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set me free

Controversy: A war erupts between A.R.Rahman and Magnasound (Oct 96)

What's happening at Magnasound? Set Me Free, the English pop album which recently flooded the market, was originally released six years ago. At that time, the credits read... music composed by A.S. Dulip Kumar and rendered by Shubhaa. Not surprisingly the album found no takers. Then Roja came along. The little-known jingle composer A.S.Dulip Kumar became music director A. R. Rahman. Shrewd business minds at Magnasound lost no time in printing brand new cassette-wrappers with Rahman's name and face prominently displayed on the front flap... and announced the release of the first international album by the whiz kid. Huge hoardings sprung up all over Chennai city, publicising the new album... obviously in a bid to capitalise on Rahman's current popularity. Madhav Das, the executive director of Magnasound, didn't even feel the need to confer with A.R.Rahman before releasing the album. "Why should I ask Rahman about re-releasing an old album with a new name? After all Rahman too changed his name without asking anyone, didn't he?" says Das. On the other hand, Rahman is livid. "I'm not ashamed of my old album. Neither am I trying to hide my past," explained the music director. But he wants the public to know that Set Me Free is a six-year-old album which was done as an experimental venture with singer Shubhaa. Magnasound, he feels, is wrong in trying to pass it off as a brand-new album. When Set Me Free, the album that has stirred up a hornet's nest, was released way back in 1991, only 8,000 copies of the cassette were sold. According to Magnasound, it's because people weren't ready for that kind of music yet. Today anything with the name Rahman can turn to gold... which is why Magnasound has evidently flooded the market with 20,000 cassettes of an album that was once a non-starter. Set Me Free re-appeared on the store counters on September 26, this year. Within 48 hours, stocks were sold out throughout the city. Spurred by the response, Madhav Das has decided to go for the kill. Zee TV, Star Plus and all other satellite channels will advertise a 'new' pop album from A.R. Rahman. "I'm positive I will be able to sell at least two lakh cassettes," Das claims. "I'm also not guilty of cheating either the public or Rahman because I have the legal rights to exploit this album. And make it a super-duper HIT."

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