CNN-IBN Interview - Rahman Tujhe SalaamLast Updated : 07-01-2010Category : Videos > InterviewsYear : 2009Page Menu >>
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Veeraraghav TM: Sir, take us to every moment at that Oscar ceremony. I want you to tell me what went through your mind the moment you heard Resul Pookutty's name being announced.
AR Rahman: I was so thrilled. I was in the dressing room, rehearsing but I was so happy for him. Something gave me a positive vibe that if Resul and Simon have got it, then it was a possibility. Till then I had no expectations. I was so happy for Resul.
Veeraraghav TM: And when the announcement was made, when your name was pronounced....
AR Rahman: Very strange, Alicia Keys and the other gentleman asked me Mr Rahman what do you want me to call you and I said AR Rahman so I had to practice for two days because everybody messed it up.
Veeraraghav TM: And what was the thought that crossed your mind when your name was announced the second time. The one thought that bombarded you?
AR Rahman: I relaxed, I became very philosophical that is why all those things came about, the film, the optimism, the choice.
Fathima Rafique (Rahman’s sister): When he got the first Oscar he said mere paas maa hai (I have my mother) and she's come all the way for me and her blessings are there with me. When he told these words, tears welled in my eyes and I was really happy.
AR Rahman: I felt that it was a great moment for her for helping me make a choice over music otherwise I would have been an engineer or something.
Bharat Bala: I think the special relationship with his mother that is something that everybody really has to understand. The bonding with his mother saw to it that she knew him, there was something special about him. How she persevered him and pushed him and kept him on track.
Trilok Nair and Sharada Trilok: I think his mother is his real inner strength. It is a fact I mean if it was not for his mother, it would have been very difficult for him.
Yes it was tough as a young guy as a young boy to shoulder the responsibility of three sisters to get them married. He was the only boy, it was very tough on him.
YG Parthasarathy: Even in those days he was playing jingles and it was very hard for him that way. Because of the work he had to do, he would do it all night
Bharathi Naimpalli: When it was day-break he used to come to school, poor mother of his, she would come to the gate and she that she would change his clothes and give him his breakfast and send him to school.
Veeraraghav TM: She would actually wait outside school for you to finish your jingles and get you dressed?
AR Rahman: Sometimes, yeah. After what she went through in life, the suffering and hardship after my father passed away, I think I'll have to give it to her for bringing us up in a very good manner. Not just monetarily, but even in terms of internal strength.
Veeraraghav TM: It was very difficult times...
AR Rahman: It was a time of humiliation, insults and condescending attitudes, everything but we don’t regret anything now. We've been given so much by god.
Bharat Bala: I usually have annual functions every year and the highlight will be a musical performance by Rahman. He was like a one man band. Teachers needed Dilip at the time. They had to pick him up and say now he becomes the star.
Bharathi Naimpalli: He was a very sweet child… very, very timid. Hardly put his head up.
YG Parthasarathy: I felt he was so tiny, he couldn’t carry his key board himself. We had to help him with it.
Bharathi Naimpalli: He's scored a lot of music for my fairytales.
YG Parthasarathy: We did not realise he was going to be such a great musician.
Valli Arunachalam: This was the classroom where Rahman studied. He used to sit on the first bench. His hair used to cover his face and we used to tell him please get your hair cut which he never did. He usually used to be very quiet.
Veeraraghav TM:One of your teachers said that you never used to comb your hair.
AR Rahman: Yes, I had long hair. I never had the time to cut it.
Veeraraghav TM: And you didn’t change after that as well. Even after Roja you were the same.
AR Rahman: What you don’t get at five, you won’t get at 50
Veeraraghav TM: So how did that happen? Rahman who makes a style statement in an Armani suit was just a boy who didn’t care about how he looked.
AR Rahman: Well when you represent your country, you don’t want people to say he looks like a beggar. This is a special occasion where the whole world is looking.
M Haricharan Das: Jacob John, who is no more now. His family and JJ retired about 8 years back and they've settled down in London.
AR Rahman: JJ died of cancer. I met him five years back in Liverpool. He said I'm seeing you after so long I want to live for 10 more years and then his wife said no he's going to live only for six months. Amazing. And then I have another master who was in Bahrain. He was my father's friend and also a teacher. I just remember his face very faintly. Then there is CG Gopalakrishnan. I've learnt qawali from Fateh Ali Khan.
Bharat Bala: Rahman said that he wanted to learn qawali from him so ustadji got very excited so he said lets start now so in the next 10 minutes, he woke up all his musicians, his accompanying artistes and this whole room became a qawali session till the wee hours of morning and he taught him his first qawali and after 15 minutes Rahman joined with the troupe and it was magical.
Fathima Rafique: As a normal student he was never a book worm, he was very casual. My mother used to read all the notes for him during exams.
YG Parthasarathy: When his father passed away the entire burden of supporting his family fell on his young shoulders so he couldn't continue his studies after that. Till the ninth grade he studied with us.
Veeraraghav TM: When you gave up school what was your mother's first reaction? How did it happen? What did she tell you at that point of time?
AR Rahman: At that time, I didn't have any choice. We knew that there was a profession, money in the family by playing instruments and setting up instruments. I was also a roadie, I used to set up instruments for people so that was the only choice we had. That was a great choice. It was my father's profession, I was proud of it.
Veeraraghav TM: So your father, sort of lived on in you?
AR Rahman: Yes, absolutely. He left very good memories in a lot of people and a lot of people said that my family survived because of my father. He used me and my family and I became stable because of my father.
YG Parthasarathy: His father was a musician and a very good friend of my husband. We encouraged him as far as possible but at the same time we were very conscious that he should study.
Veeraraghav TM: Quitting school, was it a very difficult decision?
AR Rahman: I was disturbed a bit. I didn't know what my future was because at that time having a government job or being a bank manager, a doctor, a lawyer was more cool than being a musician or film composer which was thought about as a profession which is not great and instable and immoral and all those things.
Veeraraghav TM: And finally during those tough times did you search for support in each other? You, your mother, your sister?
AR Rahman: There was a kind of support. My father's friend MK Arjun used me in his compositions. He gave a lot of support and then we had a lot of light music people who would use our instruments.
John Anthony (Band member of Roots with Rahman): It all started from that strike period itself. We used to practice and live on the second floor. And mom used to make amazing food.
Fathima Rafique: He used to lock the room for many hours and he never had his food, lunch or dinner. It was never on time. My mother was very worried that he wasn't eating. He was totally into music. We used to tell him to take a break. I remember telling him so many times.
John Anthony: Even after we had finished practising, whole night he would sit and practice so he was just continuously working. "
Fathima Rafique: His hard work has brought him all the success.
AR Rahman: Slowly I started doing commercials and jingles which gave me the freedom the joy of creating music.
Veeraraghav TM:When we get to the jingles bit, was that the first time that you really saw money flowing in and financial stability?
AR Rahman: More than money I love the whole vibe of meeting very different people who are completely educated, creative and think out of the box.
Trilok Nair and Sharada Trilok: He was a little boy who was almost dwarfed by all this equipment and he was talking non-stop. We were both looking at each other and saying we are new, this guy seems new, what are we going to do? Are we going to get anything out of this....and then he composed a really fabulous track. So when he did that Leo coffee ad, the strain of the veena. Till date I don’t think anybody can get those strains out of a veena.
Bharat Bala: "We had a Vespa Italian scooter commercial and that was being launched and it was top of the brand and we did a very stylised film. We shot it and then when I wanted to do the sound, I go pick him up. He carries his gear, a sound mixer and whatever few gigs he has to carry, we just drive in my scooter and sit it an editing console and I become the sound engineer and he plays everything live into the tape and that tape goes to Doordarshan for telecast. That straight away won the IIFA award in those days."
Fathima Rafique: He wanted a new music director for his upcoming film Roja and Trilok Sharda, his cousin told him there is this new guy who is doing really well.
Bharat Bala: We told him, listen you must listen to this guy. He's young, talented so give him a shot. And Mani was a hardcore.....at that point of time, he didn’t want to change. Then he did......and suddenly something happened and he came to me and said listen I want you to take me to this guy's house.
Fathima Rafique: Actually we never liked going for previews. We wanted the public opinion of my brother's first movie so we all went to the theatre so when his name came on screen everybody was happy and clapped. We were all watching for the viewer's reaction. One guy was so excited. He liked the music so much and said in Malayalam I was really happy. That was the first comment I heard in the theatre."
John Anthony: I think he was the youngest guy who had a chauffeur driven ambassador car at that time.
Bharat Bala: That car is a car in which he has travelled to every studio with his gig that was his, it was like a van equipped with everything.
Trilok Nair and Sharda Trilok: When he brought his first CD rack changer for the car, and he bought it home and he says come down and listen to this man. And it's got this huge big 40 CD changer at the back on the hat track.
Subhash Ghai: After Khalnayak I wanted a new shift, and when I heard his music of Roja, I asked who is the music composer because that affected me. He liked the title Taal very much. I told him it's north Indian music, remember that and you're very accomplished in southern music and I know that you're well versed with western music too but it is complete Himachali and Punjabi music. He is always restless as far as his work is concerned. Once he has searched he is quiet. He executes his song very peacefully. Do you think the song ishq bina jeena kya song from Taal has been sung by a girl? But three girls have sung it. He has mixed voices of three girls and made them sound like one. In Yuvvraj when I told him to compose the song karia na he was so restless finally he decided to leave the film and said that I won't be able to do it. I said try again and go for Taal, you go for ghada.
Bharat Bala: For first six months we never got an idea, we were discussing many things but we couldn't find the track and then it happened one night. Suddenly he woke up at 1:30 and said where is Shiva? His engineer. I said he must have left for home. So he just lit a candle and he said ok now you become the engineer. There was just one candle and he started singing. The entire song, how it is today, that was the recording.
Veeraraghav TM: When does Dilip Kumar really turn into Allah Rakha Rahman. I mean why did that happen?
AR Rahman: As it was almost like a shift in internally for me because I had too many questions about too many things and I had this inferiority complex, suicidal syndromes and so many indifferent things and this change in name and change in spirituality to gain confidence, hope and so many other things, positive things and I completely discarded so many things like hanging out, drinking or any of those things that young kids would do, they never interested me. I wanted to be in my studio, I wanted to make a song or you know stuff like that.
Veeraraghav TM: What groomed you to Islam? I mean what was perhaps the most attractive thing at that stage for you?
AR Rahman: At that stage I felt a positive vibe to Sufism, going to a dargah or praying towards the atmosphere of that and it was not that this is bad, this is good everything. but I felt that this was completely new and I was fascinated and I had got reasons so from, my prayers, my prayers were answered, my mum's prayers were answered, so each of us, its a very important thing that whichever path you take, that happens to you, it could be any part, but for me it was this path..
Veeraraghav TM: So since being a musician was perhaps the reason that you found Sufism attractive, could that be attributed as one of reasons?
AR Rahman: I can't exactly remember many things, but I felt some goodness in it, something healing about it and..
Veeraraghav TM: This was at what age?
AR Rahman: This was in 90s, early 90s.
Veeraraghav TM: At the helm of your career and the top of world success, what does religion mean to you today?
AR Rahman: Its like learning music, it was like sa re ga ma pa dha ne sa, like making sa ga ga re sa re ma ga pa pa, then that disappearing, then only the emotion coming out. Sings Piya Haji Ali. Religion was like that for me and spirituality for me, it was reading, experiences of sayings and experiences of divine interventions and other stuff and now its embedded in your mind and it comes out as music, about words and everything, so I think age also is a factor for that and probably going through so much conflicts and negativity and positivity and flattery and abuses, then you come to a mind that is settled and say that this is me. Sings khwaja mere khwaja.
YG Parthasarathy: recently I met him at Rajnikant's house and we had all gone there for a dinner, he was also there and he said something that was extraordinary, he said that," you know it is in this school that I learnt that when you point a finger at somebody, there are three fingers that are pointing at you and one finger towards God, so remember that and don't accuse others before or blame others for what may be your own responsibility and have trust in God , I think when he said this, I was astounded, I don't know how many of my students have learnt this moral value, so well as he has.
AR Rahman: I love, with love as my foundation and that's why i said, i was given the choice of hate and love and i chose love which came from the heart because every stage i had to put those lenses of love and see things.
Veeraraghav TM: So you still believe in the power above? Beyond us…
AR Rahman: that's the only power which is there because we go, that's eternal, we are, you know model..
Veeraraghav TM: And how does that power reflect in your music?
AR Rahman: It makes me feel, I don't feel selfish, I don't feel jealous, I feel that if I am destined for this thing it will get to me. I don't have to lust on anything and I am already blesses with so many things that I do not deserve.
Veeraraghav TM: I am going to ask you to rate five of your top work and five songs and why they are five the top five in your mind?
AR Rahman: Ok the ones that I remember very now, recently is from Delhi 6 It is Maula (Arziyaan).. Rehna Tu… then I love khwaja mere khwaja.. the I love roja jaaneman.. chhoti si aasha.. Maa tujhe Salaam, Vande Mataram.
Veeraraghav TM: And from others' work? Something that has really lasted with you?
AR Rahman: Somebody asked me, "tell me the first, best five romantic song tracks, Shankar, Ehsan, Loy's.. kal ho na ho and then Allah ke bande. Then Kailash Kher's song called saaiyan, which is very beautiful.
Veeraraghav TM: And finally, you've given me the list of five songs that you like, five songs that someone else like, which song would you believe defines Rahman and sing that for us.
AR Rahman: Sings Rehna tu from Delhi 6.
Veeraraghav TM: Thank you so much sir for talking to us!