Academy award winning music composer AR Rahman is once again in the race for the Oscars, this time around for "Pele: Birth of a Legend". Directed by Jeff and Michael Zimbalist, "Pele" is a biographical film on the football legend who rose from the slums of Brazil, a sportsman who battled unimaginable odds to achieve international fame.
"Pele" did not receive good reviews from critics. On Rotten Tomatoes, for instance, it has a pathetic aggregated score of 23% from critics but a surprising 72% of the audience have rated it positively. The general gripe was that "Pele" was too much of a hagiography and that the child actors who played the young Pele and his friends were not convincing enough.
Audiences across the world, however, responded to the film's overriding emotion, the victory of the underdog who pulls off an impossible victory from the jaws of defeat. AR Rahman's music was a big factor in achieving the mood of the film which goes from sombre to joy and back to greyness ever so often.
The "Ginga" song, for which Rahman has been nominated, is definitely filmy for Hollywood standards. In the narrative, though, the portion that features an undeterred Pele enthusing his team to play in the "ginga" style, the style that came naturally to them but was looked down upon for its rustic nature by others, and has the boys kicking the ball across different landscapes in a mad example of cutting loose, is among its best. The real Pele features in this segment for a brief moment too.
It's impossible not to smile at the vibrant beats and the dance-like ginga which helps Pele and his team break out of their sense of inferiority and take on the competition with confidence. It might look unreal but Pele's incredible story is unreal too. He fought poverty, racism and a host of other problems to get where he reached and it's not surprising that the biography landed in the territory of a hagiography.
AR Rahman's rise, too, in the face of adversity has been nothing short of a miracle. He had a difficult childhood and exploded on the music scene by breaking conventions and playing it his way. The wonder boy from Tamil Nadu gave big budget Bollywood composers a run for their money. He soon left the competition far behind and tasted success at the international level. In a sense, the "ginga" is Rahman's style too.
91 songs are competing for the Oscars in the Best Original Song category. Rahman has been nominated previously as well - in 2011 for Best Original Score from "127 Hours" and for the song "I Rise" from the same film; in 2014, his scores in "Million Dollar Arm", "The Hundred Foot Journey" and "Kochadaiiyaan" were also nominated.