Despite the fame, AR Rahman remains a spiritual beggar.Â Filmfare discovers why
AR Rahman is now set to collaborate with Mick Jagger (The Rolling Stonesâ€™ front man) in a super group called Super Heavy. Rahman has also joined hands with Michael Bolton for the American music iconâ€™s new album titled Gems. Closer home, his fans await the music of Rockstar, expected to bust the charts this year. Excerpts from a chat festâ€¦
You must be tired of signing copies of your hit biography AR Rahman: The Spirit of Musicâ€¦
If it means something to people, itâ€™s definitely worth the pain. But after a while, itâ€™s better to ease off. Sometimes youâ€™re jet lagged, half asleep, half in a mess and someone wants to click a photograph with you. At such times, I politely refuse saying, â€˜I canâ€™t do it, Iâ€™m sorryâ€™.
You will be composing for the first time for a Yash Chopra directed film. What does the association mean to you?
Yashji is a legend in Indian cinema and itâ€™s a great thing to be working with him. I’m looking forward to it.
Which of Yash Raj Filmsâ€™ songs are your favourite?
I loved the song Tere Liye… from Veer Zaara because it had been composed by the legendary Madan Mohan. Latajiâ€™s (Mangeshkar) voice in it is magical.
Music director Ismail Darbar recently accused you of having bought the Oscar Award for Slum Dog Millionaire and even said that Jai ho was composed by someone else.
As director of KM Musiq which produced the Slumdog Millionare soundtrack, we wanted to sue Ismail Darbar for 50 million dollars for having spread unacceptable slander about things he is naive about.
What made you change your mind about suing him then?
Itâ€™s the aspiring Sufi in me. My answer to them is, â€œDear Friends, who stab me in my back, I will always love you and pray for you. Amen!â€™â€™
What unknown aspect about yourself have you revealed in the biography?
There are many things that I havenâ€™t spoken about earlier. Readers seem to be moved by my admission of how I sold my motherâ€™s jewellery to buy equipment.
Do you know where the book Teach Yourself Mandarin mentioned in your biography is now lying?
Itâ€™s lying in a special music research room, which I never used because after that I happened to travel a lot.
As a composer do you go through a â€˜composerâ€™s blockâ€™ sometimes?
Good question! See, the primary job is conceiving a tune. So when something is not working out on one song, I sit on the next one. That opens up your mind and the block disappears. Thatâ€™s the advantage of doing a lot of work. When youâ€™re working on a single project you could fall into this rut. But it does get stressful with looming deadlines.
Which is your favourite musical instrument?
That would be an instrument owned by an extraordinary instrumentalist â€“ say a mandolin player like U Srinivas. Or the great violin player like Ganesh Kubereshwar in the South.
Youâ€™ve maintained that youâ€™re not a good teacher. Why?
Teaching is something finite. I can only teach when Iâ€™m 100 per cent sure that Iâ€™ve got something to teach (Laughs). Iâ€™m constantly learning and trying to unlearn things.
People close to you maintain that international acclaim hasnâ€™t changed you. Are you incorruptible in that sense?
Donâ€™t say that! Everyone has corruption in them. Itâ€™s mainly because of an inherent selfishness that you are tied to.
Shekhar Kapur was the first one to whom you said, â€˜I want to do your movie (Elizabeth â€“ the Golden Age).â€™ Who were the second and third?
It ended there! (Laughs) I always believe that when I ask for something, it gets jinxed. I get things which I deserve and those I donâ€™t deserve, I donâ€™t get.
How do you balance the dichotomy of following Sufism and the materialism which comes with success?
Well, one is material richness and the other is spiritual richness.
I maybe rich moneywise but Iâ€™m spiritually poor. Iâ€™m a fakir in a way.
Is there a Sufi saint you want to compose a song for now?
Yeah, thereâ€™s always that thought. It canâ€™t be dictated by commerce. Like Khwaja mere Khwaja (Jodhaa Akbar) was genuinely composed for myself and later given to Ashutosh (Gowariker).
Music is supposedly banned in Islam. Your take.
I embraced Islam through Sufism. Iâ€™m steadfastly following that path. That is serving religion through Sufism.
Do you credit yourself for inspiring Indian musicians to make a mark in rock and rap, R&B and other Western music forms?
All that already existed but was underground. The Indian population comprises 60 per cent youth. Some musicians do fantastic stuff with Indian classical music. Thatâ€™s the positive thing about our country. People can do anything they want and have the time of their lives.
Whatâ€™s the major difference when composing music for films in the South and the North?
Itâ€™s like if I give idli sambhar to a North Indian, heâ€™ll say, â€˜What is this? I need my roti!â€™ And if you give a roti to a South Indian, heâ€™ll say, â€˜I need my idli sambhar, pongal and dosaâ€™. Some people have gone beyond that but most havenâ€™t.
Which are the Hindi songs you grew up on?
I grew up on Subhash Ghaiâ€™s Hero (Laxmikant-Pyarelal) and then whatâ€™s that tara ra ra ra (hums the Suhana safar tune from Madhumati)! Iâ€™ve not grown up much on Hindi music. But I used to like the music of Sholay (RD Burman).
Why do you work at night?
Iâ€™ve explained this a million of times. Earlier, I used to work from 9 am to 9 pm for commercials and other assignments. After pack-up, Iâ€™d do my own creative work from 11 pm to 5 am in the morning. So for practical reasons, all my creative work was done at night. When I started composing for films, this became a habit. Iâ€™d begin around 11 pm.
How do you maintain a balance between being a private person and a public figure?
There are lots of things which are personal, which is best not let out.
I love keeping it that way (Laughs). I donâ€™t tweet, â€˜Iâ€™m going to the bathroomâ€™. Or, â€˜Iâ€™m having lunch with someoneâ€™. I donâ€™t post such tweets and bore people. I tweet Only if I have something important to say.