When I’m making music, it isn’t about me all the time: AR Rahman.

When I’m making music, it isn’t about me all the time: AR Rahman.

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Johnson Cherian.
Dhoni coming back to the Chennai Super Kings might be making news, but AR Rahman is also coming back to Chennai… musically speaking. He’s gearing up for this Friday’s ‘Netru Indru Naalai’, a concert put together by 7UP to celebrate his 25 years in the industry. In a chat with Metroplus, the Oscar winner opens up about his plans and more:
You’ve completed 25 years in the music industry. Do you feel that old?
No, I feel young. I get scared if I think of the luggage and go back to the journey of 25 years. I think health is a gift and I hope it stays that way.
You have a big concert in Chennai later this week. Is this your way of giving back to Tamil audiences for them supporting you in every step?
Whenever we performed — in the US, North India and Andhra Pradesh — I kept feeling bad that I wasn’t singing in Chennai. When 7UP and Wizcraft approached me with this idea, I jumped at it.
The show will also feature seven new singers, selected through a public talent hunt…
The faculty at KM Music Conservatory were involved in the judging process, and went through the entries received through the contest. The seven winners will be singing with me on stage.
Does all this remind you of the time you started out as a singer? We know composers record their own voices for scratch tunes, but take us back to the first time you felt confident about putting it out there in a cassette…
I still haven’t reached there (laughs). Sometimes, when directors like Shankar, Mani Ratnam and Imtiaz Ali ask me to sing, I look at their confidence and think that I can pull it off. My wife is a big fan of my voice and keeps asking me to sing more in films. But I dodge that as much as possible because if that happens, I wouldn’t know where to draw the line.
On what basis do you choose the songs you sing?
It’s just instinct. Like ‘Malargal Kaettaen’ from OK Kanmani. I sang that, despite having a bad throat that day.
Do you consciously look out for fresh voices for your songs?
In the distant past, actors used to sing for their films. And then, there was playback singing and an actor lip-synced. And the structure of film music has been the same since then. As a composer, you can tune things in different ragas and write fresh lyrics, but when you run out of everything, a singer comes along, changes everything around, and gives things a new feel. One in a lakh might have that personality, and as composers, we are always searching for that one person. That’s why we keep experimenting; trying out a Hindi singer or Punjabi singer in Tamil… and listeners tend to get excited.
Like using Kailash Kher for ‘Aalaporaan’ (Mersal)?
Well, nobody else could reach that pitch…
Couldn’t you have sung it?
Yes, I could have. But when I’m making music, it isn’t about me all the time.
A few decades ago, only people trained in singing sang professionally. Now, it’s entirely possible for an amateur to try his or her hand at the studio. Do you see that as a good sign?
It depends. Some people have natural flair. There was one singer around us, and I didn’t even spot him… for 18 years. Suddenly, one day, this person wanted to sing for me. I was very tired that day, but just gave him some lines to sing… and he was such a revelation. His name is Bamba Bakya (singer of the yet-to-be-released song from Rajinikanth’s 2.0) and he will most likely sing in my next film with Vijay too.
That’s a big project. It’s your first Tamil film with Murugadoss.
He (Murugadoss) is very talented and picturises songs very well. It’s great to be back with him after ten years. Those who want music different from the songs of Mersal will love this.
Will you rope in Vijay to sing in the album?
It depends on the song. You shouldn’t push someone to do something; it’s all for his movie at the end of the day.
You are now composing for a film that has your nephew GV Prakash as the hero. How do you see his growth from the little boy who was playing in your studio?
He’s a smart boy. He understands his world very well, and Rajiv (director) was very happy with him. Hopefully, Sarvam Thaala Mayam legitimises his acting career.
Tamil Nadu is going through a lot of change on the political front. Rajinikanth, whom you’ve worked with closely, is the latest to get into politics. How do you see this move?
I personally feel that the state needs strong leadership and people who can change what is here. I want anyone who comes in, whether it is Rajinikanth or anyone else, to cater to the needs of the people, in bettering infrastructure, music and arts, and make lives better for all the farmers. I feel that kind of a miracle should happen.
Will you ever get into politics?
No, thank you.

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