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'My patriotism is very personal'

art-and-culture Updated: Aug 15, 2007 15:33 IST
Shaikh Ayaz
Shaikh Ayaz
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

Music composer AR Rahman dwells on the spirit of independence in a tete-a-tete with Shaikh Ayaz.

What does freedom mean to you?

There's so much unrest everywhere, for years people in Palestine, Iraq, Iran and Jammu and Kashmir, have been suffering. For someone like me, freedom is precious. I feel safe in my country. But what about those who continue to struggle and suffer? We should ask ourselves, "What does freedom mean to them?" I'm sure we'll get the right answer from our heart.

Do you think Indians take freedom for granted?
No, no I'm not saying that. I'm speaking only for myself. The amazing thing about India is that it offers opportunities to everyone. A lower middle class person in Mumbai or Delhi earns Rs 2,500 every month, has a house, a family to which he returns home every day. He's happy despite his limited means of income.

In the west, millionaires can access every possible luxury but they're more than unlikely to achieve the kind of domestic harmony we have in India.

Yet, there's a paradox. Although India's economy is improving every year, millions of mouths still have to be fed.. millions are homeless, uneducated and suffering..

Can there be a solution?
It's not easy. There are oceans to be filled, every drop of water matters. We lack tolerance, which is why there are outbreaks of violence and unrest. It's like a marriage on its way to trouble zone. The only solution is divorce. <b1>

Recently I read about a chef in Madurai who's been saving up and collecting funds to feed the poor. He has taken up a cause, we need more people like him to work selflessly for the nation.

What are your earliest memories of Independence Day?
Oh, I've always been influenced by patriotic Tamil films.

Are you overtly patriotic?
My patriotism is not in-your-face.. it's very personal. I try to do things within my sphere, like composing a patriotic song for the youth.

Like the ones in The Legend of Bhagat Singh, Rang De Basanti and Swades?
Precisely. Today, the definitions of freedom and patriotism have changed.. even in films. If a lyricist gives me preachy words like, ‘mera desh' or ‘meri dharti', I tell him they won't work.

I'm fussy about lyrics. It actually took two years for my school friend Bharatbala and me to compile the album Jana Gana Mana.

Haven't films like Rang de and Lage Raho Munnabhai contributed towards the perception of freedom?
Absolutely. They have a social message, although they may not be patriotic films in the literal sense. They are intelligent films..when you don't preach, you're more effective.