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Home / Music / Playing with Carlos Santana was epic: AR Rahman

Playing with Carlos Santana was epic: AR Rahman

AR Rahman calls the iconic actor-director an enigma; also talks about jamming with guitar legend Carlos Santana.

music Updated: May 13, 2016 22:11 IST
Soumya Vajpayee Tiwari
Soumya Vajpayee Tiwari
Hindustan Times
AR Rahman calls the iconic actor-director an enigma; also talks about jamming with guitar legend Carlos Santana.
AR Rahman calls the iconic actor-director an enigma; also talks about jamming with guitar legend Carlos Santana.(Getty Images)

After waiting for well over an hour, we finally got our precious 10 minutes with AR Rahman. Irrespective of how many times you have spoken to the musician, you never run out of questions to ask him. Dressed in a blazer and denims, Rahman looked relaxed, and greeted us with a smile, before he started talking to us about composing music for a biographical film about popular Brazilian footballer Pelé.

He also told us why he isn’t taking up too much work these days, and that he recently jammed with Carlos Santana.

You jammed with Santana recently…

It was really beautiful. For every pop musician or western music fan, Santana is the first name that comes up when you talk of the guitar. Jimi Hendrix and Santana are pioneers. So, playing with him was epic. We planned that he would play two of my compositions, and I would play a couple of his tracks. So, I played ‘Maria Maria’ (from Santana’s album, Supernatural). He played ‘Chaiyya chaiyaa’ (Dil Se; 1998) and ‘Rehna tu’ (Delhi-6; 2009). We were also supposed to perform ‘Man in the middle’ (a popular track by the Bee Gees), but we couldn’t, because we ran out of time.

“For every pop musician or western music fan, Carlos Santana is the first name that comes up when you talk of the guitar. So, playing with him was epic,” says AR Rahman. (Getty Images)

If you are asked to compose music for a film that is based on a sports or film personality, and if it is left to you to decide who that personality would be, who would you pick?

I’d like to make music for a film on Guru Dutt. He has a lot of enigma. There was a lot of beauty in whatever he did, be it his films or the way he portrayed his characters. I feel he had a lot of depth.

“Guru Dutt has a lot of enigma. There was a lot of beauty in whatever he did, be it his films or the way he portrayed his characters.,” says AR Rahman.

You have regularly been flying in and out of the country in the past two weeks. Doesn’t that get tiring?

The projects I am doing are very exciting; playing with Santana was exciting... So, the mind doesn’t think about getting tired. Also, I am not doing a lot of music projects currently. I don’t want to tie myself up. Today, things aren’t like they used to be, when the producers would keep waiting, and say, “Oh, give me the thing fast… I want to release this soon.” I don’t like [working like] that anymore. I want to be well ahead of time, and finish the projects before the deadline.

Read: I was offered a role in a Hollywood film: AR Rahman

The trend of releasing singles and albums is making a comeback in India. What do you feel about that?

I think it’s a very good thing. The more independent projects artistes take up, the more refined their music will become, and the quality will definitely go up. If artistes need to survive, their work needs to be excellent.

Are you working on any solo projects?

Unfortunately, no. My production has been taking up all my time, because I’m not just doing the music for it; I have also written the script. So, writing and shortening it has taken up a lot of my time. The film is in the pre-production stage currently. And this is a whole new game for me (laughs). The first movie one does is always very important, so I am putting all my energy into it.

The promo of your debut production will have a virtual reality teaser launch. Tell us more about that.

I believe that for anyone to like a movie, they need to first like the artistes, and relate to the lead characters. The cast of my film looks amazing, and we are very excited about it. We want everyone to see the cast closely, and experience their presence. Virtual reality enables you to see them very closely. So, I thought this will be a great experience for the viewers. I have also been researching a lot on the subject. I was in Hollywood (Los Angeles, USA) recently for a virtual reality conference, where they showcased its possibilities, and how it will change the world of film-making. I hope many people attempt it in the future.

What is your criterion when it comes to selecting international films to compose music for?

I have always wanted to avoid doing anything that I have done before, like projects based on Indian or oriental subjects. Initially, I wanted to do pure western projects just for the heck of it, because I was doing Indian projects here anyway. So, many international films based on Indian themes were offered to me, but I didn’t take them up. I agreed to do Million Dollar Arm (2014), as it was pretty different from what I was doing [in India]. The vision of the music was more American.

AR Rahman performs during a keynote address by Intel Corp. CEO Brian Krzanich at CES 2016 at The Venetian Las Vegas in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Getty Images)

You are also composing music for the docu-drama on Sachin Tendulkar. How is that coming along? Did Sachin discuss music with you?

Sachin and I talk sometimes, probably once in six months. He talks to me about the kind of music he likes. He is a big fan of ‘Jai ho’ (Slumdog Millionaire; 2008) and ‘Dil se’ (Dil Se; 1998). It’s interesting to see what musical interests he has.

Tell us about the experience of working on the film on Pelé.

It was very good. I’m really excited about watching the trailer. It’ll be very colourful. I want to see how the world receives the movie. The world is going through a big racism debate right now.

Did you incorporate any elements from Brazilian music in the film’s soundtrack?

Yes, I did. The soundtrack will be out in a week or two. We used instruments like the charango, the mandolin, and a lot of percussion and brass instruments from Brazil. So, the soundtrack is a mix of many elements. The music is also universal. It not only reflects Brazilian culture, but it’s also something for people across the world to enjoy.

You told us in an earlier interview that you aren’t interested in sports. Have you started following football now?

No (laughs), but I am definitely interested now. My son, Ameen, has started playing [football]. He is 13, and he often teaches me how to play football. The first thing he taught me was how to kick a ball. He would say, “Not like this daddy… it’s supposed to be done like this… (laughs).”

Read: My first production will be a musical: AR Rahman