Interviews | The Telegraphindia ,October 2009

“Jai ho became Jai ho because it was apt for the film, not because it was a great song. It was the right song and that’s why it worked out so well.”
Interviewed by : Pratim D. Gupt | The Telegraph, India
You will be performing in Calcutta after more than six-and-a-half years. Has the Rahman sound changed in this period?
I have never changed my sound intentionally. Most of my soundtracks reflect what film I am doing. It’s only that. It’s never like I want to beat this sound or I want to do something better. But I do change myself. I do not want to do the same thing. I want to keep my job interesting to me.
There have been reports that you have been hiding in Los Angeles…
The three months immediately after the Oscars were hard to handle. Everyone wanted to felicitate me and have me over at social functions and congratulate me in ceremonies. I went to Los Angeles and went back to my music. Now, life is back to normal.
Why did you choose the Vince Vaughn rom com Couples Retreat as your first Hollywood project after Slumdog Millionaire?
I got that offer before I got all the awards for Slumdog Millionaire. Vince Vaughn came to me much before the Oscars. He just saw the movie and he became very emotional and he said: “I want your music for my next film!” I was contemplating whether to accept the movie or not. Then after the Oscars, I went and saw the movie. I felt that it wasn’t a musically sympathetic movie but it was a comedy. And nobody would ever think that a person who did Slumdog would do a comedy next. And I just wanted to experience the whole process of Hollywood. It was a great experience.
What makes it a great experience?
You know just the opportunity to go and work in studios where Mary Poppins and Star Wars were recorded, it’s a great feeling. Also, it was fun working with Vince and with the director of Couples Retreat, Peter (Billingsley). He’s a new guy and it was good.
But Couples Retreat the film has been very poorly received there and the reviews say your music has been under-utilised…
It is a comedy… it’s not a film where there were extraordinary musical situations. It’s also a complicated movie about four couples, who all have resolutions. And some of the score, which is significant in the film, is licensed stuff… like Ennio Morricone’s The Good, The Bad and The Ugly…. I know that this would happen but I had the opportunity of doing a great CD. And the CD is being liked by everyone.
Of the work that has been offered to you in the West, are they all asking for aSlumdog-like score from you?
No. Because they would never want to repeat the same thing. I am in a very extra-ordinary situation where I can do songs and I can do background scores. I have not been typecast… like “He’s a background score guy” or “He can only compose songs”. So, I have been trying to expand on that. Even in Couples, I have done three songs and then I have also done the background.
Do you have a wishlist of producers or directors you want to work with?
No, I don’t want to have a wishlist. Because some things look very small in the beginning and they become bigger in the end. Like Slumdog. And some things look very big at the beginning and end up really small. So I don’t have any wishlist.
Was Slumdog ever small?
Honestly, I would have never sent the score to the Oscars. The makers did. I composed the soundtrack in three weeks flat and didn’t think that it would go on to do what it did.
Do you think it was all because of that one song, Jai ho?
When I saw the film, they had put another song (Shankar Ehsaan Loy’s Aaj ki raat fromDon) and all that dancing was part of the film. At that time, it looked like a mockery of our song and dance. But when they used it in the end credits with Jai ho, it looked really nice. See, Jai ho became Jai ho because it was apt for the film, not because it was a great song. It was the right song and that’s why it worked out so well.
So, you haven’t given any brief to your Hollywood agent?
He is always surprised by my decisions. He said: “It’s (Couples) a comedy! Don’t do a comedy!” I said, why not? So, it goes like that.
How do you plan to balance your work here with your work there?
It’s difficult choosing. I want to keep that little chain of interest of people wanting to hear my music. I don’t want to overdo that. Also, I don’t want to underplay that. So there will be Tamil films, Telugu films, Hindi films and there will be English films too. I want to choose the best projects that complement my music.
Now when you compose for Mani Ratnam’s Raavan, is it like a return to roots because you started with his Roja?
It is, in a way. Also, Mani always surprises me. I think that now I know Mani Ratnam. But he surprises me. He keeps pushing me to a place where I am challenged and that’s a great creative spirit. And that’s what I need to keep going, rather than taking each other for granted. There’s something we always want to achieve as a team.
What motivated you to sign this Friday’s big release Blue?
I signed it before the Oscars. New people are really unpredictable. (Blue is directed by debutant Anthony D’Souza.) You never know. Sometimes they are great and sometimes they let you down. Blue also had a big production house like Ashtavinayak supporting the film. Then when I saw the visuals, it seemed like something genuinely interesting, something passionate.
What about the Kylie Minogue experience?
It was all finished in three hours (laughs). She was very fast. Actually it was also one week before the BAFTAs and I also had to finish recording the song.
Why didn’t Farhan Akhtar sing for the Blue soundtrack, as you had wanted?
The song changed from what we wanted to make it. And he wasn’t very sure that the song went with his style of singing and whether he would be able to pull it off. Whether it would be right for him. So I said, okay, we will work on something else later. The song was Fiqrana, actually. And I was happy that Vijay Prakash got a huge opportunity.
What are you planning with Dave Stewart of Eurythmics fame?
We are planning a lot of things actually. He is a dear friend whom I know for more than eight years now. We are trying to put up a band together, like a super band. Also, he is doing a movie for Nokia and I am helping him out on Indianising it.
What about your own English album?
I am currently working on it. It will have a lot of pop musicians. I am not sure who at this stage. But it is definitely the project I am really looking forward to, after doing so many film soundtracks.
If a director from Bengal walks up to you with his script, would you do the music?
If it’s something special, I would love to do it. If I find it inspiring, I would do it. I have seen a lot of great work coming from here.
But will you charge him a bomb?
Charge is never a problem (smiles)!
courtesy : (Interview)