Joined: 01 May 2006
i like doing fusion music
He's just 27. And after the stunning success of Roja, A.R. Rahman is the most sought after music director in the business. Thiruda Thiruda, Gentleman and now Subhash Ghai's under production Shikhar have established him as something of a prodigy. Modest, religious and totally dedicated to his craft, Rahman spoke to Senior Correspondent NIRUPAMA SUBRAMANIAN in Madras last fortnight.
How does it feel to be on top?
I don't really think I'm at the top. Basically, I came into this field not to intrude on anybody else's success.
What made Roja such a hit?
It was Mani Ratnam's first film for K. Balachander, I was new, the singers were new, the actors were fresh faces. I tried to bring in good lyrics and more international music.
What music do you like?
Bach, Beethoven and Mozart, and Carnatic music. I was into rock and fusion. I like to bring all these into my music.
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.
How do you feel about having replaced Laxmikant-Pyarelal in Shikhar?
It was quite a tough job for me after they had given Ghai the Choli hit. Basically, Ghai wanted a new sound.
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.
Where do you see yourself in the Hindi film industry?
I'll do only two to three films a year. And my music is completely different. But after Roja, I think I know what the Hindi crowd likes. Music is international, only cultures are different.
Is music the new driving force for movies?
Film music in India is like pop music in the West. Movies are the channels for this music.
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.
Joined: 01 May 2006
after vande mataram
In what way is the album Vande Mataram a symbol of contemporary India?
Well, the primary objective of the album is to inspire a feeling for the country. And the sentiments so aroused go beyond caste, creed and colour. The feelings which inspired the album come from the heart, and can solve a lot of problems. If people look beyond religion and caste barriers, and think only of the country, that's enough. I personally think Vande Mataram is an ongoing movement, and people will feel good about it for the next 50 years.
When you started working on the album did you have any idea that it would turn out to be such a huge international project?
No, when we started out, only those involved with the album believed that it was going to be BIG. When I told people what I was doing, they would give me odd looks and ask me why I wasn't concentrating on films. But my team and I were confident about Vande Mataram, we felt good about it. We felt that it should go around the world and Sony promised us it would be an international album.
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.
Do you use computers in your film tracks?
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
i n t e r v i e w
my desire for peace - Interview appeared in Junior Vikatan issue dated 25.11.98 with questions asked by readers through letter
Joined: 01 May 2006
perfection is his key to success - S. R. Ashok Kummar interviews music wizard A. R. Rahman, who won his second national award for ''Minsara Kanavu'' recently.
In a short span A. R. Rahman has become a household name. The music wizard who has mesmerised audience with his enchanting score is known for his soft spoken, hardworking and deeply religious nature. The ace composer who has captured the hearts of music buffs the world over received his first national award with his debut film ''Roja.'' He got his second national award for ''Minsara Kanavu'' recently. In an interview, Rahman spoke about his flourishing career and his first passion, or rather his 'lifeline' - music. Excerpts from the interview.
''Minsara Kanavu'' has swept all the awards in the music category. What is your reaction?
The credit must go to the director. Rajeev Menon has an excellent taste for music. His contribution, poet Vairamuthu's participation and the fact that it was a film to mark AVM's golden jubilee celebrations was enough motivation for us.
You went to Vairamuthu's house and asked him to write a lyric for the film, which he had refused earlier?
Yes, we had a very non-traditional tune which Rajeev wanted to be developed. The song was ''O lalala, Manamadura Mamarakuile.'' The tune was a bit different. It changes into Tamil folk from half of the song. Vairamuthu found it very alien to Tamil films and rejected it first. He said people will also reject it. We also decided not to use it. After a week when we listened to it again, Rajeev said it sounded good and suggested that we ask Vairamuthu to write a lyric for it. The poet was recuperating after a fever. So we went to his house, made him write for the tune. The song won the national award for Chitra and all of us.
At any point of time have you felt the pressure of competition?
Actually, I do not take part in any competition. Competition comes only when one vies for a number of films. I try to do each job perfectly and take rest to recharge my batteries. Rest is essential for the kind of work I do.
So you do not worry about competition?
It is not in me to work harder or less than the others. Each job demands a particular kind of effort and often it is more of a teamwork.
It is widely felt that your charges are exorbitant.
Actually, I want to be exclusive. With less work, I can strive for perfection.
The use of traditional musical instruments are rare in your compositions. Do you think they are outdated or redundant?
I am yet to work for films like ''Sankarabaranam.'' But in a film like ''Duet,'' a non-traditional instrument, saxophone, was effectively used in a traditional way. It all depends on the project. I am trying to do justice to my work. It is a blessing in disguise and it is a problem too. My music sells in three languages and ultimately makes the 'roots' very shaky. For example if I compose a song in 'Sama' rag for a Tamil film, the same song will certainly not click in Hindi. This is because of its pure South Indian 'flavour'. For that I must adjust and compose it in 'Dharbari' or 'Dharmavathi' rag. This results in loss of traditional ethos. It is inevitable. Even if it is composed for a Tamil film, it will be sold in Telugu and Hindi. If the audio cassettes do not sell well, I will be blamed. It is a very risky affair. I only want to work for good films with best directors.
Can you tell something about your contribution for Illaiyaraaja's score in ''Punnagai Mannan.''
I was only an operator and not a composer. When I first bought the computer, Illaiyaraaja called me and we had lots of work sessions. He composed the song and I programmed it.
How do singers and musicians cope with your schedule?
It is not a daily feature. Depending on the workload, I plan my schedule. The singers come only during working hours. My technicians divide the work accordingly.
What is the basic knowledge needed to become a music director? Is knowledge of Carnatic music an asset? If so, does that help you now?
Carnatic music certainly helps as tunes must have roots. Or else, they will totally be rejected by the audience. Right now, commercial films need 'hyper-energy' songs to garner greater theatre attendance. If the tide changes and more serious films come along, things may become different. \f3 \cf2\i\f1
What about your contribution to non-film music?
For long I thought films were enough. I owe a lot to the industry. My father too worked in films. I was waiting for a right occasion to do an album. I got it now and I am coming out with an album to commemorate 50 years of Independence. The album is titled ''Vande Maadaram.'' The songs will be in Hindi, Tamil, Sanskrit, Urudu and English. My friend Bharath is also associated with the project. We are coming out with a video and Audio albums. The shooting and the recording are being done here and in London.
You started off with ''Roja'' which got you the first national award. How is the reception to your popular songs in the North?
When excellent Tamil numbers are dubbed in Hindi, it is done to synthesise with the mouthing and not for the meaning. This affects the beauty of music composition and the lyric. People say that ''Duet'' is one of my best works. But magazines and people in the north did not like it. It is all because of trying to merge the lip movement and not the meaning. In the case of ''Sapnay,'' Rajeev Menon took extra effort to write the songs in Hindi with Javed, who gave beautiful lyrics. He shot the songs again. So only it was top of the chart for so many weeks. I think every film should be recorded and shot like this or it should not be sold in Hindi at all, which is impossible.
Critics feel that you do not have variety. What is your reaction?
They have to say something. I take criticism in good spirit and try to improve.
As a singer, you are taking all the good songs in popular films.
I have been forced to sing. It is extra tiring to sing and get the words right. I sing only when forced to. Mani Ratnam was seeing the rerecorded version of ''Roja.'' When he saw a boatman humming, he asked who sang it. I told him that I sang the piece. So in his next film ''Bombay,'' he wanted me to sing ''Humma Humma.'' Then I sang for Shanker and now for Kadir in ''Kadal Desam.'' In the album ''Vande Maadaram,'' I sing nearly all the songs.
Who is your favourite music director?
In Tamil I am a great fan of M. S. Viswanathan-Ramamoorthy and K. V. Mahadevan. In Hindi, I admire Naushad, S. D. Burman and R. D. Burman.
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Joined: 14 November 2005
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