Despite intermittent international assignments, music wizard A. R. Rahman's heart is "Swades", finds out SREEDHAR PILLAI
I like music that stirs my soul.
ALLAH RAKHA Rahman hates having the spotlight turned on him. At 38, he has overtaken the likes of Madonna and Britney Spears in the sales of his cassettes, collaborated with Andrew Lloyd Webber and also worked with Michael Jackson and Jennifer Lopez.
Rahman's latest Ashutosh Gowarikar directed "Swades" has been topping the charts. It has been a long wait after "Lagaan" but worth it. Its music has to be savoured slowly as the sounds are simple with Rahman's trademark beats missing. The Udit Narayan-Hariharan-Kailesh Kher sung "Yunhi Chala Chal... ." is the pick of the album and already a chartbuster. Also worth listening is "Yeh Jo Des Hai Tera... " sung by the maestro himself. Recently at the inauguration of International Film Festival of India (IFFI-2004) in Goa it was A. R. Rahman who received the biggest ovation when he walked in to conduct the theme song of Subhash Ghai's "Kisna".
At the music launch of the Tamil version of `Swades" in Chennai, Rahman was in a mood to chat.
According to the grapevine you are settled in London...
(Smiles) I am very much in Chennai and doing what I am best at composing music. My international commitments like "Bombay Dreams" and now "Lord of the Rings" take me abroad frequently, but Chennai is my home.
The music of "Swades" is off-beat but is still a chartbuster.
"Swades" is right from my heart. It is simple and sweet music. My director Ashutosh was particular that the songs should match the situations in the film. We did not want a western feel and it should have a soothing Indian flavour. When I heard the script of "Swades", I knew it was more challenging than "Lagaan". I also realised that when you try to make a film with a strong message you have to be careful. The script demanded music that could arouse an emotion in your heart, the moment you hear it. I have used a lot of classical ragas in the film. For "Yeh Tara Woh Tara... " I have used the Raag Kalavati and given it a popular slant.
Your feedback on "Swades" album.
"Yun Hi Chala Chal... " has clicked with the youth in a big way. A western beat with drums and guitar has been used wonderfully. All the three singers Udit, Hari and Kailash have put their heart and soul into the number. And let me tell you a secret that this tune was originally composed
for "Lagaan" but was not used! .
On the Tamil lyrics of "Desam" by Vaali
Vaali sir has been astounding as it is for the first time that I heard my dubbed songs having the same meaning and the lip sync also is perfect. He has not used one English word in the Tamil album which I feel is great.
"Kisna" music is also rocking the nation
In Goa when the songs were premiered at the opening ceremony, I was touched by the response I received. The theme music "A moment I am searching for... " for this Subhash Ghai epic sung by Sunitha Sarathy has given Celine Dion a run for her money. Another song in "Kisna' album "Hum Hai Iss Pal Yahan... " sung by Udit Narayan and Madhusree is unconventional with a catchy rhythm.
How come you come up with great music only for your favourites such as Mani Ratnam, Subhash Ghai and now Ashutosh Gowarikar?
My comfort level with these people may be high. At the same time you can't close your eyes to hit songs that I have done for other filmmakers such as S. J. Suryah.
Your critics say that you have neglected Tamil film music.
Tamil film music is what made me. But I have to move ahead in life as opportunities knock only once at your door. When I composed songs for "Roja", I thought that it would be my first and last film album and I was mentally prepared to go back and do jingles. I never dreamt that I would take the baton and perform live at the city of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. Today I have realised that music can change our society. I have not only been lucky but am showered with God's blessings. I am a very happy and contented man.
A new breed of composers like your former assistant Harris Jayaraj and Yuvan Shankar Raja is making rapid strides in Tamil film music...
Harris Jayaraj has hardly worked with me in two films and you cannot call him my assistant. I wish them all the best.
Have you lost interest in fast western beats that you were famous for?
(Smiles) What is today's Tamil film music all about? They are nothing more than fast numbers or remix downloaded. What took me weeks to make music for a "Gentleman" or "Rangeela" can be done today if you have a computer, software and then pre-set the rhythms and you have a disco number!
Fast music is no big deal today as anyone can become a music director.
What kind of music gives you complete satisfaction?
As a composer, I like music that is able to stir my soul. My music is a spiritual exercise, like "Vande Matharam... ". I am happy as people associate me with patriotism and nationalism.
For Shyam Benegal's "Subhash Chandra Bose", I am trying to do something different, a Bengali Bol type of thing and Afgani Zikar music.
Your projects in Tamil?
K. S. Ravikumar's "Godfather", new films of S. J. Suryah and Rajiv Menon.
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