I don’t know how to define success: AR Rahman
With his concert in Chennai scheduled for Friday -- organised to commemorate his completing 25 years in the industry -- AR Rahman expresses gratitude for everything that has been given to him
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 a explosive performer. “Music makes everything possible. It opened me up as a person,” he says. To mark his completing 25 years in the industry, AR Rahman will be performing a concert this Friday called Netru Indru Naalai. Excerpts from an interview with the composer:
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 overwhelming response for the concert from 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.
‘What I like about concerts is that it symbolises spontaneity -- a sense of living in the present. I constantly look at the reactions of the audience. That’s what keeps me going.’
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 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.
‘I may rope in Vijay for a song in Thalapathy 62. But I assure you that the music will be different from Mersal.’
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 keep doing what feels right.
What do you suppose is lacking in the film 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 for that.
7UP's Netru Indru Naalai will be held at YMCA grounds, Nandanam, Friday, from 6 pm