AR Rahman: Being a producer is a gamble
Says legendary music composer AR Rahman as he discusses his upcoming trilingual film, 99 Songs, which also marks his debut as a producer as well as a writer
Oscar-winning music composer AR Rahman's upcoming film, 99 Songs, a musical drama that depicts the travails of a struggling singer, who wants to be a successful music composer, is all set to land in cinemas in Telugu, Tamil and Hindi on April 16. Incidentally, the film marks the debut of Rahman as a producer as well as a writer. "When I went to London in 2001, one of my friends asked me if I have a script. I wondered why did he ask this question to a music composer like me? Later I realised that music is one of the most powerful ways to tell a story. Then, I have attended workshops on filmmaking and film photography and wrote the story of 99 Songs," begins Rahman as he reveals the story behind the making of 99 Songs.
The ace composer explains that 99 Songs has changed the way he perceived music. "I started to think beyond music and looked at different facets of cinema as a writer, producer and actor. As a producer, I have done my duty sincerely. I have shown 99 Songs to my close friends and took all their inputs. All three versions were refined for over one-and-half years so that every dialogue has a feel and every lip-sync stands correct," says Rahman.
He continues, "Being a producer is a gamble. If you are not sincere, you will lose everything. I am really careful about that and tried my best."
Rahman says he drew inspiration from legendary director K Vishwanath for writing this film. "I have been working as a music composer for 27 years. I have taken the biggest inspiration from K Vishwanath garu. What he achieved in screenplay with music has been outstanding. I also looked up to Mani Ratnam garu and Shankar garu. I think more and more stories about music should come out. These stories should highlight the plight and the ordeals of musicians," shares Rahman.
On casting Ehan Bhat in the lead role, Rahman shares an interesting anecdote that happened six years ago. "We auditioned about 800 actors for the part and we weren't able to get anyone for it. Our casting director had finalised a boy from Pakistan, who can sing and play the guitar. I asked him, "Why? Can't you find someone in India yaar?" I told him that I don't want my debut production to land in trouble. I was really disappointed. I went back and saw all the photographs again. I saw Ehan Bhat's photo and thought this Kashmiri guy would be perfect for the role of a musician. Ehan is passionate about cinema and he was trained in KM Music Conservatory to get into the skin of the character. He can play the piano now (laughs)."
Ehan Bhat said that he was surprised to receive a call from AR Rahman for the film. "I went to give an audition with great excitement. A few months later, I got the confirmation that I am playing the lead in Rahman sir's film. I couldn't believe it. I was emotional and drenched in tears of joy. After that, I met Rahman sir, who is my role model and a favourite composer."
The debutant was all praise for his producer. "Rahman sir has been one of the best human beings I have ever met in my life. We share a relation, which is beyond an actor and producer. He cares for me, he guides me and inspires me a lot. The best thing I learnt about him is that he treats everyone equally and talks to all the same way. He treated me like his family member."
Directed by Vishwesh Krishnamoorthy, 99 Songs also features Edilsy Vargas, Manisha Koirala and Lisa Ray in pivotal roles.