To get A.R. Rahman to talk is a task, or so it seems, as we sit down for a brief chat with him ahead of Encore — The Concert, his biggest tour in the country in a very long time. But indulge him to talk about music and he instantly goes from silent to animated. It might be just around seven minutes of conversation but the Academy award-winning composer leaves you with a lot to think about.
“Milestones are just milestones. Nothing more, nothing less. Milestones are just reasons to celebrate. Not just for me, but for everyone! And I am joining in the fun,” he starts off, talking about the 25-year mark he has crossed as a music composer, a reason behind this grand tour.
Except for marking the landmark completion of a silver jubilee, one might assume that this is just another of Rahman’s concerts. But that’s not the case. The celebrated composer hasn’t performed in the country in a very long time, while giving elaborate performances abroad. Talking about this, he tells us, “I should say I am blessed to come back to do this show. Around 20 years ago, there were too many questions about production and the massive scale of such shows.
That’s one reason I never did shows in India. But I think the emergence of ticketing sites has not just come as a blessing for artistes but has made better venues more accessible. That’s one reason why something like this seems a lot more easier to do at this point.”
The three-city tour is a kind of “time machine”, he says. “Every show will take the audience back and forth in time,” says Rahman.
“Giving them a hint of songs they have grown up with and introducing songs from today,” he says, adding that he does have some must-have numbers like Humma Humma, Urvashi, Roja and Taal that are “musically interesting and instantly connect with the audience”.
He seems excited talking about the fun of “improvising one’s own compositions on stage” depending on the moment. Talking of live shows, we ask him about the trend of artistes lip syncing. “When singing on stage, if someone is lip syncing, that’s a crime. When performing on stage, there’s always a desire to give a lot more than what is already there to a song. Because, if they had to listen to the same thing, they could just listen to it on a tape recorder! The problem with today’s shows is that many artistes do a lot of dancing with singing, and it’s impossible to sing in tune doing that. It’s a technique that started back in time with artistes who were both dancers and singers, where they lip synced partially. But today it’s become a fashion and I do not approve of it,” he says.
Rahman is aware of how his work has had a wide reach among the Telugu people, despite him not working in Tollywood for a long time. “Most of my movies are done in Telugu too. With two versions to be worked on, there’s a lot more energy and care that goes into the work. Maybe that’s the reason for it,” says the composer.
When asked if he has found anyone suitable to collaborate with, he says, “I like to work with people who are visionaries. Probably Viswanath, in his prime form, because I love how he worked and created. There are Telugu filmmakers today who I’d love to work with. But I love the way some directors and composers work together and I wouldn’t want to break their marriage of harmony, which is beautiful. Like S.S. Rajamouli and M.M. Keeravani for instance, or Mani Sharma and his association with several directors. In the same way, I will work with Mani Ratnam till he wants me (laughs).”
We ask him about the much-anticipated project Sye Raa Narasimha Reddy, starring Chiranjeevi. While there have been reports of the composer quitting the project, he says, “I was supposed to do it but things didn’t work as per my schedule. Sometimes, despite wanting to work, you can’t take up everything because there’s only a certain amount of work one can take up,” he concludes....