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Let musicians live with some dignity: A R Rahman

AR Rahman on his stand on the music royalty tiff, his forthcoming projects and photography being his new pursuit

That music maestro A R Rahman lives out of a suitcase is a known fact. But what amazed us when we met him after the press conference for Imtiaz Ali’s upcoming film Highway was his unbridled energy.

A R Rahman
A R Rahman

Having flown in from LA, Rahman headed straight to the video shoot for one of the songs from the film, before turning up for the press conference. When MiD DAY caught up with him, a jetlagged yet patient Rahman sat down for a quick chat.

How was the experience of working with Imtiaz again?
Working with Imtiaz has been great. When we started out, we thought there wouldn’t be any room for a song; we were looking at accommodating just a lullaby. But once work began, we found potential for songs and now we have composed around nine tracks for the film.

Your work keeps making you travel back and forth -- one day you’re in LA and the next day has you shooting a video in Naigaon...
I don’t shuffle around every day. I have been working on the score of a Hollywood film for the last two months, but at the same time, I worked on Highway’s music.

Over the past few days, the tussle over royalty rights has been making headlines. Your comment?
I’d say that it’s a good thing that a law protecting musicians’ rights has been passed- we needed a law in favour of musicians and artists. Of course, it will be difficult for the whole system to change drastically but I think people will eventually find common ground. Personally, it pains me to see someone who has composed great songs get so little in return for his/ her work. Often these talented people don’t even have enough money to change the curtains, or to get petrol for their car — this is unacceptable. Even if a person has composed just one song, he / she should be entitled to a royalty amount for it. It needn’t be a big sum, but it should let musicians live with some dignity.

You are the only artiste who commands royalty for a film’s music. Did you sign away your royalty when you came on board for Highway, which has T-Series backing the music?
I don’t want to go into all that.

How do you spend your free time?
I am very interested in photography now; I have been clicking photographs of my children in my spare time. Of course, they don’t like the attention. They get irritated and ask me to leave them alone.

Tell us about your upcoming projects.
I am leaving for Chennai now and then heading to the Grammy Awards the day after. I am also making music for a few Bollywood films, including Paani and Aarif Ali’s upcoming film with Armaan Jain.

How difficult was it to get Alia Bhatt to sing?
Luckily for us, Alia has a good voice -- it’s an inborn quality that helped her pull it off. I even asked her if she learnt singing to which she replied in the negative. I think she will do well in music if she were to pursue it seriously for two years. It’s not very often that one comes across someone who is beautiful, talented and can also sing.

T series relinquishes rights of One By Two; Abhay Deol to promote the film’s music on his own
T-Series has relinquished the music rights of Abhay Deol’s film, One By Two.

“Although we had all the rights from Viacom, we are unable to release the music album in the absence of valid link agreements between Viacom and composers of the album.

We wish all the very best to Abhay Deol for his film,” said their press statement. Meanwhile, Abhay plans to spread word about his film’s music on his own.

Thanking T-Series for giving away their rights to the film’s music, he said, “I am someone who believes in the live and let live philosophy. I will now work out new ways to make the music popular before the release of the film.”
-- Bharati Dubey

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