Rahman times

I was making a Telugu film called Kshana Kshanam with a first-time music director called Keera Vani, now known as M.M.Kreem. One day at the recording studio while we were having lunch, Rickey, a rhythm programmer working with M.M.Kreem at that time, mentioned to me that I should work with this very talented keyboard player called Dilip. That was the first time I had ever heard of A.R.Rahman. I didn’t take Rickey seriously. Much later when I happened to listen Roja’s songs at Mani Ratnam’s home, long before the film released, I was blown away with the sheer originality of the songs’ orchestration and tunes. I immediately wanted to sign him for a film I was making with Sanjay Dutt called Nayak, and for Rangeela. But my investors preferred Anu Malik, as they felt the success of the music of Roja’s dubbed version was a fluke, and that this kind of music would not work in Hindi. The very fact that A.R was not signed by any top Hindi filmmaker after Roja is proof-enough, they reasoned. They said that Anu Malik was at the top of his form after Baazigar, and that we would get a much bigger price for the audio.
I bartered with them that I will sign Anu Malik for Nayak if they allowed me A.R for Rangeela. They agreed, but the plain truth behind it was that they were not really interested in “Rangeela” as Sanjay Dutt post “Khalnayak” was a much bigger star than Aamir at that time. After 20 days of shooting for Nayak Sanjay got arrested in the serial blast case and the film was shelved. (Much later the script of Nayak I made it as Sarkar).
Before A.R, I have worked with Ilayaraja, M.M.Kreem and Raaj Koti, and knew on a personal level many other music directors and their working styles. What struck me first when I met A.R was the incredible dignity with which he carries himself. There is neither an iota of arrogance nor a halo of pride which success invariably brings to people. After telling him the story of Rangeela, I showed him references of some Hollywood musicals, and described to him the visual style I was planning to capture the film in. Once he went through the situations, the compositions he came up with used to surprise me, though not always pleasantly. That is because his tunes were so original in his interpretation of the emotion of a situation that a conventional ear will take time to let it sink in. That I think is the reason one tends to like his music more and more as one listens to it again and again. A case in point is the Hai Rama song where my brief to him was that I wanted to shoot an erotic number, wherein more than the romance I wanted to capture lust in Urmila’s and Jackie’s faces. I said to him that when animals have sex they are not ashamed, or feel shy, as they are so completely lost in their own feelings for each other, and hence do not care about where they are and who is watching them. The visual of Urmila and Jackie circling each other in the Kuldhara ruins of Rajasthan was the key image I gave him.
After the brief I was subconsciously expecting him to come up with a tune, something on the likes of I Love You (Kaate Nahin Katthe Yeh Din Yeh Raat) in Mr. India. What he came up with was the Hai Rama tune, which sounded to me like some classical Carnatic raga, and my first reaction was that he had lost his head. But when I kept hearing it, it grew on me like an obsession, and I finally said that we will go ahead with the tune even though I was still unsure, deep inside, of how it would fit into the situation. But when he finished the entire track with the orchestration it was beyond my wildest imagination that an erotic song can be made to sound like that. He captured the intensity of the eroticism and the purity of its feeling in the beginning alaap, the cello themes, and through the wild tablaas which elevated the effect of the images I created, many times more than what they would have been otherwise.
One other trait I noticed about the difference between A.R and other music directors is that where the others pretty much dictate to the musicians and the singers about what they want, A.R interacts with them; in a manner of making each and every one of his solo musicians and singers feel as if it is their song and not his, thereby placing the onus on them to feel from within to get the best out of them. This I have never ever seen remotely practiced by any other music director.
Whereas most music directors record the final track first, with all the orchestration and get the singer to dub the last, A.R invariably gets the singer to dub on a base rhythm track first and does the orchestration later, as he wants the orchestration to rise from the depth of the feeling in the singer’s voice. That’s the reason why with every one of his tracks you can’t recognize where the music ends and the voice begins, and vice versa. Each and every instrument is made to be played with the same emotional depth as that is in the singer’s voice.
Not knowing technicalities of music I would think the phenomenon of A.R owes not only to his obvious talent but also to his incredible patience, focus, and dedication towards a song he is creating. The moment they finish recording a song, most music directors forget about it and move on to whatever else they are doing. A.R invariably keeps revisiting his song and effecting changes onto them (Read it as sculpting and polishing). Until a time the tracks have to leave for the audio company, he treats each and every song of his like his own daughter whom he is preparing for a marriage with the listener.
Also, A.R is the only artiste I have met who does not have creative arrogance. I mean that he never defends his work if it were to be criticized. He was recording The spirit of Rangeela theme in Chennai while I was shooting in Mumbai. When he sent the track to me I didn’t like it, at first hearing. Not just me but the entire unit didn’t. I called A.R and told him that it was not working. Without a second’s pause he said he will work out something else, and this he said after having worked on the track for more than a week.
As I was playing the spirit theme in my car over and over again, at some moment it hit me like a thunder bolt, and I told him that I must have been out of my mind not to have liked it in the first place. He smiled and said “I knew you would like it eventually”.
The aesthetics of his song tracks are beyond compare to any other music director’s. What I mean by aesthetics is, if the melody is the story, the various instruments and the way they are recorded, played, and their inter-volume levels and tones would be like art direction, cinematography etc. So purely in melody one might still feel a difference in their own individual favourites, of what they like more and what they like less, but his aesthetics are always perfect irrespective of the overall effect of the song.
I can never forget a line of Rahman’s, which he said to me while at his studio, “I’ve decided that whatever goes from here has to be good”. He said it with neither arrogance nor extreme confidence. It was just so very simply said just as a decision he took and that single sentence made me understand A.R’s greatness, more than his music itself. I have known many including myself who said, thought, and wished the same, but with the exception of A.R I have yet to meet a single man who practiced it and continues to practice it. Jai Ho!
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84 Responses to Rahman times

  1. premji says:

    jai ho rahman and ramu sir ……Its really good to read ur experience with rahman sir …..wish to read more from ur blog best wishes prem

  2. Krishna says:

    Dear Ramu Sir,Good post, narrating your experiences with A R Rahman and his working style….Can you narrate your experiences with the making of KshanaKshanam telugu movie…Regards,Swaroop

  3. Unknown says:

    Of late why have you stopped working with A.R.You both make a great combination and personally feel Naach would have been a hit had it had AR`s music.Today,music seems to be a weak link with our films

  4. Unknown says:

    Of late why have you stopped working with A.R.You both make a great combination and personally feel Naach would have been a hit had it had AR`s music.Today,music seems to be a weak link with your films.Kindly start working with him.By the way who is making the music of your new film on media?

  5. Anand says:

    totally great recall… is the duo planning to give us more

  6. Unknown says:

    Ramu-garu, what a beautifully-written, articulate and befitting tribute to a truly-talented and amazing human being..! I realized that the true reason beyond Mr. Rahman\’s music was his simplicity and humble nature itself, and although I have been his fan since I was a kid, I happened to experience it in person when I saw him in person at a screening of Slumdog Millionaire in Los Angeles a few months ago. I knew then that he would do wonders at the Awards and nothing less! I truly appreciate the fact that you put in words these exact thoughts, which convey not just his process and simplicity, but also the way you interact with your creative folk! That said, I\’m an aspiring Art Director who has grown-up on a steady diet of your films and would greatly appreciate it if you could kindly write about your interactions with Production Designers and Art Directors. I saw your article on Agyaat and enjoyed your thoughts on the location and so forth, but I would be much indebted if you could also write about any of the following in your future blogs – What motives you to shoot on a location? What motivates you to build a set? What is your mode of interaction with your Art Director? How early do you bring him into a project? Do you storyboard your scenes prior to shoot? And finally, do you pre-visualize your shots? I find that you are one of the few directors in India who makes excellent use of environments and hence the questions. I hope you will pardon my overt adulation in this regard – having read your thoughts on Mr. Rahman, I was keen on sharing my thoughts as well!Best Regards,Raja Ramadurai

  7. lprakash says:

    If music is religion, Rahman is God! Good to read an atheist praising God! hahaPs. thx for the interesting post. I\’ve been a huge fan of AR Rahman, in a way he has taught me to write lyrics (i don\’t understand tamil, so i used to hear his tamil songs and write words for to replace those obscure lyrics, today i write songs for various corporate films and NGOs)Rahman Ki Jai Ho!

  8. Arun says:

    Will you ever work with AR Rahman again ?

  9. pradeep says:

    hiit is nice read something good about other person every one knows AR is best in resent pastthere is no dought he is number one in musicno one even trying to get to his levelevery other composer happy with his mediocar work and sucess they getting in pulses.no one want to work hard to create music of AR calliberAR music is for life timethink about it sirplease write about gulzar is wellhe is complete cinema person

  10. Deepika says:

    TRUE, a man with a sense to sense the senses NO? Perfect aesthetics, theme absorbing melodies, greatness in modesty, team spirit.India is proud to have at least 1 out of a very few? good spirited A.R. CONGRATS FOR THE GOLDEN GLOBE! Thats a dream of many!

  11. madhu sudan says:

    Thats amazing mani think Mr.rehman is the second man about whoom u talked this much at a personal level in public.The first one is Mr.Nagarjuna akkineni which i read recently in India Today (Special edition about him )

  12. Anil says:

    We heard that AR have some issues to work with you … What causes the clash between titans?

  13. Kamal Aakarsh says:

    One of the best articles from your pen. Not because you praised someone, but there is a sense of honesty in your article. Good to see a shade of RGV, completely devoid of arrogance.

  14. vaishak says:

    Wow….How many times we compelled you to write about AR..and at last…..

  15. Pradeep says:

    Its very nice article from u…true from ur heartactually waiting for this from u…

  16. Pradeep says:

    When r u going to start Hollywood flick?

  17. Pradeep says:

    Why r u not coming to any awards cermony (Star Dust,Film Fare and Screen awrads) ?R u trying to avoid…. as aamir did?

  18. Brahma says:

    Excellent post from u Ramu. Why didnt u work with him later? any reason?Though may look out of context, I think Rahman is one individual who has united north and south India, hindus with Muslims. he has broken all barriers of region and religion. He is extremely humble and dignified.Ramu, Another question. We all know that you are a well know atheist and give all credit of your success of yourself whereas Rahman is an extremely spiritual person who owes all credit to his almighty. Both of you are talented. Both are successful. How do you relate the extreme character of you vs AR? Can u talk abt this?

  19. Swamy says:

    As Ilaiyaraja puts….” When you say you like my song…that means I have composed it with the same feeling which was generated in you, when u heard it “ And how that feeling matches is really a magic…the guy sitting in his music studio composed a song and all world moved to that song ??I think that is one of the reason most of the music directors give their credit to GOD.And till date…in my opinion there is no romantic song which came near “Zahreela Zahreela Pyar” in Daud…Eternal Composition.

  20. Sai says:

    You seem to have great admiration and respect for Rahman but one question which always bothered me was why you discontinued working with him? Was it the difference in your working styles or something like that??I enjoyed the music of your early films – Shiva, Kshana Kshanam or post Rahman films like Satya, Mast or even Prema Katha. Vishal Bharadwaj and Sandeep Chowtha were quite good there but what happened later? Even though there were a few tracks here are there and a couple of good albums – say Naach or Shiva 2006 – I stopped looking forward to your films (directed/produced) for the music. I felt you were one of those directors who could extract great music but I had to rethink that opinion. Did you lose interest?

  21. gouravaraju says:

    did you like the movie slumdog millionaire? if yes why? and what impressed you the most in that film apart from rahman\’s music?

  22. pete says:

    Its refreshing to see you appreciate a talent like rahman.I really hope you guys work together again. Abt slumdog though, they used a lot of HD cams for filming, have u used HD cams before.Are HD cams really the future of movie making.

  23. Naveen says:

    wow…….i think this is one of the best articles about the genius!

  24. kishan says:

    I can never drive my car listening to Hai rama. I think I would hit somebody if I do that. The music in that song is intense….and no visuals can come close justifying the intensity in the interlude..

  25. Suraj says:

    AT LAST, after several prayers to RGV. RGV has come up with a write up for ARR. What a write up? A humble write up for a humble person like ARR. Amazing! Simply Amazing. I really liked your association in Rangeela and really wanted you guys to team up. I really wished if ARR would join in for some horror/thriller plot of yours, as ARR has not done any thing in this genre. RGV, it would be highly appreciated from your part if you confess why you and ARR didn\’t teamed up again. Were there any clashes/misunderstandings from your end. I feel you should make a movie together soon. Have you exchange greetings after he won an OSCAR?Long Live ARR,Suraj

  26. naveen says:

    Hai Rama is one of all time fav songs.In every part of the movie, more specifically in the songs there is a portion that compliments the viewers experience. Leaving all the technical jargon, its got to be audio and video.In Hai Rama, audio was 70% and the rest of the pie to everybody. "There is neither an iota of arrogance nor a halo of pride which success invariably brings to people. ""Without a second’s pause he said he will work out something else, and this he said after having worked on the track for more than a week.""It was just so very simply said just as a decision he took and that single sentence made me understand A.R’s greatness, more than his music itself."It sounds like Ayn Rand writing about Roark. What say?Kudos to your writing style.

  27. naveen says:

    OUT OF CONTEXT:Whose idea was the dialogue in Ab Tak Chappan?"Kya spelling hein, Fiancee ka?"

  28. Unknown says:

    Hi RamuWhat a writeup.I think you should write about Sachin Tendulkar also, since he is someone who influenced an entire generation of India

  29. srinivas says:

    I never thought you would praise some one so much. I am surprised. I am a die hard fan of AR Rahman. i worship him (And Sachin Tendulkar too) and i am really surprised with your article that an arrogant man like you can praise some one this much. Now, I know why i worship him !!!!

  30. Bhaskar says:

    Nice piece…

  31. Bhaskar says:

    Dear RGV, I always could see that you name your film even before it begins shoot. Many telugu films are not same..they do not announce(decide) title of the film untill it reaches to the end of the shooting. If we keep it aside, As you always comeup with the titile of the film before you start production, I guess you decide while developin script or even much before. Is it a perfectionism? Can you please describe the importance of it and your opinions(approach) on it? Thanks,

  32. Kiran says:

    1989 October 5th. Shiva released on this day. You are completing 20 years in cine industry. Any plans to commemorate this occassion? Telugu industry always miss you Ramu.

  33. Sudhir says:

    Why does a plagiarist of your calibre wear his pride on his sleeves?

  34. Abhishek says:

    Did you ever dance?

  35. Vinay says:

    Dats a sincere tribute, RGV style. From all of your movies, Rangeela and Mast stand out for their music.

  36. jeevan says:

    I\’m very surprised and disappointed that you never worked with AR again after Rangeela & Daud, considering the fact that quite a few of your films after Rangeela like Mast and Naach were musicals.In any case even Mast had fine music in it. Also could you share your experiences on working with illayaraaja ?

  37. Kamal Aakarsh says:

    You are also a self-confessed great fan/admirer of Ilaiyaraaja. Why not a post on him? there are not many filmmakers who worked with both Ilaiyaraaja and ARR. and it is always curious to see/hear perspectives about how similar or different they are. I would be glad to see what thoughts you gather to write about ilaiyaraaja, his music, his knowledge and your understanding about his music.

  38. Hari says:

    Nice posting about A.R.Rahman.I want to see Indian version of Al Pacino\’s Carlito\’s Way only if you made it.

  39. Mohan says:

    Nice post…rangeela\’s background score also excellent…..could u plz share with us..

  40. Vinay says:

    Please request Rahman to start a blog. It is most amazing for us when we read the insights for every decision you take for your films. Similarly it would be most wonderful to know Rahman\’s insights about life and music composing. You might be in touch with him. Puhlease persuade him.

  41. unknown says:

    Would slumdog millionaire fetch an oscar to rehman if the movie directed by Indian? If that so he would get it for his very first movie called "Roja", I opine.

  42. Sudhir says:

    Sham objectivism never makes it through. Drop the pose. The epistemology of a Godfather or a Sholay is mere pragmatic, if anything. Its Dr. Ferris on the Convincer. You are the Comprachico.

  43. Vidyasagar says:

    Most of the people are thinking that Rahman should get many oscars for most of his beautiful songs than Slumdog\’s. What do you think??Put the working styles aside… what do you think of Illayaraaja\’s music ?? I\’m sure your blog will be flooded with similar requests like me!!

  44. confused says:

    i quite agree with u… i hated chaiyya chaiyya (dil se ) .. and even khalballi (rdb) at first .. i dunno y ..bt after listening 2 it 2-3 times ..i got it…thats the magic of rehman.. the song nd music ..slowly it just grows on u… its more like an addiction once u got it ..ull never leave it.. half of my ipod space is filled wid his magic…. he is made up of pure talent nd genius…

  45. andhrabond says:

    RGV,ARR deserves an Oscar and he got it. And we all should be proud that we have a music director like ARR not just because he got an Oscar but a true, passionate and great music director. I hope he takes this as his just a starting point and achieve many more. There is no limit in any art.“he treats each and every song of his like his own daughter whom he is preparing for a marriage with the listener.”By the way, what is wrong with you? What kind of comparison is this? You can’t make any kind of sentimental dialogue in your movies as well as by yourself. So please don’t even try to do that. I like you in frightening and terrific dialogues only. With the above statement you are recollecting me that Thanikella Bharani’s dialogue “Galli lo chelli pelli cheyyali malli malli”. Have fun.

  46. Unknown says:

    Dear RGV,Wonderful tribute!Without praising for his Oscar win, your article provided an excellent insight into all the hardwork and AR\’s character traits that positively contributed towards his nomination and eventual win. I think his earlier work (Roja, Bombay) deserves Oscar more than Slumdog Millionaire. Any reason for not working with AR in your subsequent films?

  47. Rolling says:

    good to see you appreciate and praise someone else other than yourself..

  48. BK says:

    What a tribute!!! Entertaining to the core…. And I loved the way you missed out the mention of oscars. Oscars or no oscars, Rahman is a genius and a great musician…. Jai Ho

  49. Who says:

    I had once commented about the "AC on karo" line in sarkar raaj and incredibly I got a response a few weeks later and I think it was the first time I heard/saw some filmmaker explain himself to a nobody when he didnt have to.And then again, it is the first time, I have heard a film maker say that he was wrong initially about one of his greatest musical hits. I know nothing about films and I know even lesser about music but I thank you for trying to explain what lies beneath. I thank you for the line "he treats each and every song of his like his own daughter whom he is preparing for a marriage with the listener" which I think is an incredible insight into what happens to a Rahman song. Sometime I wonder if you are waiting for that film that YOU want to prepare for marriage b4 engaging Rahman again to compose for such a film or if he is just too busy for your time?Another thing I wonder about is if you think Amitabh Bachchan, would work "even better" without a beard, just so we can catch the whole face without inhibition, without a parda? If yes, Can you PLEASE convince him to do a film with the non-bearded look as you are the only filmmaker who has no qualms about making a film for an actor to show him in a particular light?

  50. Vinay says:

    YAar there were two instances when I was up early to watch the oscars – during Lagaan and during Slumdog M. The first time of course was disappointing. But this time, I was stunned to say an Indian looking guy (Resul) actually win an oscar. But of course when Rahman won, it was totally hi-fives time. And twice at that! It was actually redeeming because when you tell people that Rahman is better than even RD Burman and they look at you perplexed (It is fanaticism on my part as you would put it). I must have sent 7 sms es to various people immediately after Rahman won the oscar, to get that reaction "Wow" or "Are you sure" or something like that (I received none). But what a day it was watching Indians win oscars.

  51. vikas says:

    No doubt Rahman is great..but if slumdog is directed by an indian then i think he would\’nt have got the oscar??

  52. Madhu says:

    If you will practice being fictional for a while, you will understand that fictional characters are sometimes more real than people with bodies and heartbeats – Richard Bach

  53. naveen says:

    How about an article on awards. Not some specific awards, but any awards.Looking at the oscars this time felt like there is a conspiracy theory behind Slumdog Millionaire winning so many awards.I am not into debate about the quality of the movie. It ranges from average to a masterpiece. Not to bother about.The conspiracy I am referring to about is the production houses in the West trying to enter Indian Cinema production and the welcoming of this movie being a launch pad.I am sure they can enter the market even without, but they might have their trade-offs.I wanted to know your take on awards. What goes on the nomination criteria, what interests are vested by the production houses, how far influential are the members of the jury etc….Only a very few can value their own judgments (liking or disliking a movie) irrespective of anybody\’s take on it, compared to people who bath in the awe of the applauses and camera flashes during awards and suck their energies to please every schmuck to win awards, make box office records and listen to courteous comments made by celebrities during the premieres- all with the same movie with just only their names on it.P.S:There are exceptions to some filmmakers and some awards

  54. jaffa says:

    If you like rahman soo much and respect his work then why wasnt he part of ur films after that???

  55. Suresh says:

    Nice Post.. Cheers,

  56. Myster says:

    whoa…who would\’ve thought a director with whom rahman has only worked twice, and that too more than a decade ago, could/would think/write such greatly of him…hats off to RGV for such an in-depth and honest portrayal of this legend

  57. gopala says:

    Hi! Getting to know ur mind is interesting…..ur review on reviewers was amusing ……I bet the "critics" must be cringing on the two way process ? I guess Mr Rahman\’s studio funda says it all. When is ur next film scheduled for release ? – Jingo

  58. Aju says:

    \’I chose love and i am here\’ when AR said that on stage at the oscars i was amazed by the lack of ego in the statement. I am thankful to you to have given an account of AR that tells us that he is the same person as we know him from press – thankfully this time though because most of the times the press mis-represents facts to create an image. But people like AR are beyond the creation of press in film industry.Your article on AR has only added to my belief that AR will be immortal – my great grand children & beyond will rejoice roja or rangeela tunes the same way we lucky souls do.

  59. krk says:

    Thanks for sharing your experiences with AR. You have worked with Sandeep Chowta for long time. His music is very similar to AR. As a director, how do you choose a music director – if your movie has songs that is.

  60. Ashvin says:

    That\’s great to hear a legend talking about a legend :)…Do you have any plans to work with him again in the future??? I am waiting to see you making another romantic film after Nishabd….Hindi/Telugu industry hasn\’t made a romantic film for years now…..we liked the romance in ,Gayam, Kshana Kshanam and of course Rangeela…haven\’t seen any after Nishabd……hope you make one soon….may be AR giving the music with his Midas Touch….

  61. Jahanzeb says:

    thanks you very much for such a nice post on the living legend A.R.Rahman. we all should be thankful to you for introducing him to Bollywood. please please sign him for some of your upcomig films. he raises the hype of the movie ten-folds. we want his music masterfully executed and choreographed in your film like Rangeela. please do it soon. we want another movie and music of Rangeela standard. thanks. Jai ho.

  62. mouli says:

    i am a software engineer but i want to see my self as a director so i want to join in your team .presently stays in andheri,Mumbai.how can i meet you. i came so many times to your office to meet you.but i didn\’t get the appointment.can you please provide a chance to me.my mail id bobgally9@hotmail.com.

  63. RayRaj says:

    wow! i am looking into your blog after some time! and i am so happy to note that you can actually see things like :"neither an iota of arrogance nor a halo of pride!"; When i bought the audio then, i loved the music; ever since i knew one can not get to enjoy unless one listens repeatedly – you have something fresh each time!I loved the rangeela theme instantly, i had no difficulty; Hai Rama is indeed a straight Carnatic Raaga : in a dicussion with friends in those days, when some one asked which one is rated first from last – i picked up hai rama of those songs! its different issue – now i listen to this song more often; I thought typically people would reject a carnatic tune – just as you did in first instance.

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