His last Bollywood outing — Jab Tak Hai Jaan (2012) — received mixed reviews from critics and fans. But with his upcoming film, Raanjhaana, composer AR Rahman will be revisiting a sound that we haven’t heard from him in a long time.
In this candid interview, he talks about the folk-inspired melodies and classical tunes of the soundtrack, his other film projects, his return to television and the changing scene of Bollywood music.
Has your status as this iconic composer ever made directors hesitant about giving you feedback or requesting changes in the music you’ve created?
We all have to play our parts. I am very open and I ask people to suggest changes if they don’t like anything I compose. And they do. We all enjoy the process of creating something new. Aanand (Aanand L Rai, director of Raanjhaana) was very open to everything.
Sometimes, he would be part of the jamming sessions during the making of the songs; other times, I’d send the song to him and he’d live with it for a while before sending his feedback. Except for the title song, everything went along seamlessly.
What happened with the title track?
It was the most difficult song to crack. Anand had told me that his hero (Dhanush) thinks he is Shah Rukh Khan, and so the song must bring out that aspect. I had worked on one track, but we had to change it because he wanted something calmer. So, as a composer, I had to find a balance between exuberance and calmness.
You’ve returned to the folksy sound after a long time for this film. How was that experience?
I loved going back to this folk-classical genre after Lagaan (2001). There are nine tracks in the album and I had a lot of fun working on all of them. I chose this film because of its beautiful and vibrant Benaras feel. When we started the soundtrack, Anand said he wanted something exciting. We all — Irshad bhai (Irshad Kamil, lyricist), Anand and I — discussed three or four ideas for a song, out of which he liked ‘Tum tak’ the most. It’s romantic, spiritual as well as rhythmic.
What other projects are keeping you busy right now?
Currently, I am working on Maryan, a (Tamil) film by Bharat Bala. There is also an animation project I am doing with DreamWorks. This year, I have four or
five films in hand.
Are there any independent recordings you are working on?
There are two ideas, but right now, film work is taking up most of my energy. So once I am done with that, I will concentrate on my own projects.
You were part of MTV Unplugged last year. Will we see you on television this year again?
Yes, there is something (in the pipeline). You will hear about that very soon.
Bollywood music seems to have come of age in terms of diversity and quality of production. What is your opinion about the same?
It’s a good time to be part of the industry. People have realised what each person’s contribution is. And there is newer talent coming in; people are uploading their work on YouTube. There is no limit to talent today.