In an interview, music maestro A R Rahman said he prefers to work at night for the daylight hurts his eyes. He got used to night hours early in his career, when he played in a troupe.
No one is surprised, therefore, when the Academy Award winner lands at Balewadi Stadium, the venue for his concert in Pune, at 12.30 am for rehearsals. Pune is the second destination in a multi-city charity tour spread across the year.
Attending one of Rahmanâ€™s concert rehearsals is like peeping into the inner sanctum of a man who chooses to stay away from the limelight. Even in a space as private as this, where heâ€™s surrounded only by his team, he is shy as ever. Dressed in black tee and a grey jacket over denims, he lets the organisers direct the rehearsals, keeping himself at the piano and following instructions.
Artistes are known to have quirks and superstitions. For Rahman, nothing begins without Godâ€™s blessings. Therefore, a small prayer room in his vanity van and possibly even in the green room is a must
If the 43-year-old wishes to express himself, he lets his instrument do the talking. If he begins to play a random note, unlinked with the music being rehearsed, then it is a sign of impatience or dissatisfaction, a subtle way to ask the troupe to put in more heart.
Rahmanâ€™s troupe includes Hariharan, Sadhana Sargam, Blaaze and Rashid Ali, who launches his album under Rahmanâ€™s KM Musiq and has flown down from London. The set-up is basic when compared with the maestroâ€™s usual gigs, the instruments limited to guitar, drums, a piano, sitar and flute.
A rainbow of colours lights up the venue as Ali begins to croon Kahin To, this yearâ€™s chartbuster from Jaane Tu Ya jaane Na. The performances are mingled with camaraderie in which Rahman participates with a reserved smile here or a remark there.
A small crowd of fans has gathered at the venueâ€™s entrance gates to watch the maestro perform. All of them patiently wait for him to take the mike.
Ali is followed by Hariharan and then Sadhana Sargam on the vocals, all while Rahman chooses to sit back and work his piano. Two hours into the rehearsals, at 3 am, the fansâ€™ silent wish is granted as the otherwise reticent musician takes charge, his jacket now off. At times he asks the 25 drummers to display more zest; at others times he asks the dance troupe to be more energetic.
The mood on stage now changes. The rehearsal begins to look like a professional performance. At 6 am on Sunday, Pune has woken up to the maestroâ€™s music. Small crowds gather around the stadium now as the sun shines from behind the crowd. And though to most, music is the perfect spiritual start to their day, Rahman chooses to end his with it.