Joined: 01 May 2006
You will be working only in perhaps half a dozen films a year..why?
What will I do if I work for more films and only a few click? I do not want my energy to be wasted. I want every film to be a musical hit. In fact, "Thiruda Thiruda" songs have created a record for any Tamil film - 25,000 discs were sold in Malaysia. They are going to give us platinum discs.
What offers are you getting?
I like to work only with dedicated film makers. I also take a long time. I thought that the Hindi film industry won't get used to this. So I made only the right choices
What's your view of the Hindi film industry ?
Hindi film music is going international. But Roja proved that traditional tunes can also be hits.
How much are you paid?
I have read it written that I'm getting Rs 25 lakhs for a movie. It's under 10, actually for Roja I was paid Rs 25,000. I don't like to demand high amounts because I think that will rob me of my creativity.
Are you aware that there seems to be a campaign against you in the Mumbai film music circles?
What do I say to that? If I do good work, then the campaign will die a natural death. It's no point talking against anyone or retaliating. It's better just to prove facts with one's music. On and off, I'm told about the statements made by certain people but believe me, the best option is to keep quiet. Music speaks, statements don't.
Mani Ratnam has said that you've been composing more love songs after your marriage.
(Blushes a tomato red) Yeah probably, but I'm composing more love songs for his films. Has your new-born daughter inspired you to compose a lullaby? Aaaaieee, you're asking me funny questions.
You can give me a funny answer. (Laughs)
Can't. I'm definitely inspired by my daughter... she's eight-months-old... we've named her Khatija. One day, I'll surely compose a lullaby for her. Now she goes off to sleep without any music.
Has any song recently caught your fancy?
Don't listen to much. But from what I've heard, I liked the Colonial Cousins. Unlike most of the bubble gum music coming our way, their compositions have a certain standard of quality.
What would you do if you were locked up in a room with Anu Malik and Anand Milind? Would you get into a fight or talk to them?.
Of course, I'd talk to them--but definitely not on the subject of copyright laws
Joined: 22 March 2006
Joined: 01 May 2006
You say you are choosy in your projects, but you also go in for populist songs. Why so?
Different people need different songs. I want to go down to the people at various levels. When I toured Tamil Nadu, I found that people wanted songs that would make them happy. There is nothing vulgar in my songs. I want my music to reach everywhere. If I play rock, only youngsters will understand, while older people will say, "Why is he shouting like this?" Each category of music reaches only one circle; for the class audience "Thiruda Thiruda" and for the masses "Gentleman". I am learning Carnatic classical music from Dakshinamurthy since I am only versed in Hindustani and don't know even a little of Carnatic. I like traditional music. I want my job to be interesting and fun. I just don't want to get stuck again in monotony.
Are you being repetitive in your musical style?
In recent times I've done films with a similar outlook. These films are aimed at the young generation and therefore have to be beat oriented. Yet I've tried for a distinct sound every time. After Bombay I haven't got stuck in the hip-hop groove. What I did for Rangeela and Indian were zestful and fast paced but quite unlike Bombay. As for the gentler paced songs of 'Kadhal Desam' if you care to notice they are rooted in melody.
What are your views on the Indian film music scene today?
Its going through a cyclical process. The techno stuff has reached a saturation point. Soon we'll be back to simple and soulful melodies. When you here the songs of 'Aanandam' you'll see I've used an acoustic rather than an electronic base on three of the songs.
How does it feel to be on the top (of the film music industry)?
I don't really think I'm at the top. Basically I came into this field not intrude on anybody else's success.
What music do you like?
Bach, Beethoven and Mozart and hindustani music. I was into rock and fusion. I like to bring all these into my music.
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
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