Friday, August 11, 2006

A R Rahman Interview


�I�m starting my own music label�

Musical genius A.R.Rahman tells Shana Maria Verghis why he is starting KM Music,
why he missed out on working in Moulin Rouge director Baz Luhrmann�s latest project, his
collaboration with a famous guitarist, why musicals are the next big thing in Indian cinema, how much Heath Ledger liked the Bombay Theme, why he has a new haircut and the next Elizabethan saga from Shekar Kapur.

Last time we met A.R.Rahman, he was sporting his trademark shoulder-length
hair., This time it was cropped short because he recently went on a Haj pilgrimage. Wearing a beige Van Heusen jacket, white shirt and jeans over patent leather shoes. Rahman, who has just
been anointed WorldSpace�s brand ambassador, was in Delhi for a brief stopover. We buttressed him into talking about chalk and cheese.

WorldSpace got you into four new adverts. Your second TV commercial after Nokia.
You also composed the jingle for WorldSpace�s latest campaign which is built around you
and includes concert shows.

I have been using the radio for four years. The video was shot in Kannur. The music is inspired
by sounds of nature.

Spike Lee chose Chaiyyan Chaiyyan (from Dil Se) track for his heist film, Inside Man, which
stars Jodie Foster. And one of your tunes will appear in Nicholas Cage�s Lord of War. Did you
get paid?

Spike Lee is an undergraduate professor at a US University. He saw the film and contacted us
for the song. He wanted to put rap in it, but I made a specific condition he couldn�t touch it.
Mani Ratnam�s company was paid for it. Nicholas Cage�s film uses the Bombay
Theme song.

You are working on the soundtrack for Mani Ratnam�s Guru, based on the life of
textile tycoon Dhirubhai Ambani. In the background was an anthem on TB for United Nations.

It has been changed to anti-poverty. Gulzar is collaborating on Guru, that
should be good.

What about the Sholay sequel?

I'm not in it anymore.

And Mani Ratnam�s Mahabharata trilogy?

That is still in the idea stage. But I�ve got Shootout at Lokhandwala, Woodstock
Villa, Dus Kahaniyan and Alibaug, all produced by Sanjay Gupta, who wrote the script for
the last. I�m also working with a great guitarist.

Carlos Santana? Since every new album of his is with collaborative artists?

(Smiles) I�m not telling.

But there is a lot more work in progress�

Yes, like Shekar Kapur�s two sequels to Elizabeth. The first, The Golden Age, is already
happening. It�s going to be an IMAX film and there is a project with Farah Khan starring
Shahrukh Khan. Period films, The Golden Age and Jodha Akbar.

What music are you listening to�.

Classical, like Bartok.

What about when you travel, do you collect music?

You can get form an iTunes store.

What do you think of Himesh Reshamiyya?

He�s okay. We were co-jurors for a show on Channel [V].

You are known for keeping unearthly work hours. Do you still do?

Depends on work. I�m at it from 9 pm till 3 am. Then I sleep till three in the afternoon.

Is there a lacuna in the music scene?

The lack of an extraordinary male voice.

What is your definition of �extraordinary�?

Like Mohammed Rafi. Not that Shankar (Mahadevan) and Sonu (Nigam) aren�t good
but one looks for a timeless voice.

Followed the World Cup?

I don�t know a thing about it. I am beyond sports!

Are you in touch with your guru, music composer Dakshinamoorthy?

We are collaborating on an album based on Kairadu Master�s poem.

How did the collaboration with violinist Vanessa Mae happen on Choreography?

She would come to Shekar Kapur�s flat and ask me to arrange something for her album. I was
supposed to do three tracks. In the end I only did Raga�s Dance.

You arranged music for Kevin Wallace�s mammoth musical Lord of the Rings. It premiered in
Toronto and opens in London next year. At $12.5 million, it is supposed to be the most
expensive musical to be staged in London.

It has been a lot of work. It covers all three of the movie versions. I worked on it with
Finnish folk musicians Vartinna.

Have you taken up new instruments?

I bought an accordion during a trip to Prague.

You are happiest doing live show. What do you think about music now?

It�s a shame most Indian�s listen to music that is only film, film. There is so much more.
Western classical, new age, South Indian classical. That is why I am launching a new music

A label of your own?

KM Music. KM stands for something holy and lucky for us. I�ll be producing, not distributing.
We will get all kinds of people and composers, focusing mainly on unknown voices. Music in the
market is something most relate to. I first listened to Bade Ghulam Ali saab on the Mughal-e-Azam soundtrack. I doubt I would have listened to him otherwise. Recently, in Delhi, I was listening to a nine-year-old who sang on a talent show and blew everyone out. It�s good
that�s there�s so much talent around.

Going back, how did you end up composing for the Chinese film, Warriors of Heaven and Earth?

Sony, my producers, wanted me to work with Joshua Bell who had appeared on the
Red Violin. While talking they mentioned this project.

You nearly landed up working on Baz Luhrmann�s next film�

Unfortunately, they checked out the list of my projects on the IMDB website and
got scared because my name was next to thirty. They don�t like the idea of working with
someone who has too much on his plate. Baz Luhrmann has three proposals still lined up.

There seem to be more musicals with you composing Shyam Benegal�s Chamki
Chameli, about a BSF officer and a gypsy girl.

There are going to be more musicals in the future. I�m also composing for Naresh
Iyer�s London Dreams about two composers and the Punjabi underground music scene. And for Rockstar with Sushmita Sen and Shiney Ahuja.

Your take on remixes?

I don�t think all are bad.

What do you present when you land an international project?

I don�t show them I�m Indian or anything. I let them listen to the melody. It
should match the scene. Like my score for Ring Theme in The Lord of the Rings was cyclic. They aren�t interested in ragas. The Bombay Theme was popular in Hollywood actors� make-up rooms as a stress buster. I met Heath Ledger at the premiere of Shekar Kapur�s Four Feathers and he loved it.

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