Hours before the recently held Nenje Ezhu concert in Chennai, Oscar-winning composer A.R Rahman participated in a brief ‘Ask Me Anything’ (AMA) with his fans on Twitter. Here are 12 things that we learnt from the birthday boy’s responses to a variety of questions ranging from the toughest decision he’s ever had to take, to his latest fascination for photography.
1. Staying Ever Young
I don’t retain any kind of worries or negative feelings in my heart. I just flush them out. I don’t have any baggage. Music makes me think positive and that has benefitted me in my overall appearance. It’s probably because of all this and by the grace of God; I think I look young and fresh always.
2. Choosing Music as His Profession
I didn’t choose this field. It chose me or my mother chose it for me. I’ve never asked myself why I’m doing what I’m doing, because once you’ve made a decision, you can’t think twice. You just to live up to what the situation demands and keep going.
3. Meeting With Composer John Williams
I met him after the concert at Hollywood Bowl. He’s been a great teacher as we all learn from his work. Today, film music has become like the classical music of our times and he’s one of the gurus. When I met him, I just told him that he’s my teacher in a way.
4. The Future of Tamil Independent Music
Audiences know what is good and bad. About 30 years ago, there were a lot of Sri Lankan private albums. One such popular song from those albums was Surangani, and people loved this song so much that there were dozens of cover versions made over the years. If there’s quality in non-film music, I’m sure people would love it too. It’s important for independent musicians to make quality music, so that people love it.
5. The Process of Composing Devotional Songs
It’s not about what song to compose. It’s about the purity of thought, purity of faith, no matter which religion it is. Whenever I do a song, be it a Qawwali, or Bhajan, or even a gospel song; it has always been about purity and that’s the kind of quality I want to maintain.
6. His Favourite Composition
People keep asking me this question and my choice keeps changing from time to time. I’m currently working on a song for Gautham Vasudev Menon’s Accham Yenbathu Madamaiyada, and that’s my favourite composition as of today. It might change tomorrow.
7. Reinventing Oneself With Every New Composition
Music is a generic lottery I have from my father. In general, what motivates me to push the envelope is his legacy and the pressure to keep up to what he had achieved during his time. However, when it comes to film music, there are so many factors like the director, story, or a situation and sometimes even the lyrics of a song.
8. Staying Humble While Being Famous
I always think from the perspective of my hardcore fan. When I do music, I become that person and imagine music on the internet or on the shelf and I ask myself ‘why should I buy it? What’s so special about it?’ All these questions make me, as well as my team, work harder as we try to make our work more interesting and credible for the person who spends his money on my music.
9. His First Stint With Music
It was around 1989, I went through a transformation of self-realisation. I realised it was not about technique, but about what comes from within. You become like an instrument and you want music to come through you. When music comes from within, that’s when the magic happens.
10. The Toughest Decision He’s Ever Had to Take
In recent times, the toughest decision I’ve had to take was during the Jai Ho tour. We had an accident, and since we weren’t insured, we had to spend a lot of money. The toughest decision was to keep my word for all the people who had paid for tickets and go ahead and do the show. We had 18 shows; we had only done 3. We went ahead and successfully completed the tour.
11. Hobbies Besides Making Music
I’ve started collecting cameras since we’ve gotten into film production now. When I find time, I enjoy clicking pictures, which usually happens only when I’m abroad. I’m really interested in photography now.
12. Missing Out on Working With Michael Jackson
It was very unfortunate (that) Michael passed away soon after we discussed working together. But I’ve been lucky enough to work with many talented people like Mick Jagger and others. This year I’ll be working with another legend. I’ll let you know about it soon.
(This story is from The Quint’s archives and was first published on January 20, 2016. It is being republished to mark music maestro AR Rahman’s birth anniversary.)