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A musically engaging journey

Academy Award winner, the Mozart of Madras A R Rahman in an interaction at NFDC’s Film Bazaar, held on the sidelines of 46th IFFI, spoke about his new venture, music, inspiration and why the current protest by artists is poetic

Music director A R Rahman who has charmed music lovers with his soul searching music will now charm his fans in a different way – a musical. The musician producer is busy with his film aptly titled ‘99 Songs’, which he has also written. The movie described as “a sensual story about art and self-discovery” is directed by debutant director Vishwesh Krishnamoorthy.
Talking about why he turned producer, Rahman said: “One reason why I started the production house YM Movies was to engage audiences with music. This can be achieved through a short cut – the tapori song – or the other way, by use of rare ragas. Today the story narrative has changed and it may not be possible to use rare ragas. With the story of ‘99 Songs’ I might achieve that. More filmmakers have to learn more about music. When you learn more it gives you a sense of hope.” The legendary musician was speaking at the concluding session of NFDC’s Film Bazaar’s Knowledge Series. Rahman also commented on the fact that the industry does not have directors who understand the depths of music.
Rahman, who has started the K M Music Conservatory in Chennai, commenting on music composer Illayaraja’s suggestion of making music compulsory in schools and colleges of the country, said: “It is a fantastic statement from Illayaraja. It is very important that you teach music to children at a young age as it will help them to be more compassionate.”
Post the session, speaking to the media, Rahman commented on the ongoing protest by artists and intellectuals by way of giving away their national award. “Nothing should be violent in this country as we are a civilized nation. I find the whole protest classic. It is poetic in many ways. We come from the land of Mahatma Gandhi. He has shown the whole world how revolution can be brought about through non- violence,” Rahman said while refraining from commenting on Aamir Khan’s statement about thinking of leaving India due to rising intolerance in the country.
Talking about changing trends in music, he said while the soul of music remains the same, the capsule changes with time. Additionally, the storytelling style in Bollywood is also changing, he said, because of which lip syncing is not happing as much. “Only time will tell whether the tradition will continue or not.”
Rahman shared an interesting fact about the background score he gave for the movie Bombay. The score has been used for different situations in four different movies!
While it first featured in ‘Bombay’ it was then used in Deepa Mehta’s ‘Fire’ and later in two foreign movies – ‘Lord of War’ and ‘Miral.’
“The director of the ‘Miral’, Julian Schnabel, wanted that piece and that piece only despite me telling him that I would create an original composition for his film. This score is inspired from bhajans, the music I grew up listening to. Bhajans are full of empathy and compassion and that’s what comes out in this score,” said Rahman who loves to listen to Western classical and kawwali music. He also likes old Hindi songs and mentioned that Bollywood music from 1955 to 1965 had magic.
Rahman’s ‘Jai Ho’ from the Hollywood movie ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ won the Academy Award. Taking about working with filmmaker Danny Boyle, Rahman said: “It was crazy. The brief while working with Danny Boyle was “what if I had taken drugs.” Different filmmakers have different understanding and liking for music. “Danny doesn’t like cello music as it depresses him; I personally love that music,” said the musician who likes to work with both established as well as new filmmakers. “Being with new filmmakers helps me enter new zones.”
Rahman is probably one of the few music directors of the country who experimented with new voices. He said that it was due to the time and patience invested by his team. “My team didn’t hesitate to teach Hindi to a singer in three days or to work with folk singers,” said Rahman.
He also spoke about his idol, singer, composer and dancer, the late Michael Jackson. “Michael Jackson has inspired an entire generation of artists of our times. I managed to meet him in USA. Our meeting lasted for two hours. We spoke about music and humanity. He even told me that we could work together and bring out a song like ‘We are the world.’ I also made one song for Michael Jackson.”
When asked how he keeps himself inspired he said that it is important to rejuvenate and re-discover oneself.

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