AR Rahman is, inarguably, one of the most celebrated musicians today. Besides making a distinctive mark with his work in India, he has also expanded his repertoire with his long list of international collaborations. The musician, who has two Academy Awards and two Grammys to his name, says his aim is to make his life “useful for other people”.
We caught up with the 48-year-old at a music event dedicated to director Imtiaz Ali’s next, where he opened up about receiving acting offers, meeting legendary footballer Pelé, and more.
Many musicians idolise you. In fact, now a movie has also been made on you. How do you feel?
Like most people, even I have experienced ups and downs in life. But what motivates me is the idea that I have to make my life useful for other people. Whether it’s for humanity or whatever you call it, I feel that I have a huge responsibility on my shoulders. Whether it is making music, or any other activity, like posting stuff on Facebook or Twitter, I have to be very careful, and I have to think about the kind of impact it will have. I have to make sure that it doesn’t offend anyone. That’s why I prefer to keep a low profile on social media.
What do you think sets you apart?
I try to refine myself every day. It’s not about perfection, I just try to correct myself at every step with the hope that ultimately something nice will come out of it.
You recently met the legendary Brazilian footballer, Pelé. How was the experience?
It was great. He is such an inspiration. All my musician friends are jealous that I have composed music for a movie based on him. Sivamani (percussionist) told me, “I have to play in this AR, whether you pay me or not (laughs).” I am not a sportsperson; I’ve never played any sport. I know very few people from the world of sports. The few I know are Sachin (Tendulkar), Kapil (Dev) and now (Sourav) Ganguly, and I know them, not because of the game, but because they’ve become my friends. So, when I saw the biopic on Pelé, I discovered what the man truly is, and what he meant to his country, and to the world. That’s very inspiring. The film will make you believe that anything is possible.
Have you ever got acting offers?
Yes, I was offered a role in a Hollywood film once, and even in a Tamil movie (laughs). Actually, I don’t exactly remember what the roles were, but till now, I’ve got about four acting offers. I am too old for all that (laughs). But I am very flattered, of course. I believe that one can’t be the master of everything. Music is my passion, and my mission in life.
Do you write lyrics as well?
Yes, I do pen lyrics. Some of the songs that I’ve done in the past few years have my thoughts.
You now teach your students on a new kind of keyboard, which is a digitised version of the instrument. Tell us about it.
It’s called the Seaboard. The makers of the instrument liked my ideas. So, when I went to their factory, and told them about my institute, they were kind enough to give me five of them. It’s good for kids to learn new things now.
You are the cultural ambassador of Seychelles. Do people know you and your music in the country?
I was surprised to find so much of my music there. A lot of Tamil, Telugu and Hindi-speaking people love my work in the country. I didn’t even know where Seychelles was on the map till I went there (laughs). It’s a beautiful place. I got to spend some time with my kids there.