A man of few words, A R Rahman has always preferred his music to do the talking. And how! From being touted as the most exciting composer in India, he is now on the verge of receiving international acclaim, with no less than sir Andrew Lloyd Webber rooting for him.
We caught up with Rahman when he was in Bombay recently. Excerpts from the conversation, in Real Audio as well:
You have always come up with exceptional scores for Mani Rathnam. Do you personally think that you've given your best for him? See, the main thing is the concept that the director has. He (Mani Rathnam) has always given me things which I have not done before. He has been quite an important person in my career, and he always wants me to excel, whether they are for his films or others' films. When challenging things are given to you, then you devote all your energy to it. He never tells you that 'I want a song like this or that,' but he always has a fresh idea. That's the reason why different scores come up for his films.
Andrew Lloyd Webber thinks that Chaiyya chaiyya is a great number, one of the greatest songs he has ever heard. What do you think about it?
He said it's one of the greatest numbers, yes. I think it's a very commercial song. He (Webber) finds the whole genre of music -- the production, picturisation of the song in Dil Se -- very interesting. Hopefully, we'll do more exciting stuff now.
When we talk about film music, we talk chiefly about how the masses appreciate it. Now, do you think your music will be more critically examined, simply because it will be heard by a different strata of society?
See, I always live with a song, sometimes for a week, sometimes for six months, to try and fix whatever is wrong with it. Because, if I don't like something, people will not like it either. I've gone by that rule and so far, it's been working. God was kind. That's how I'm going to do this (Bombay Dreams) also. I'm not going to try something I don't know about. I assume they will like it.
Is there going to be something elitist about a musical?
The only difference is that it's going to be in English. I'm yet to know (laughs) -- about any other differences, because this is a completely new direction for me. But on the whole, I think -- hopefully, God-willing -- it will be successful.
Are you looking at Hollywood as well?
Not now. I don't have the energy to do too many things at the same time. I'll probably finish this first...
But you are taking a sabbatical from Hindi and regional films, aren't you?
I've done my homework on the films which are yet to be released. So there's not going to be a vacuum. It's not like you are not going to hear A R Rahman's music for one year. I've almost completed Lagaan, Zubeida, Kandu Konden..., alai ptyuthey Rhythm. All these films will be coming now, filling up the gap.
And you are not accepting any other offers right now?
Not yet. I'm just holding them, so that I get some space.
Taal was a very big hit. How come you aren't working with Subhash Ghai again for his new film, Yaadein?
I was supposed to, but then this project came up. So I told him about it and we agreed that we'll find time in future and work together.
There's this allegation that you are a composer who has mastered the gadgets -- how do you react to this?
I think it's just an extra attribute or whatever (laughs). But it's not the only thing. Because without tunes, without happening tunes, it will not work. Only if you have a happening tune, then everything else can support it. Knowing the computer actually helps to perfect things. If somebody has gone off-key but delivered a good line with the right feel, you don't have to sacrifice the take. You can just cut it at the pitch and use it. These are what I have learnt to make things easier, to get the best out of an artiste.
Some people have accused you of being repetitive...
I don't think they will say that now, because I have been into too many wild things. Hopefully, they won't say it again in future.
But was there a phase when you felt you were being repetitive?
Well, yes. Following the success of Kadalan (or Hum Se Muqabla in Hindi), a kind of dance culture developed. Suddenly, there were proposals with Prabhu Deva and me together, because that helped sell the films. I was forced to do only dance music. But then I got out of it and accepted films which demanded melody. You know sometimes, you kind of get into it... without realising.
Do you have some idea about the kind of music you will be doing for Bombay Dreams?
Yes, we do have some scratches ready. If I tell you more about it, then there won't be any surprise left. But it is going to be Indian. It should be exciting, that's all I can say now.
Will there be Indian singers involved in the production?
There will be Asian singers, since part of the cast will be Asian.
A lot has been said about Chaiyya chaiyya. People attribute the song to you, but it has been inspired by something else... what made you choose this song?
Yeah, it's a Sufi song. Any great love song, when attributed to a divine source, gets an extra dimension. People say any love which is immortal is divine love. Chaiyya chaiyya is something like that. The inspiration, therefore, is a divine one.