A R Rahman talks about his latest Tamil anthem, Moopilla Thamizhe, says it’s a call for action
A R Rahman, who recently came out in support of the Tamil language on social media, talks about his latest Tamil anthem Moopilla Thamizhe Thaaye, resolving creative differences and future projects
Defined by his phenomenal music, A R Rahman undoubtedly pushes boundaries and never fails to inspire and infuse a brilliant sense of wonder with all his compositions. The man is truly a legend. It all started in 1990 when Rahman was discovered by Mani Ratnam and brought onboard for the Tamil film Roja. He became a music sensation with Chinna Chinna Aasai and went on to give background scores for Tamil films including Bombay, Kadhalan, Thiruda Thiruda, and S Shankar’s debut film Gentleman, Hindi films like Dil Se, Taal, Lagaan, Swades, Delhi 6, Saathiya and Atrangi Re among many others as wel l as Hollywood films like Couples Retreat, 127 Hours, Warriors of Heaven and Earth and not to forget Slumdog Millionaire which brought home India’s first Oscar for the track Jai Ho. With each passing year, his style has evolved and he has reinvented himself in many ways.
With national and global laurels like two Oscars, two Grammy awards, National Film Award and multiple honourary doctorates besides a Padma Bhushan, the highest civilian award, the ace composer continues to remain unmoved by his stupendous success and possesses great humility and an endearing down-to-earth attitude. His compositions have an alluring effect and he tells us that his life too is impacted by the music he creates. “Many of my songs are created after a lot of hard work.” Clearly, his idea of evolving as a musician is not just about better work but also about creating something new in different areas, thus he recently debuted as a writer with his first film 99 Songs and last year, British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) also signed him on as an ambassador. He has been travelling across the world for his live shows barring the last two years owing to the pandemic but he is back on stage and was recently in Dubai for a show before releasing the latest Tamil anthem Moopilla Thamizhe Thaaye on March 25. The track celebrates the glory and heritage of the Tamil language. Rahman, who has lent his voice for the track, also appears in the video. It also features Tamils belonging to different social classes.
It is rousing and reverential. Moopilla Thamizhe Thaaye represents the ideals and cultural symbols of Tamil Nadu. The song is a complete package of creativity with visual effects and dance. The song has artists Saindhavi Prakash, Khatija Rahman, AR Ameen, Amina Rafiq, Gabriella Sellus, and Poovaiyar among others on board. We caught up with Mozart of Madras to talk more about the anthem, his long association with the patriotic melody, his future projects and more...
Moopilla Thamizhe Thaaye celebrates Tamil culture. How did you conceptualise the song?
I wanted to do something for the Tamil language in the form of a modern day anthem that everyone can enjoy and be proud of, yet I wanted it to be something that resonates broadly with both the older and younger generations, and people from different walks of life. Thamarai came to mind as a great fit for writing the lyrics and she beautifully penned the lyrics to bring my vision into reality.
This isn’t the first Tamil anthem that you have created. How do you approach it when the theme remains consistent every year?
At the core of Moopilla Thamizhe Thaaye, it’s not only about sharing with the world the beauty of Tamil as a language but equally it is a call for action to do what we can as individuals, to live up to our potential. So it is unique in that way. And every song has its own unique element so I approach them with that perspective.
With several anthems to your credit, comparison is bound to happen, and people may be biased about the song, what is your response to that?
I feel that is the beauty of music. It’s up to everyone to enjoy and appreciate it in their own way. In fact having various interpretations and perspectives would encourage discussions and that’s a great thing for a song like Moopilla Thamizhe Thaaye. Anything that helps spread the message and makes people think, is a good thing.
There is a significant use of akk (ayudha ezhutha). What is the significance of this symbol and why is it used in the song?
The ayudha ezhuthu (akk) has a special place in the Tamil language. It’s neither a consonant nor a vowel. It’s a call for unity and action. Just like we have done in the past, I believe that despite changing times and problems, together we can do beautiful things.
There are other singers also involved in the song, what went behind choosing these artistes?
There are many featured artists and they all have done a great job. They’re immensely gifted and talented, and the song would not have been the same without them.
Were you involved in the conceptualisation of the entire video?
When we started working on the song, we had many discussions with the maajja team — who have released the song, and with director Amith Krishnan on what the visuals could be. There were so many ideas and Amith has done a beautiful job bringing different pieces and ideas together in a cohesive visual.
When you work in a team, creative differences are bound happen. How do you deal with a situation like this?
When you don’t trust people, they don’t deliver. When you are constantly policing them then their internal wisdom stops working and they go into a slave mode. You need to keep a balance. You need to trust people and also need to be careful because there is a lot of money involved and people’s careers are at stake and the success of the product is important. If one person makes a mistake, the entire project falls. It’s like taking all the good things from everyone and putting it into the project. It’s a collective vision that becomes one vision.
What was the idea behind introducing different dance forms in the song?
When you think of Tamil, it’s about the language, arts and culture. Showcasing dance forms is important from that perspective. Essentially, the idea was to present a flavour of different elements, make it something that would resonate with people all over.
What is next on the work front? What is that you’re most excited about?
I am excited about many things in the works. When the time comes, I will share more details.