He has spent over two decades in Bollywood as a music composer and singer. During his journey, he has bagged prestigious honours, including multiple National Awards and even two Academy Awards. But meet AR Rahman, and you are taken aback by his humility and calm demeanour. Post the launch of his new band, NAFS, HT caught up with the composer-turned-scriptwriter to discuss Bollywood music, the use of technology in film music, and much more.
In an earlier interview, you'd mentioned that there is a dearth of good music in Bollywood today. Has your opinion changed?
There's some good and passionate stuff happening. I only think that classical music, which is something very important, is being left out. Understanding and implementing it in mainstream movies is challenging, and people are not able to take up that challenge. Because of that, a lot of boring stuff is happening. I think if music makers keep that challenge in mind, work can get better. That's what I always try to do.
When one listens to your tracks, it's not difficult to make out that they are your compositions. Do you fear becoming predictable?
I think predictable is not the right word; it is identification. Usually, I don't like to be predictable. That's what has made me survive for so long. I think identity is very important.
You have been keeping a low profile on the Bollywood music front.
I have been busy developing a lot of film scripts, so unfortunately, I had to make some sacrifices on that front. My first script for a Bollywood film is in the pre-production stage, and [we are] casting [for it]. It's taken us four years to reach here. As far as Bollywood music is concerned, I am currently busy with the soundtrack of Imtiaz Ali's film.
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Tell us about your new band, NAFS?
It took us a year-and-a-half to finish work on the band, which will be operated by Qyuki. It comprises nine members -- eight vocalists and one bassist. We want to make this a performance band, and turn it into an ambassador of Indian music at international festivals. The aim is to spread our music. The members of the band can sing in western genres, as well as Hindustani and Carnatic music. There is a lot of emphasis on Indian classical. The band may also perform at a mall or a railway station.
Do you think the excessive use of technology in film music affects the musical growth of an artiste?
Yes, I agree with that. That's why I am focusing more on live performances. However, I think technology is just a tool. It is the convenience and laziness of humans that leads to irritation. I think composers should be concerned about what they are putting out. When I make music, I take more time to remove things from my compositions. I listen to a song at least 100 times to remove what's irritating and unnecessary. That is very important.
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Has your process of making music changed over the years?
It's become more complicated now. That's because I want to live with my songs all my life. I want to be proud of my work. Whether people like it or not, it's been my formula.
Who are your favourite young singers?
There are many upcoming singers and independent artistes. I keep promoting them by putting up their works on Facebook. Among the current lot in Bollywood, I like Amit Trivedi and Sneha Khanwalkar (composers).