As you converse with AR Rahman, his self-effacing nature and polite disposition mirrors the kind of music he creates. Recipient of two Oscars and multiple national laurels, the 47-year-old is considered one of the most prolific composers in the world. In a freewheeling chat, he opens up about his recording experience with veteran singer Lata Mangeshkar, the new crop of singers and more.
You compose music for only a few Bollywood films. Are you selective?
Not really. I love working on challenging projects. If I am offered something like that, I certainly take them up.
Are you content with the current scenario of music in Hindi films?
I think it's nice. More singers are getting work. The only thing that needs to be worked upon is the incorporation of the Indian classical music in film music. That genre of music is a treasure and should be given more space. Also, I think singers today are so busy performing at concerts that they don't have enough time to devote to a song. I remember Lataji telling me that she used to visit Naushad saab for 10 days to learn a song. But that doesn't happen anymore.
You have recently composed and sung a track with Lata Mangeshkar. How was the experience?
The song is called 'Laadli'. I have sung along with her. She is magical. I am amazed that she can sing so beautifully even at this age (Mangeshkar turned 85 recently). I remember, I had come back from an international project for a day to record the song with her and since she wasn't keeping well, she didn't feel like recording it. I travelled back to resume the project and waited for three-and-a-half months to do the song with her.
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Have your music-making sensibilities changed over the years?
Yes, they have changed a lot. Earlier, I wasn't clear about my thoughts. I used to rely a lot on spiritual intervention. I still bank on that, but I have also learnt the art along the way.
You've brought in many new voices in the industry. What do you think about the new singers of today?
I gave break to those singers whose voices, I felt, were distinct. It was not a conscious step to get praised for bringing new voices in. It's good that newer singers are getting work, but they should be able to make an identity of their own.
Nowadays, actors are trying their hands at singing and vice versa. How do you feel about it?
I think everyone is going back to the '40s and '50 (laughs). But it's a good thing.
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Is there a difference between composing for Indian and international projects? What do you enjoy more?
Yes, there's a lot of difference. In India, you get your space to make music. But there, people will always keep checking about the status of the project. I enjoy both as they are unique learning experiences.
Do you find the transition difficult?
Yes, you need to switch from one mould to another. Also, there is a lot of travelling. I enjoy it because it's challenging.
You have collaborated with Black Eyed Peas recently.
We have recorded a song together on the lines of 'Urvashi'. It has done well and has become UK's number one single.
Tell us about your upcoming projects.
There's S Shankar's I (Tamil), Shekhar Kapur's film, Anil and Rhea Kapoor's next production and some others.