Joined: 01 May 2006
Joined: 01 May 2006
rider on the storm
Exchanging notes with A R Rahman, the nation's snappy spice boy. A R Rahman has just completed an album to mark the 50 years of Indian Independence and is now tackling his ever-burgeoning list of film assignments, including Mani Ratnam's first Hindi project.
What kind of tunes are swirling in your mind right now?
(Laughs) I'm blank. But seriously, the tunes totally depend on the story situations given to me, be it a brother-sister kind of song, a Sufi incantation or a boatman type of song. Otherwise, my mind stays on a single track which is the best way to make it work when I actually start composing.
Could you tell me about your album to commemorate the 50 years of Indian Independence? How did it come about?
The project started off when I'd gone for an award function in Bombay. The weekly magazine had told me that I had won the award but at the function, they gave the award to someone else. Well, I told myself that's that. I wasn't depressed but I must admit that I was hurt. Anyway, I let the incident pass. While I was in Bombay, I called up one of my school friends - Bharat Bala, who makes commercials. We had dinner, we talked about music and planned to do something together. A week or so later, Bala suggested the theme of 50 years of Independence. And then Vijay Singh, the managing director of Sony-India, approached me to do the album. So several things seemed to fall into place about a year ago on the project. It started off as three songs on the three colours of the flag. Essentially, the songs are interpretations of Vande Mataram. The peace song was rendered for the album by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan in Lahore.
During your visit to Lahore, what did you see of Pakistan?
We were in Lahore very briefly, reaching there at 7:00 p.m. and leaving at 3:00 the next afternoon. The song was recorded in the night. Once that was over, as usual I slept through the morning, waking up to catch the flight. The authorities were very co-operative; there does seem to be a growing atmosphere to encourage cultural inter-exchanges.
Besides the three songs, has the album broadened in scope?
Yes, there's a spiritual feel to the album. For three months, nothing was moving on the album. Then during the month of Ramzan, the tunes started coming to me. Now there are six songs on the album. I think the attempt has been to catch the nafs, the pulse of what is happening around us today.
How free do you feel today to do what you want?
I wouldn't deny the fact that I feel uncomfortable at times. But then during my visits abroad, I ask myself, "Do I really feel free out here?" I don't. On coming back home, I feel a sense of belonging, as if I've returned to where I belong. And I wouldn't exchange this feeling of oneness for anything in the world. So far, I've been to the US, UK, Singapore, Malaysia, Australia, Hong Kong and Dubai. But once I've reached these places, I've been suffused by a feeling of restlessness. One day away from Chennai and I'm homesick.
Why're you restless?
Honestly, I don't know the answer. I do try to be cool. Believe me, I've been surprised at myself on the occasions that I've lost my temper with my office guys.
Haven't you taken on too much workload? I believe you're doing eight films right now.
Two or three of them are already complete. So, it's okay. When a film-maker doesn't make unreasonable demands, composing doesn't become a burden. Like I enjoyed working with Rajkumar Santoshi on Pukar because he's a fan of melody and wasn't looking for those 'item' type of songs. I take on an assignment depending on the attitude and the needs of the film-maker. Like Shivendra Sinha had been calling me from time to time since Roja. Finally, his first film (Ittefaq) has taken off, and I'm glad that it has, because he has a feel for music.
At one point, wasn't Aamir Khan snowing you with faxes to do one of his films? Why didn't you?
Simply because I was extremely busy at that point. I think Dharmesh Darshan and he wanted me to do the music for Mela. I liked the script, but I just didn't have the time to spare.
What has been your experience with the Bombay film crowd?
I haven't been very close to the Bombay crowd. It's always been touch and go... hello-how're-you-sort-of-thing. I know a dozen people want to bitch on and on about me. I've been called all sorts of names. But I haven't responded. Like I told you, I try to be cool.
What's the score on Subhash Ghai?
(Laughs) So far, so cool. He's on to Shikhar now that Pardes has been released.
Do you think your music for Daud measures up to Rangeela? And pray whose idea was that Daaaa....uuuuud dog-like howl?
I can't make any judgements on my own music. All I know is that I've done my job on Daud, which is the best way to deal with it. As for Daaaa.....uuud, we wanted a different kind of theme song, a freaky sort of a thing. By the way it's not supposed to sound like a dog, but like a wolf howling.
But Daud doesn't have an immediately catchy number like Tanha tanha or Humma humma. Right?
Ramu (Ramgopal Varma) is generally clear about what he wants. He's into R and D (research and development), finding out what appeals to the public. So I leave catches and hooks to him.
Whose idea was it to use the voices of Remo Fernandes and Usha Uthup?
Ramu thought Remo would sound different in an Indian kind of song and he did. Usha Uthup was used unconventionally for the Punjabi version of the title song of Daud.
What do you mean by calling the instrumental track, The Thump of Daud? What does 'thump' mean?
Ha! Ask Ramu the meaning of thump, because he thought of it. Like he thought of The Spirit of Rangeela.
Okay, tell me, do you feel your new batch of songs are also being plagiarised by the Bombaywallahs? Or have they stopped after being criticised constantly?
I would say, there's a definite competitive spirit among the Hindi film music composers. Whether they admit that they are 'copying' or say that they are 'influenced' or 'inspired', is their problem. Not mine. On my part, I've just stopped listening to the numbers whenever I'm told that they've been plagiarised from one of my songs.
What's your reaction to Nadeem-Shravan calling you "a mere jingle composer"?
I leave such statements dangling in the air. There's no point in reacting, because that's just what they want probably. Silence is the best answer. It's better to shut up and keep quiet. Mr Nadeem is all sugar and honey to me at parties. A couple of years ago, we were at the same function, and both Nadeem and Shravan kept giving me broad smiles.
Are you getting more religious nowadays?
I need a base. Otherwise, I'm the most horrible creature on earth. The base keeps me humble. I feel the teachings of Abdul Qadar Jilani have brought about the right attitude in me. While praying you attain a certain position, telling the lord that you are the most horrendous sinner in the world, that you must be granted forgiveness and mercy.
I get this feeling that you don't like yourself.
I felt that way for a long, long time. Now I have a purpose in life, a single-minded purpose. But don't ask me what this purpose is because it's personal.
Are you at peace with yourself?
NO! (After a marathon pause) Because there are secrets within every one of us. So please, let my secrets remain within me. (Laughs uncontrollably) Because without mystery there can be no music.
What is the first word spoken by your daughter, Khatija?
And the second?
Aiya - her grandmother. She hasn't said abba yet. Whenever she hears my music, she starts dancing. She's very loyal.
Do you see any interesting new trends in music?
After a point, I feel there should be a sense of purpose in music - it shouldn't be there just for dance and romance. I'm attempting to bring about that sense of purpose in my music. Which is not to say that I want to reform the world or anything as profound as that. I'd rather let my music speak for itself. And the clue to what I'm saying is in the Independence album.
How do your peers and the rest of the film industry in Chennai take your music?
It's the same everywhere, whether in Bombay or Chennai. They think I'm a fool. Maybe I am. I admit that I've a lot to learn. I feel I'm doing well perhaps because I'm blessed. If you think you're a know-all, then you get hurt. I do get hurt when personal attacks are made on me. Now that's another clue for you, to know why I want my music to have more purpose and meaning.
It's widely believed that you've overpriced yourself by charging an enormous fee.
I didn't initiate this intentionally. My price was suggested by the directors I was working with. They told me to work less, concentrate more, to ask for remuneration that would allow me to do my own thing. In any case, I share 50 per cent of the expenses of a song recording. Comparatively, my style of working is different. I can't churn out songs overnight. At times, it has taken me six to eight months to arrive at the appropriate tune for a song situation.
Have you ever hit a creative block?
Yes, to an extent. For the Sai ai ya song in Daud, we were trying out a new set-up of computer programming. And the system crashed 26 times during the recording. I was at my wit's end. Finally, we were satisfied with the song after grappling with it for 20 days. Relatively, the Zahreela zahreela song was a breeze. I met an old friend - Deena Chandradas - at a party Mani had hosted for his technicians; we started talking and something rung a bell. Usually my songs touch the high notes. But Deena's voice was just right for the lower notes in the song. Both Asha Bhosle and he could grasp the feeling what I wanted right away.
What has happened to the non-film album that you were to record with Asha Bhosle?
I'm working on it. I must come up with something that'll do justice to her calibre.
How come you allowed snatches of your music from Mani Ratnam's Bombay to be used in Deepa Mehta's Fire?
I saw nothing wrong with that. It made the music reach an international audience. I did compose some fresh pieces for Fire. For her next film, Earth, I'll be doing an absolutely brand-new score.
Do you think you'll ever cut an album for the international market?
Inshallah. I have been a bit choosy about this. I was supposed to do Mira Nair's Kama Sutra. But I didn't want to be branded in the west as the composer of Kama Sutra fame. I met Mira Nair and liked her a lot. I'd love to do some other film with her.
Would you compose music for film-makers you don't "like a lot" immediately?
I used to be on that trip. I used to like films which were out of the rut. Like Govind Nihalani's Tamas. But then so many unusual films don't reach enough people, the common man doesn't understand them. So, I'm trying to do both - films that are out of the rut and the regular stuff as well.
Would you be able to conjure up a music score for an absolutely abstract film?
That would depend on what the film is trying to convey. There was a time when I'd close my eyes and see far-out images, and so many crazy colours. At the outset, my music was quite abstract and experimental. (Laughs) But then I didn't meet any abstract people.
Joined: 01 May 2006
Joined: 01 May 2006
Rahman, hidden behind a stubble, was only recognisable because of his innumerable rings, talismans and ever present cheeky smile. He has become savvier, more Bollywood-ish. "What do you mean by Bollywood-ish?" he asks innocently. How does one tell him that his creativity seems to have diminished? That he is lifting tunes from Beethoven and Mozart once too often? That he is recycling old tunes? That the man who never copied himself is now copying others? One seems to have touched a raw nerve -- the Rahman who smiled away accusations of having lifted his own tunes two years ago now frowns and tries to justify himself. He has come a long way from the struggling Dilip Sekhar whose only assets were the musical instruments willed to him by his father. A conversion to Islam and a reputation as the music director who created the craziest ad jingles transformed his life forever. It did not take long for Mani Ratnam to offer him Roja. After which phenomenal success, there was no looking back. As he moved on to super-duper hits like Bombay, Gentleman, Kadalan, Minsaara Kanavu, Pudhiya Mugam, Rangeela, Duet, Thiruda Thiruda, Hindustani and Sapnay. Lately, of course, there has been the occasional flop like Daud, Love Birds and Kabhi Na Kabhi. But they have been offset by the phenomenal success of Vande Mataram -- Maa Tujhe Salaam. And Dil Se.. which was released across the country on Friday, has received rave reviews for its music.
How would you rate the music of Dil Se..?
I have tried to be different from what I have composed earlier. At the same time, I have followed Mani Ratnam's instructions and concept. Mani is very happy with the final product.
Mani Ratnam has been very influential in shaping your career...
I owe my success to Mani's Roja. He had asked me to create music that would appeal to the nation, which is exactly what I did. And it worked. Success and failure are but two sides of the same coin. I had scored good music earlier too, but Roja got me the fame. It is all the will of Allah. Bombay followed, as did Rangeela, Gentleman, Hindustani, Chor Chor, Hum Se Hain Muqabla and Jeans.
Then why do you copy music?
Uhh! Copy? I don't copy. Music from the same raga always sounds similar.
Doesn't Roop suhana lagta hai from Gentleman and Dil hua hai deewana from Bombay sound similar? Moreover, isn't Verapandya kottayile from Thiruda Thiruda (Chor Chor) the same tune on a higher octave?
Oh, is it? (He shrugs.) They may be the same, but I haven't realised it. I am not here to try and copy anyone. I try and give different music.
Do you think your music sounds similar because you work in loops?
Oh! You seem to know my style well. I always try and compose more youthful music, music that could lend a lot of meaning to the film. Music is an integral part of the film. You can tell the story just by using music. Don't you feel I have changed my style of music after Rangeela?
Many of the Bombay-based music directors think so. They also feel you have become predictable.
(Rahman frowns for the first time and shrugs again.) Many of these so-called music directors keep on copying from me. I cannot take them to court for that. They lift my music from a Tamil film and use it in a Hindi film. That's what is called lifting a song. If you feel that my songs sound similar, that's because it is my style.
Which means that Rahman has become predictable.
That's exactly my point. You call it predictable, I term it as my style. They are ways of looking at it. If you call my style predictable, that means you have understood that Rahman has been dealing with a particular brand of music alone. Once you hear the music, you know it is has been composed by Rahman. That is what I am all about. That is my identity; that is the identity of my music. But, then, as I told you earlier, I am trying to change all that. I have much bigger critics in the south who rip me apart whenever they get the slightest opportunity. After all, I am creating music for the common people. So I have to give them my best. As long as they are happy with what I am giving them, fine. If they feel that they deserve something different, I will give it to them. After all, they have a right to listen to what they want.
How did Vande Mataram happen?
Bharat Bala and I are schoolmates and have worked together in over a hundred jingles. Bharat was earlier making small films. One day, he approached me with the idea of Vande Mataram. I liked the idea very much. I accepted it because it gave me an opportunity to work with a great musician like Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. We worked very hard on the music and the concept and the effort paid off. Bharat and Kanika's idea clicked well. We got a great response. I was happy because I got to do something that was different.
And we got to see the other side of Rahman -- the actor who posed in front of the camera.
(Smiles) It was a different experience for me. It was fun. Initially, I was nervous and refused to go before the camera. Bharat told me not to be childish and I had to go ahead. All in all, it worked out very well.
What is your opinion about the current trend of pop music and of actors who are trying to sing their own songs?
Pop music is an international phenomenon. If the right people enter this field, it will certainly be good. As for actors singing their own songs, I would say it is essential that every actor know to sing. If he does, then he can do a much better job on camera when he is acting the song out. But I don't think actors should sing too many songs unless they are very good at it as we have many good singers in Indian cinema.
The music of Priyadarshan's Kabhi Na Kabhi was more of a letdown except for the title song which, finally, was not seen in the theatres.
Yeah, I was told that the song wasn't shown in some theatres. But, then, one can never get 100 out of 100 from the audiences. The audience is, as Kamal Haasan often says, a multi-headed creature. We have to feed every mouth with a different item. Finding something that will appease all the heads simultaneously is very difficult. Still, I try and give music that will make everyone happy at all times. I am just a human being and my keyboard is just a machine. Insha Allah (if god wills), I will continue to give good music that will make everyone happy including you, my dear critic.
You charge a lot for every film. It is said you charge Rs 10 million for a non-Mani Ratnam film.
(Goes on the defensive again) No, no, not Rs 10 million. But I do charge what I am worth. I give quality stuff and if people want me, and they want my kind of music, they pay for it. So what's so wrong about my fees?
What makes Rahman click?
It is all the will of Allah. I just do my bit and leave the rest to Him. It is He who decides the fate of us mortals (smiles).
Joined: 22 March 2006
Joined: 01 May 2006
Joined: 01 May 2006
interesting parts from the interview with a r rahman
Q:what are the jingles u have done
arr:john umbrellas,MRF,boost,titan,leo coffee, and i dont remember (giggles) (ofourse how can he remember 300 ads!)
Q:did u expect roja to be a national hit
arr:we did roja with a lot of conviction that it will reach internationally
and by god's grace it happened.
Q:How was the feeling getting a national award for the debut film roja
arr:i dont have time to cherish the joys and repent the failures in life .i
go on with my work not caring
about the response i have got of my previous works(pretty cooool!)
Q:How did you come into films?
arr:My father, R K Shekar was a music director in Malayalam films. He assisted Salil Chowdary, Devrajan and others. He died when I was nine. At eleven I came into the field, playing on the keyboards and later as an accompanist. I worked under various music directors in Tamil, Telegu and Malayalam- Ramesh Naidu, MS Vishwanathan and Illayaraja. It started becoming a bit monotonous. I thought advertising would be a good alternative. This went on for three years. I built my studio and took to different forms of music- pop, rock and so on. It was then that I met producer Tirlok Shardha, cousin of Mani Rathnam at a party. He (Mani) came to my studio and heard some of my tunes. We agreed to work together though we did not decide on which movie. Only later he told me it was to be Roja, which he was directing for K. Balachander.
Q:Despite your success you do not seem to be working on a lot of films?
Rather than making money I believe in making people happy, all other things are secondary. That is why I am not interested in a lot of movies but only in one at a time. I like directors whom I can vibe with. Ten years of experience in this field has made me quite frustrated. I've evolved a technique, which requires a lot of time. Other music directors record a song in 7-8 hours. But I am different. We do a basic sitting and we record it. We record the voice and I add instrument by instrument to improve the quality.
Q:Do you use computers in your film tracks?
arr:No, not computers. The technique is different. In fact they say the music in Roja was computerized. As I said earlier the recording takes time. You can hear the same flute in a different way. It is not computerized music. Nearly 40% "Veerapandi Kottayily" (a song from "Thiruda Thiruda") that does not sound like computer music and "Vellai Mazhai (from Roja) is synthesizer oriented. I do not restrict the musicians but ask them to play whatever they feel. Then I record what I want. I spend a lot of time on lyrics too. It takes around 4 days. We write something in the first instance and then improve. So it take about a week to complete a song.
Joined: 01 May 2006
n t e r v i e w
india talkies interviewWhy is it that you shy away from public appearance? You have also restricted exposure in 'Vande Mataram'. Why so?
In five years of my film career, by doing a non-filmy song -'Vande Mataram', I could reach out to the Indian heart, irrespective of religious differences. All barriers were overcome by this song, which was appreciated by all. That, I consider, is the best compliment. As for public appearance, our country is so wide and demands come from every corner. You can't be everywhere and that way you end up offending some people. It is not just the physical presence. It is more of a mental thing. Even if it is a small meeting, things like what I'm going talk there, keeps worrying me. So I'd rather not accept to be there at all. As for appearing in my album, I don't feel I'm cut out for it.
Did Ram Gopal's constant dig at music directors in 'Rangeela' influence your lax in scoring good music for 'Daud'?
'Daud' was more of a shallow kind of a film. It would have clicked if some magic was there. Music is always a reflection of the script.
People say you give your best only to a select few.
People who understand what I'm going through will know how it works with me. Like, I took one and half months to score the background music for 'Kabhi-na-Kabhi' and they released it in mono. If I were told that it will be released in mono, I would have spent about 10 days on it. I spent a month to give better imaging and finally when it was released in mono, it fell flat, and all the energy I'd spent on it went waste. I get better inspiration to work for directors with whom I have a better rapport, like Mani Rathnam. Every film maker wants to work with me, but I am incapable of doing 30 films a year. I can work only in 5 films, and therefore I displease them. Suppose, I am involved with some cassette company like Venus or Tips, they will back me up. If I don't accept their films, they don't have reason to promote me at all. Why should they promote me if I am not involved with them? That is the way the industry runs, favours-and-favours-in-turn, the link is like that! But I'm just an individual who goes by my own instincts. People won't like that. I don't want to be in a position which is volatile. I want to work in my characteristic independent style, and though I feel uneasy, I can't help it. I have never turned down offers because of my ego. I have done so out of my incapability of delivering it. I can't hide it. I work 18 hours a day. I can't do any more!
Where do you rate yourself in comparison to Ilayaraja?
He is a genius by himself and is completely self-contained.
People say your entry washed him away and he holds you responsible for his lack of opportunity. Is there any cold war between you both?
I wouldn't say he was washed away. A new trend had come, and the whole set of directors that existed then, also receded. The entire scenario changed in every field of film making in the South: music, direction, cinematography, everything changed together. It was not a single element. So, I got to the right people. The right young directors who made films in a different way. The change in the trend was welcomed and so was I. There is no such cold war.
Which among your recent work is your favourite?
I liked my work in 'Dil Se' and 'Doli Sajake Rakhna'. It is more on the lines of tumri. I have also scored a different kind of music for 'Fire' which is more thematic than melody based.
How do you rate your standing in the industry today?
I have managed to appeal to the younger lot in the country. One can't cater to everybody. Mostly, I try to keep away from vulgarity in my songs and try to touch the purer side of one's heart.
A R Rahman’s Enjoyable music
Author: ezhil522 Replies: 1 Views: 705
|ezhil522||1||705||01 July 2007 at 11:56pm by Reema_J|
A.R.Rahman (Fan Club)-Part2
Author: dayita Replies: 1190 Views: 64989
|dayita||1190||64989||08 January 2007 at 5:09am by Jem4Himesh|
It is AR Rahman's week on IF!!
Author: Jia Replies: 3 Views: 990
|Jia||3||990||20 December 2006 at 11:32am by springdale|
A.R.Rahman - Lyrics Zone
Author: dayita Replies: 31 Views: 9513
|dayita||31||9513||23 September 2006 at 8:57am by Jaseeka|
Rahman takes B'wood to H'wood and rocks
Author: magicalmelody Replies: 2 Views: 702
|magicalmelody||2||702||29 July 2006 at 11:30am by dannyk|
Popular Channels :
Quick Links :