25 Years Of Rangeela: How AR Rahman Created His First Hindi Film Album

Ram Gopal Varma looks back at working with a much younger Rahman, years before he would become a celebrated global artist
25 Years Of Rangeela: How AR Rahman Created His First Hindi Film Album

There were several elements in Ram Gopal Varma's Rangeela that made us feel that this was something we hadn't seen or heard before. Chief among them was A R Rahman's outstanding soundtrack – his first for a Hindi film. According to RGV, Rahman's unique album forced them to be equally innovative with the choreography and design of the songs. "His music was so different that you have no choice but to think of new visuals. The choreographer has no choice but come up with new moments. The compositions are different because we all are trying to match the originality and the intensity and the difference in its sound." he says. 

Looking back at the making of the album, RGV reminisces what it was like to work with a much younger Rahman, years before he would become a celebrated global artist.  

Edited excerpts from our interview with Ram Gopal Varma:


"(I found) Rahman a very, very peculiar guy in comparison to how my experience was with the other composers from the beginning of my career. He doesn't impress you. All the other music directors have this tendency to put one tabla guy, put one harmonium and start clapping and all that. Rahman used to just put a rare groove from his keyboard and sings, and when you're listening to it, he won't even look for your reaction… When I heard the first tune he composed, I was very confused. He sang 'Yayi Re Yayi Re' (imitating Rahman's voice). I didn't know what to say. It sounded like some tribal song to me, something from an African forest. And he has a thin voice and now because we heard many songs, we've got used to him. I am talking about the beginning. I met Mani (Ratnam) and told him I couldn't make out what this song was. Mani played it twice, thrice and said, 'just take it. At least it sounds like something we've never heard before'."


"There's a story behind the 'Hai Rama' song. Rahman and I went to Goa and for five days we stayed in two cottages – Rahman was in one and I was in another waiting. The first day he said I am doing something, I'll make you listen tomorrow. Tomorrow came, tomorrow evening came, day after tomorrow… and then he had to go. I said, 'Rahman, I have to shoot. What do I do? There's no song'. He said, 'Ramu can I request you one thing? Next time you take me somewhere for music composing, see that I am in a room where there's no TV. Because all these four days I was only watching TV.' I wanted to punch him in the nose man! Why would he even tell me that. I was so angry. I just refused to talk to him in the flight." 


"He said he would send me a tune from Chennai. The reference I gave him was 'Kaate nahi kat te' from Mr India. Now he sent me the tune of 'Hai Rama' and I thought it was a mistake. It sounded like a Carnatic classic song with that tabla and all that. I thought look at the reference I gave and he comes up with this! He sang also in a very classical manner. Now Rahman has one incredible quality, he is the only guy I have seen who doesn't have any arrogance. If you say no to a song, he won't even try to convince you that it's good. He'll just leave it. But the problem is that you have to wait again for the next song. 

Then when I kept on hearing the tune, because it happened to be there in my tape recorder, I slowly started getting into it. I called him up again and I said 'Are you're sure this will work? I have started liking it'. He said, 'Ramu trust me, this will work. I went by his trust and that then when he called me to Chennai to make me listen to the final track. I was zapped. I realised the orchestration is what which makes it."

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