Nothing’s changed about the man. If anything, Allah Rakha Rahman is still the shy and humble person he was before Slumdog Millionaire happened. The only difference is that with two Oscars and a BAFTA and Golden Globe each, the security cover around him has thickened.
And rightfully so. If the crowd reaction in Hyderabad on Saturday night was anything to go by, Rahman needs a barrage of bodyguards.
In town to be part of a ceremony to honour him for his achievements on the world stage, Rahman was a picture of calm and dignity.
India’s very own Pied Piper who enjoys demi-god like adulation from zillions of music buffs across the country and who was instrumental in showing the world that music is not about language seemed overwhelmed with the love and respect shown to him. “I’ve not come here for any gold crown, but for the gold mine (Padmabhushan Dr P Susheela) sitting here right next to me,” said Rahman.
“After I came back from the Oscars, Susheela Amma called and told me that she wanted to organise a ceremony for me. I did not question her about anything. I just told her, ‘you can do any ceremony. Just let me know when to come.’ That’s how much I adore her.”
And just like the Oscars, Rahman was accompanied by his mother, Kareema Begum and sister Rehana. “When my father passed away, my mother took care of the family. I dropped out of school at the age of 11 and began working to help my mother out,” said the composer whose famous one-liner ‘Mere paas maa hai’ at the Oscars wowed and won many hearts.
While speaking on work, Rahman does not forget to mention people from the Telugu film industry who helped him during the initial stages of his career. “Mom was working very hard for her three children. We were going through a major financial crisis. That’s when Telugu music director Ramesh Naidu took me under his wings and I worked for him for a year. Later, I worked for six years for composer Koti too. So you see, I have a strong connect with the people of Andhra Pradesh who’ve always loved my music,” confesses the composer.
For the man who features in the Time magazine’s list of 100 most influential people, Rahman never forgets to mention his influence — his religious gurus. “It’s because of my guruji that I’m here today. In fact, after this ceremony, I’ll be heading to Kadapa to pay my respect to guruji,” quipped Rahman who visited the Ameen Peer Dargah after his return from the Oscars.
Rahman, the man who wanted to be “left alone” after the Oscar win, is now planning to “release music” on his own label, but has no idea when he’ll be able to do it, because things seem a “little busy right now.” Also coming up in 2009 are movie soundtracks, including the soundtrack to a film called The 19th Step and some “interesting collaborations” (reportedly Mick Jagger and Joss Stone have joined hands with Rahman for a song slated to be released on United Nation’s International Day of Peace on September 21).
Rahman who’s known to work on a film soundtrack for two years, prefers to rotate projects to ensure he doesn’t “work too hard” and claims that he’s still got much to “learn and achieve”. For the Mozart of Madras, as he’s often labelled, whose albums have sold over 200 million copies (and still counting) modesty remains his middlename.
“Ten years ago Subbarami Reddy offered me a house in Banjara Hills in case I decided to move to Hyderabad. That’s how much people here love me,” said Rahman before being whisked off by his guards. If he accepts the offer, it will definitely delight thousands of his fans in Hyderabad.
Speaking about the burden of expectations after the Oscars and Baftas, ARR says “The burden of expectations has always been upon me, whether at the regional, national or international front. For me, everybody is important. While there are certain elements that might be repeated, the creative element is the scariest aspect of composition. Even while giving one’s creative best, there is always a fear lurking whether the music would be appreciated or not.”
Now that he has stepped into the global arena, is he experiencing any changes? The maestro answers, “Nothing has changed. Since the time I started composing, I felt that my music should go international. I work very hard on my music, that’s the reason I do one film in six months.” That’s also the reason why his music defies mediocrity.
And, that explains how many of his films have made an impact on the box-office and beyond.
How does he ensure longevity for his music? “You have to take great care to do that.
The audience always wants to listen to the best, and one has to deliver to their expectations. Sometimes the music works, sometimes not, but the effort and the intention is the same.”
Every music director has his own approach to creativity. What path does ARR adopt? “It’s more of a mental preparation. When I hear a story, it goes into my system, and I can’t take it out of me. That’s the reason I avoid meeting people; it then becomes difficult to say no,” he smiles.
Talking about the current music in the Indian film industry, he says, “A lot of good things are happening, but I miss the mastery over classical music in the compositions. The concerted effort of directors and the whole team to give good cinema is indeed praiseworthy.” We all know that a true genius is humility personified.
That, for you, is ARR.
ADAPTED VERSION FROM TOI