He has been in the international music circuit for quite a while, but it is only with his Golden Globe award for his score in Slumdog Millionaire that Indian music maestro A.R. Rahman was catapulted into the big league in the West. He has since been hounded for solo photo ops - for the first time in his life.
"In that one week, I received three awards in the US. The first was the Critics' Awards. When I got that the American media wasn't interested in me. They didn't want my solo photographs. 'Can you please stand next to Danny Boyle?' they'd say. I think it was a glamour thing. By the time I came to the third award, the Golden Globe, they said, 'Can we have your solo pics, please?'," Rahman told IANS in an interview.
The composer is India's hope at the Oscars with three nominations - he has been nominated for Best Original Score and two for the Best Original Song for a motion picture with his songs Jai Ho and O Saaya in Slumdog Millionaire.
Excerpts from an interview:
It's heartening to see you representing India at the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) and Golden Globes.
Thanks. I had no idea I'd win. See, each member of the jury had his or her opinion. It was a very international jury. I think they've been very kind to the music of Slumdog Millionaire. I just heard that after Golden Globes the music has gone to No.1 in the US charts. That's great news.
How has the Golden Globe changed your life?
Everyone from Andrew Lloyd Webber to Danny Elfman, Craig Armstrong, who worked with me on Elizabeth: The Golden Age, got in touch. Now I feel a lot more freedom beyond film music, as a musician. I can do my own thing now, things that I wanted to do. Hip-hop artist Akon wants me to write something. He wanted me to do a music video with him. But I want to compose or write, not be in his video.
You looked very shy collecting your awards.
In that one week, I received three awards in the US. The first was the Critics' Awards. When I got that, the American media wasn't interested in me. They didn't want my solo photographs. 'Can you please stand next to Danny Boyle?' they'd say. I think it was a glamour thing. By the time I came to the third award, the Golden Globe, they said, 'Can we have your solo pictures, please?'
Did you see a discernible change in the way people looked at your music?
Yes. I remember when my Roja happened, there was a genuine smile on people's faces. I sensed a dej? vu with Slumdog Millionaire. Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorcese, Sting - they all said they loved the film and music. And they meant it. It was a great change for them. Change is always welcome.
Would you say Slumdog Millionaire is the most successful Indian music score outside India?
It's not an Indian score, because it's not an Indian film. But it certainly doesn't sell Indian poverty to the West. I know a lot of people are saying that. But I don't agree. If I thought that for even a second, I wouldn't have done it. There are so many films that I've refused to do because I objected to them on ethical, moral or other grounds. I'm so finicky about these things.
As I see it, Slumdog Millionaire clearly says India is developing fast and is no longer a third-world country. And why should we hide our darker side? The world is no more about the haves and have-nots. It's a global community. We need to know about one another. In fact, the A.R. Rahman Foundation is working towards eradicating poverty. And we need global cooperation for that.
Has Slumdog Millionaire contributed to your Foundation?
I think the very fact that it's made my way into the West and Hollywood easier is contribution enough. The film has generated a lot of interest in my music and Hindi music.
Why was there so much secrecy while you were working on the score for Slumdog Millionaire?
I was working with Danny Boyle for the first time. I wasn't sure I wanted to work with him. I wasn't sure of the sound. When two new people work with each other the output can go either way. Fortunately, it worked. The main composition and mixing was done in 20 days. I had no choice but to work fast. See, when you're doing something new it's much easier to speed the process. It's when you are asked to bring in a variation in the same format that you need more time.
The West may be enamoured of your Bollywood packaging in Slumdog Millionaire. But we've heard a lot better from even as recently as in 2008.
See, that's a matter of opinion. A music score has to suit the theme and content. I've tried to match the mood of the film. The music is designed for Slumdog Millionaire. I'm very proud of my music in Slumdog Millionaire. I was given just about 20 days to do the score.
Likewise, I got just about 20 days to do the background music of Ghajini. I virtually had to work at the speed of sound. That, in spite of the fact that we lost the sound engineer and 26/11 happened. So I'm learning the virtues of speed finally.