July 05 2020
A.R. Rahman on 'Chekka Chivantha Vaanam': There’s mutual respect in this collaboration
27 September 2018

In Hyderabad on a brief visit, A.R. Rahman discusses his 26-year collaboration with Mani Ratnam and launching a YouTube original ‘ARRived’

Chekka Chivantha Vaanam (dubbed as Nawab in Telugu) is A.R. Rahman’s 14th collaboration with director Mani Ratnam. On a brief visit to Hyderabad, A R Rahman reminisces the 26 years they’ve worked together and tells us, “World over, we see certain filmmakers and composers collaborating consistently. John Williams is in his 80s and his association with Steven Spielberg goes back several years and projects. There’s mutual respect in that kind of collaboration.”

Rahman says he’s filled with “gratitude and respect” for having been able to work with Mani Ratnam: “He doesn’t feel that he’s worked with me enough and needs to throw me out, and I don’t regard him any less because there are other younger directors to collaborate with. The best part is, I am always learning when we work together.”

‘Nayakan’ days

Their new outing together, going by the trailers, hints at a story of a patriarch and power struggle within the family. The uncanny tribute or reference to The Godfather and Nayakan can’t be missed. During the audio release event, Rahman had stated that Mani Ratnam has gone back to his Nayakan days. Prod him further and he smiles, “It came as a surprise to me. He’s taken a complete u-turn from what he’s done in the recent past. I could understand the creative outburst and did what little I could to support him.”

As always, the storyline and any detail about a Mani Ratnam film remains out of bounds until release and Rahman maintains, “I can’t reveal much. But I can share that once I saw the trailer, I composed two more songs in a contemporary mode.”

He recalls the director whisking him away to a resort in Goa where there was no net connectivity. “It was beautiful with just the sea. At that time I was also working on my own movie production. I composed 10 ideas within two days and asked him to choose whichever he liked.”

Off the beaten track
  • Harmony with A.R. Rahman: “I loved the travel it involved and understanding how these musicians, who are not in the commercial spotlight, strive to keep their traditional music alive. It was good to put at least some of them in the limelight.” Will there be more? “Hopefully, it depends on what Kavithalayaa Productions wants.”

One of these tunes was used for the trippy ‘Mazhai Kuruvi’: “He (Mani Ratnam) liked it and felt one of Vairamuthu’s poetry would be apt. He’s used it differently; in fact, I like how he has used the songs in this film.”

If the album has a distinct flavour and certain songs take a while to grow on the listener, Rahman says it’s because he’s constantly trying to reinvent himself. He avers that a few filmmakers want something new from him while others want the tried and tested route. “Even if a song becomes a superhit and I’m asked to repeat something on that mode, I don’t do it,” he asserts.

He’s aware of the mixed reactions some of his compositions elicit. “We always test it out — with the director, choreographer, the actors... and often I get mixed reactions. With experience, 70 to 80% of the times I can predict if a composition will be appreciated or criticised. Surprise reactions do happen sometimes.”

Timeless melodies

But a few things have remained the same, he observes, like the fondness for melodies. During his US tour this year, he recalls how he included hits from Taal and Dil Se (‘Ae Ajnabi’) as well as recent numbers. During this 10-city US tour, he also completed the background score for Mani Ratnam’s film since the release date was locked to September, earlier than he expected.

Rahman shares that he has not often met the director outside of work. “Both of us don’t talk much, and when we meet it’s mostly about work since we both have busy schedules. Though occasionally my wife and Hasini madam (Suhasini Mani Ratnam) partake in conversations.”

Nurturing talent

Apart from a line-up of film commitments, there will be a YouTube original show titled ARRived. “We’re doing this from Qyuki (the creative network established by ARR and Shekhar Kapur). ARRived will not be another reality contest, we’re looking at a new format to nurture young people,” he says.

Ever since he he opted out of Chiranjeevi’s Sye Raa Narasimha Reddy, he’s been asked about composing for an original Telugu film. “A lot of factors need to work,” says Rahman. “If things work out and a unique story comes my way, I am open to working in Telugu cinema. It’s a sweet language and I’ve admired the work of directors like K Vishwanath, Raghvendra Rao and Rajamouli. But, the dubbed films I’ve been working on are as good as originals. My effort is no less,” he signs off.



Related Stories