A R Rahman reveals his inner-most anxieties and the trauma of being so popular
It's the final day for rehearsals for the Rockstar concert in Mumbai. But A R Rahman looks a little distracted.
"Please, can all these people with cameras in their hands move out of the room..... we need to finish this and we have just a few hours," he snaps.
A R Rahman with wife Saira
Ever since his Oscars, Rahman has been shuttling between LA and Chennai and clearly life has never been the same. In an exclusive interview with Mid-Day, the maestro talks candidly about his deepest pains...
You've composed 14 songs for your latest film. The last time we saw those many tracks on one album was for Hum Aapke Hain Koun..!
Rockstar is about the evolution of a character from India and the songs tell his story. I have seen many Indian kids from middle-class families turning into rock musicians. After a point they hit a wall. The songs in this film track that journey. To depict the emotional catharsis a rockstar undergoes was the biggest challenge for me.
Is that emotional turmoil essential to create good music?
It's essential for any artiste. You have to be suppressed first, to be able to come out of it. Life's boring and mundane otherwise. For musicians it's easy to visit that pain because all you have to do is go to a particular raga.
Have you been to a point in life where you think it couldn't get worse?
Everyday. I can't explain, but everyday there's something that pains you. That's why I've tried to stay away from both happiness and sadness.
How do you manage time away from your kids?
Last year has been so hectic.
I was so overworked that I thought I was going to die. I want my kids to have a father, at least for some time. That's why I have had to reject many offers. I've stuck to Rockstar and just one other Hollywood film.
Will we ever see epic soundtracks like Lagaan or Rang De Basanti again?
I think the effort has to be wholesome. I can't just create beautiful songs, and expect them to work. If there is no story to back them, they won't stay.
It's been a new theme for you. You've never done rock music for Bollywood before...
I consciously kept away from using distorted guitars and heavy snazzy music. But I have done it here. Plus most songs are acoustic, so even if people don't relate to rock, they would enjoy them.
Is Ranbir a good rockstar?
Well Ranbir is a much better actor. He has been very enthusiastic and arrives at rehearsals promptly. I'm sure he'll look back 20 years from now and feel proud of this experience.
You're gearing up for yet another world tour and also working with the likes of Mick Jagger. Will we see less and less of AR Rahman?
There's a lot to learn from Hollywood, plus there is a lot to impart. I will only work with people who I feel understand my music.
...Like Danny Boyle?
Yes, like Danny. But I am not sure of his next film. He also has another music group called The Underground that he works with.
His Rockstar team says...
Ranbir Kapoor, actor: "I spent a lot of time at Rahman sir's studio and his home. He doesn't have a chip on his shoulder. So I was very comfortable. We'd discuss everything from cars to gadgets!"
Mohit Chauhan, singer: "I spent an entire day trying to record Sadda Haq with Rahman saab. But couldn't get it right. The next day, I did a take when he was yet to arrive and it sounded perfect. He told Imtiaz, 'May be Mohit doesn't like me.'"