canceled. It has, in fact, been postponed; the plan is to reschedule the all the dates.
-- Chris Lee
Photo: A.R. Rahman. Credit: Ameet Mallapur / Fox Searchlight Pictures
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