A.R. Rahmanâ€™s music has been an integral part of many Indian movie fansâ€™ viewing experience for a generation: He has scored more than 100 movies in the last 20 years. This success led the composer-musician to perform giant concerts all over India and other parts of the world.
Now following up on his award-winning breakthrough with the music in 2008â€™s “Slumdog Millionaire,” where he grabbed two Oscars, two Grammys and a Golden Globe, he is launching a world tour titled “A.R. Rahman Jai Ho Concert: The Journey Home.” According to Rahman, 44, this will be his biggest tour yet, featuring a collaboration with creative director Amy Tinkham (who has worked with Britney Spears, Mariah Carey and the Backstreet Boys) to bring Rahmanâ€™s songs to life in a concert setting.
“I personally come from the studio, and working on â€˜Bombay Dreamsâ€™ and other musicals onstage has changed my perception of being onstage,” says Rahman, via phone between tour rehearsals. “It makes me want to go even further in our performances of what we can do onstage with the music, and to present it really in the essence of the whole composition and stuff. Each tour is us pushing it higher and higher.”
The performance will feature Rahman, along with 10 musicians, 10 singers and 13 dancers, plus an army of technicians. Giant L.E.D. screens, full-blown production numbers and elaborate stage sets add a modern cutting-edge twist on the Bollywood-style music and dance performances audiences are used to seeing on film.
“Itâ€™s hard work and very stressful, but thereâ€™s a lot of joy at the end of it,” Rahman says. “Itâ€™s not one man and one passion, but collectively you can see it all coming together as one thing. Itâ€™s good to see.”
Along with the music of â€˜Slumdog Millionaire,” the concert will also include music from landmark films like “Lagaan,” “Jaane Tu … Ya Jaane Na,” “Dil Se,” “Rang De Basanti,” and “Roja,” which won Rahman a lot of notice outside of India. His non-Indian projects include “Elizabeth,” which starred Cate Blanchett, and the aforementioned “Bombay Dreams” Broadway show, where he collaborated with Andrew Lloyd Webber. Heâ€™s even done a Chinese film, “Warriors of Heaven and Earth.” Non-film work has been with such varied talents as David Byrne, electronic artist Talvin Singh, the pop girl group Pussycat Dolls and Canadian singer Sarah Brightman.
Versatility is a cornerstone of Rahmanâ€™s career and goes back to his earliest influences. As a student, he loved the jazz playing of pianist Dave Grusin and guitarist Pat Metheny. While Bollywood music is ubiquitous in India, he loved the soundtracks of John Williams, Vangelis and Ennio Morricone, whose “Cinema Paradiso” is a personal favorite.
Though heâ€™s been one of Indiaâ€™s most popular composers for years, he still wasnâ€™t prepared for the success of “Slumdog.” “I was numb because I was supposed to perform and sing,” he says of his Oscar night. “I was just concentrating on that, because I didnâ€™t want to screw it up by singing flat. Even if you canâ€™t control your emotions, I was trying to control my emotions. Then everyone was constantly shaking my hand.”
Itâ€™s a night that he will never forget, and one that led to other opportunities as well â€” while everyone focused on Michaele and Tareq Salahi for crashing the state dinner for Indian Prime Minster Manmohan Singh, Rahman was on hand to perform. He could also be seen remaking “We Are the World” this year with a galaxy of other stars.
“A lot of good opportunities are coming in,” Rahman says. “This whole tour wouldnâ€™t be possible without this goodwill and love from the movie. On a whole, Iâ€™m now able to focus on certain things and say no to others. It allows me to do what I really want to do.”