AR Rahman On Being A Mentor While Being A Successful Composer, Film Companion
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You have established the KM Conservatory, there is Maaja, and now BAFTA Breakthrough for which you are an ambassador. Do you think over the years, you are more in the mentor space, than in the composing and performing space?

Both are complimentary. If I am not a successful composer, who will listen to me? People will say, “he doesn’t work anymore, and his stuff doesn’t work anymore.” I don’t want it to be that way. For me, my conservatory should get inspired by my success. That makes a much better inspiration than a retired man sitting and doing things. 

When I work with people or when I talk to younger people, I get inspired. I think what if we collaborate, what if we do something together, what if we give something, what if we take something. 

For instance, in the Firdaus Orchestra Expo, there are people from twenty three different countries. Most of them don’t speak English, they speak Arabic, Croatian and Armenian. It’s so fascinating to see. We connected through music – that’s the language and they respond, they tear up when they hear a melody. That’s when you know the music is working! I may be different, I may look different from them, but we connect through music and love.

 

After all these years, how do you keep your creative side alive? The most amazing song I heard all year was ‘Taare Ginn’, it was such a fresh song. With all your commitments and all your travel, how do you make a ‘Taare Ginn’? 

Mukesh Chhabra waited for me for 6 months and he asked me if I could do it and I said yes. If you love me so much, I’ll take it! 

Usually, I want to do movies about certain things and this was on my list. I hadn’t worked with Sushant Singh, and I thought that would be nice. The first day I was playing the piano and we had twelve ideas. We picked a few out of that and Taare Ginn was one of them. I asked him if we could make a duet of this. While he filmed it, I was inspired to make it a duet, when it intertwined with the melody. The way he filmed, it let me do the song that way!

Finally, I have to ask you about Ponniyin Selvan, which is at the other end of the spectrum. The big, mega budget film, with Mani Ratnam. What is the sound that we can expect to hear?

We had three different stages for that movie. Initially, we went to Bali to compose. In the last 15 years, we haven’t gone anywhere but, I said let’s go to Bali, because there are leftovers of Tamil culture there and that has become very Indonesian. We went there, hung out for a week and I had about twenty five ideas.He didn’t like any of those. After we came back he had a lot of suggestions, one of which was a monkey chant which they do so beautifully, and we got inspired by that.

During the lockdown last year, the whole soundtrack came together. It had three stages where we scrapped the first one, the next and then in the third one, we got a grip on the sounds.

It is a period soundtrack but it has the potency of what you would expect from a Mani Ratnam movie.

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