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'I can't be complacent about RDB'

AR Rahman is looking to scale new heights with his upcoming national and international projects.
By Subhash K Jha (IANS) | None, Mumbai
UPDATED ON JUL 26, 2006 02:19 PM IST

Music genius AR Rahman has gone into a fresh stratosphere after the success of Rang De Basanti and is looking to scale new heights with his upcoming national and international projects.

"I am doing the background score for Shekhar Kapoor's Elizabeth 2 - my first full-length score in a mainstream Hollywood production. There'll also be original songs from that era, the 15th century," said the composer who has also done the background music in Jagmohan Mundhra's Provoked featuring Aishwarya Rai.

However, Rahman doesn't allow success to overshadow his creativity.

"When I go abroad I find there's still such a big following for Roja, Bombay and Lagaan. I was never complacent about those. I can't be complacent about Rang De Basanti. Otherwise I'll become a has-been," Rahman said in an interview.

 

 Rahman doesn't allow success to overshadow his creativity

On the home front, he has Sanjay Gupta's

Chamki Chameli

, Rajkumar Santoshi's

London Dreams

and Mani Ratnam's

Guru

.

Excerpts:

How did the

Rang De Basanti

soundtrack turn out so special?

Very rarely does one come across filmmakers who excite and enthuse you as much as Mani Ratnam, Ram Gopal Varma and Rakeysh Mehra. Just before shooting we did a workshop with all the music I had composed for my film. I discovered there was a slow song just before interval, which was a no-no according to trade pundits. They were wrong.

Earlier, I had thought people would walk out in Tu hi re in Roja, O paalan hare in Lagaan and now Lukka chuppi in Rang De Basanti. I was wrong. It all depends on how the director treats the music.

How did the music of Rang De Basanti evolve?

First of all, it was conceived four years back when I was doing The Legend Of Bhagat Singh. And since Rang De Basanti was also partly about Bhagat Singh I was reluctant to do it. Fortunately, Rang De... got delayed. And because of the overdose of patriotism within the 'period' format, we reconsidered the entire structure of Rang De.... In the first meeting we had with Rakeysh and lyricist Prasoon Joshi we decided we are going to make all the songs superhits.

There's always something special from you for Aamir.

Like Mangal Pandey? (laughs). Jokes aside, people did like the music. But my favourite Maula, which was supposed to be in the whole climax, was chopped off after one stanza. There are so many factors that a composer can't control.

At that point of time it seemed Hindi cinema had nothing more to offer you.

No, that's not true. Some films, like Abbas Tyrewallah's I was banking on, got stalled. At that time my life was too complicated. I was doing a lot of travelling to outside India. I had Bombay Dreams then the stage version of Lord Of The Rings. I was quite excited about doing new kind of work. I saw these as a natural progression in my international career.

And now I am doing the background score for Shekhar Kapoor's Elizabeth 2. My first full-length score in a mainstream Hollywood production. There'll also be original songs from that era, the 15th century. Earlier I had done the background score for a Chinese music. I have also done the background music in Jagmohan Mundhra's Provoked.

Your music has achieved that crossover which our cinema hasn't.

I hope so. Doing music for Deepa Mehta's trilogy Fire, Earth and Water was also very satisfying. Though doing songs for these films was a kind of sacrifice for me. They were put in the background. Most of my fans hate that. They say, don't do that.

During our last conversation you had said Chennai would always be your home.

You never know. I am trying to cut down drastically on my travelling. The kids are growing up. I need to be with the family more often. A year back I didn't allow my kids to be anywhere me. Now they're all over the place while I compose. I think it's very important for them to absorb the ambience.

Are your children musically inclined?

They have just started learning classical music from Ghulam Mustafa Khan Saab. Just last week he came and took over their training.

Is doing the background score as satisfying as doing songs?

Unfortunately, that era when a composer could create something as durable and enduring as Lara's Theme (Dr Zhivago) is almost over. But I'm sure great themes will come back.

Internationally my career did take off after Bombay Dreams. Now, of course, I can compose for international projects from my home in Chennai.

Your slow pace used to be a problem for Bollywood filmmakers.

How can my working methods be a problem to anyone? Every person has his own rhythm of work. I believe Naushad saab did just only 47 films in his lifetime. And he never regretted it. And look at what he did to film music.

I've my own way of working. It's a matter of priority. When I'm not in control then the quality of work might suffer. I'm at my best when I'm in control of my work. Change, of course, is inevitable. That's why I keep renovating and innovating.

What are you doing in Hindi? Mehra has given you to do an entirely Indian classical score in Bhairavi?

This was one of the scripts we wanted to do earlier. Most of the work that I'm doing is for musicals. And yes, a period film too - Ashutosh Gowariker's Jodha-Akbar.

I also have Chamki Chameli, which Sanjay Gupta is producing and Shyam Benegal is directing. It's a full-on musical. I also have Rajkumar Santoshi's London Dreams.

There I've to recreate British underground music-Punjab meets Southhall. I'm collaborating with music producers from Birmingham to get the London underground feel to the score. Right now I am doing Mani Ratnam's Guru where I'm again working with Gulzar saab.

Guru is again a period film.

Guru is partly period partly contemporary. No one wants to watch patriotic period films anywhere but on DVDs.

Do you feel Rang De Basanti is a new beginning for you in Bollywood?

When I go abroad I find there's still such a big following for Roja, Bombay and Lagaan. I was never complacent about those. I can't be complacent about Rang De Basanti. Otherwise I'll become a has-been.

Do you think international success has eluded you?

It can't happen overnight. But I won't let my career in Hindi and Tamil films (suffer) for projects abroad.

What do you think of Himesh Reshammiya's music?

He fills a lacuna in Hindi film music, just like Nadeem earlier on. He's trying to mix a lot of genres. People like his music. It's good. There're audiences for large genres of films. And he's doing a good job.

Reshammiya says he won't sing for any outside composer except you.

I'm flattered.

Do you think you've achieved what you had set out to?

I didn't set out to achieve anything. It all happened on its own. I always go with the flow.

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