With two Academy Awards, one BAFTA, one Golden Globe, one Grammy and six National Awards, musician AR Rahman is a global icon. Known for the way he blends western and Indian instruments, Rahman has gifted us an unending playlist of soulful melodies — Roja (1992), Bombay (1995), Dil Se… (1998), Rang De Basanti (2006), Rockstar (2011) — in a career spanning over two decades. In an interview, the Mozart of Madras talks about Bollywood music, the trend of remixes, future projects, and more. Excerpts:
In recent years, we haven’t seen much of you in the Hindi film industry. Was it a conscious decision to stay away?
I was concentrating on my movie, 99 Songs, which is yet to release and Dil Bechara, which is supposed to come out. I was also doing Tamil movies. My time was divided between my productions, building a studio, and spending time with my kids and nurturing them into musicians. That required a lot of attention and a lot of time. And now, they are almost on track (laughs). You have to play all the roles. I am satisfied with the time I have spent with them.
How has the digital wave changed the rules of the music industry?
There are no gatekeepers anymore. Any kid who is doing well can be discovered now. No one can say, ‘Oh! He is performing well but nobody is promoting him’. But of course, big players limit the scale of content into very small categories. If something works, they think this is what we need. For instance, if you think a dish is very good and let’s have this for breakfast, lunch and dinner, it becomes boring (laughs).
Remixes are ruling Bollywood. A few of your compositions were also recreated. Are you happy with any of them?
The one which I was happy with was The Humma Song (Ok Jaanu; 2017) as it helped the movie. However, after that I didn’t like any of them. Some of them are really disastrous and very annoying. In fact, I told the company who made the remix, ‘You are forcing me to support this but I hate this one, and people are going to troll me if I support this’. As far as the trend is concerned, it’s over. I think people are realising that music needs love and finding a song for the movie, rather than taking the fast food route.
Do you think Bollywood music has overshadowed other forms?
I won’t say that, as Bollywood has a lot of marketing money. Where there is money, there is exposure. You hear something beautiful but there are only 30,000 views and then you hear something not so impressive, and it has more than 500 million views. It is the marketing money and there are paid views, people do that.
Looking at the music industry in India, how do you think things have changed over the years?
The fear of failure is more. It’s all-or-nothing. So the ease of doing something beautiful is gone.
Would we see more of Rahman’s compositions this year?
I am doing an Aanand L Rai movie and two more films which you will come to know, hopefully! Then you might
hear good news about 99 Songs, too.
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