Exclusive interview: Celebrating 25 years of the maestro AR Rahman
It’s impossible not to be nervous when the person sitting in front of you is AR Rahman. The man himself is a tad reticent, but as is all too well-known of the composer, when he gets on stage, he transforms into an explosive performer. “Music makes everything possible. It opened me up as a person,” he says. To mark him completing 25 years in the industry, AR Rahman will be performing a concert today called Netru Indru Naalai.
You haven’t often partnered with a brand to promote your show.
All things change. And it’s good. Change is the only constant. (Laughs) It feels great to be back — where it all started. We’ll hopefully recreate beautiful moments and timeless songs, which have had a magical effect on people. We got an overwhelming response for the concert from the US, Canada, Andhra Pradesh and North India. Now, it’s Chennai’s turn. The city gives a beautiful vibe that inspires me.
What’s on your mind before you get on to a stage?
I feel blessed for everything that I have today, and I keep telling my family that there should be no complaints whatsoever. God has been extremely kind to me. I simply live in the moment. I just remember all that.
How has AR Rahman, the performer, changed over the years?
I think my initial concerts were a little boring. The music was there, of course, but I realised what was missing after observing concerts abroad. Now, I think I’ve become better. I move around the stage, and interact with the audience. When I am in the studio, I am just a composer. But when I am on the stage, I am a performer, and I have to be on par with youngsters.
I’ve learned about lenses, camera angles and so on. That’s one of the reasons why I have stepped into filmmaking. I wasn’t image-conscious before, but now, I know I can’t represent India with unbuttoned shirts. (Smiles) I have realised I need to carry myself with a certain kind of class. My wife has started dressing me up, of late. I guess, she got inspired by the SuperHeavy band! It’s a refinement, anyway.
What does this year have in store for you?
I’m doing the Vijay-AR Murugadoss film and there’s also Mani Ratnam’s new project in the pipeline. The bond with Mani Ratnam has remained intact from when I made my debut in Roja. His energy is infectious.
As for Shankar, it’s so easy to work with him. I am almost done with 2.0. And then, there are also my projects, 99 Songs and Le Musk. I need to promote them too. But no, it’s not about me and what I want. I am trying to connect with people, and make them understand that my music is for everybody.
Twenty five years in the industry. Does it make you feel old?
(Laughs) Don’t you think I am? The industry is going through challenges, and how people consume music has become different. Every day when I wake up, I think, “Oh, I am alive; I need to do something nice.” That’s the only way to live life.
How have you remained on top of your game?
Oh, am I? I don’t know. I’ve been trying to do new things for 30-40 years now. I’ve always got mixed responses from the audience.
I think it’s great that you continue to be level-headed, despite all the success.
I am quite touched to hear that. I get confused sometimes. I don’t know how to define success. Should I make fans happy, or is it about making soulful music? Or perhaps I should worry about YouTube views? I don’t know. I just do what I feel is right.
What do you think lacks in the industry?
To answer that, I should have listened to the music extensively. That’s how I could gauge that. But honestly, I don’t have the time.
7UP presents AR Rahman, Live in Chennai — Netru Indru Naalai will be held at YMCA grounds, Nandanam, today, from 6 pm