5 Lesser-Known Facts About AR Rahman –‘ The Mozart of Madras’
AR Rahman will be composing music for Shekhar Kapur’s latest film.
AR Rahman will be composing music for Shekhar Kapur’s latest film.(Photo Courtesy: Facebook/ARRahman)

5 Lesser-Known Facts About AR Rahman –‘ The Mozart of Madras’

Ah, first things first, he hates being called that – ‘Mozart of Madras’. Why? Because “Mozart is Mozart, and I am who I am”, he says in Krishna Trilok’s book Notes of a Dream – The Authorised Biography of AR Rahman, with a hint of distaste. And to think that a maestro bestowed with Rahman’s genius, at one point, did not ever want to get into scoring music for films.

While there is a lot more that we did not know about the music director, here is a look at five lesser-known facts about Rahman and his life, culled from Trilok’s book.

Rahman Never Wanted to Go Down the Films Route

The biggest shocker of all (at least for me) was the fact that Rahman had never intended to score music for films at all. In fact, he never thought of films as a vehicle for his music.

Left to his devices, he would have perhaps been content if one of his bands took off, or if he could cut his own album of non-film music. But in the 1980s, with its relatively lower creativity and freedom, film music was definitely not alluring enough for him.

It came in the form of Mani Ratnam’s ‘Roja’, an album that is still considered among Rahman’s best works ever. And since then, there has been no stopping the force we know as AR Rahman.

A Mischievous, Yet Prudish Rahman

Beneath his behemoth body of work lies a Rahman who has a playful side – especially with his music and the lyrics, something you would not expect from a man who is so put together and serene almost all the time.

For instance, the famous ‘Ottagathai Kattiko’ from Shankar’s debut film ‘Gentleman’ – one of Rahman’s earliest works – shows off this almost never-seen side of Rahman.

At the same time, he can also be very prudish. For example, when Rahman was showing the ‘99 Songs’ production team some references from a ‘50 Shades of Grey’ trailer, he quickly stopped the video before it progressed to ‘other scenes’ as he called it – to everyone’s amusement.

A Hard Taskmaster Who Strives for Perfection

You do not get to be a genius without the hunger for perfection – and Rahman is the embodiment of that fact. Trilok writes that Rahman would generally pore over a film’s audio track twenty days before its release, surviving on maybe an hour’s sleep per day.

Hates Authority, Loves it When Someone Treats it with Flippancy

An interesting anecdote in the book recounts how Trilok had unintentionally cut-off a conversation with French actress Nora Arnezeder to catch a few minutes with Rahman’s wife Saira, for his book.

Rahman, who was in his studio when this happened, emerged a few hours later and whispered to Trilok in a conspiratorial tone “You cut her off halfway through an interview? Seriously? You did that?”, and then began giggling uncontrollably.

Trilok then notes how Rahman absolutely loved it when somebody treated authority with a flippant attitude, and when somebody didn’t really make a big deal of being with someone important.

A Super-Competitive Fellow

While Rahman may be a man of mild manners, he also has a very competitive streak in him, who is always looking leave a mark everywhere he goes. For instance, at the eve of the Global Citizen Fest, while Rahman and Coldplay’s Chris Martin did find the time to chat for a while, Martin had to entertain other guests as well.

As Rahman saw the crowd get bigger at the party, with more stars descending, he decided that he had to act fast if he wanted to be remembered in the long line-up of stars slated to perform the next day. And he had just the idea.

He walked up to Martin, pulled him aside for a bit, and whispered in his ears “just remember the words ‘Vande Mataram’. And you sing it like this…”.

The following night would see the two stars jam to one of Rahman’s best – becoming the image of the event, paling the performances of the rest.

(Participate in the second edition of The Quint's My Report Debate and win Rs 10,000. Write an essay on how to fix India and Pakistan's relationship. Submit now)

Follow our Books section for more stories.

    Also Watch