When the Nightingale of India’ lends her voice to the Mozart of Madras’, the result is bound to be magical as seen in Dil Se’ and Lagaan’. As A R Rahman gets ready to perform at the Times of India Jai Ho concert to be held at Balewadi on Sunday evening, TOI met the maestro and Lata Mangeshkar, and their interaction too turned out to be as magical as their songs on the eve of the show.
When TOI requested them to pose together for a photograph as it was a historical moment, Latadidi as she is fondly called said: “Together? I’m nothing before him.” Taken aback by the compliment, Rahman shook his head vigorously, saying, “No… no”.
Lata told Rahman that she has a lovely photograph of his in which she is seen singing in his ear. “Oh! She must have been teaching me music… sa re…,” Rahman smiled. Asked about their first meeting, Rahman said, “You don’t meet Latadidi. She is everywhere”. Recalling their first meeting at his home for the recording of their first song together, Rahman said, “I think it was Khamoshiyan Gungunane Lagi, was it?”
“No it was Jiya Jale..,” Lata reminded him, to which Rahman added, “Yes, actually both the songs were recorded in a span of a week.”
“I had actually heard the song before I recorded it. One of his assistants had recorded the song and sent it to me. You see, his style of working is completely different. He just asks you to go in the recording room and sing whatever you want. But he records everything from the first line that you sing,” she said.
Rahman, with a smile, said, “In the beginning, all the singers are like free birds. You have to let them be. But once they get used to the composer, they are very faithful to the composition. Actually, the song Jiye Jale’ did not end the way you hear it now. It was Didi who ended the song her way by humming Jiya Jale….’ in Raga Bhairavi'”. To demonstrate that, he even hummed the line to show how she did it. Nodding, Lata recalled that the song was not recorded in one go, but Rahman actually pieced it together from her recordings to make it the way it is.
Hailing Rahman’s way of working, Lata said, ” Ajibat tension naste’ (there is absolutely no tension).” Rahman quickly interpreted: “What? No tension?”
While Lata said that her favourite Rahman-Lata composition was Jiya Jale…’ from the film Dil Se’, Rahman opted for So gayi hai’, from the film Zubeidaa.
Though Rahman is known to favour technology, he admitted that he missed the old world charm when singers used to record a song with 60-member orchestra in one take. “I miss that charm but the new way is less time consuming”.
Asked whether he had planned anything special for Pune, Rahman said, “Wait and see tomorrow. I have been performing across the globe at different places. Coming back and performing here is like touching base.” Reacting to his comment, Lata said, “Whatever it is, I am sure it will be very special.”
The last time Rahman was in Pune on his first visit he had said that Pune is special. Asked why the city is special, Rahman said, “Most of my e-mail fans are from Pune. When I open my mail, all I see is Pune, Pune, Pune… So I thought I must come and see the city for myself. My first visit was just amazing and I hope it continues that way. Let’s see tomorrow,” he smiled.
As Rahman was sitting beside a Bharat Ratna’, we asked him about the other Bharat Ratna Pandit Bhimsen Joshi with whom he had worked for the video, Jana Gana Mana’… “All these artists are true treasures. It is not easy to stick to tradition and dedicate your whole life to following one path with conviction. That is something I respect and something that the younger generation should learn. Now everyone wants to be a singer, actor, music director and do video albums at one time, which is not the way it should be,” he said.
On the influence of Illayaraja with whom he worked during his early days, Rahman said it was cyclic. “He worked for my father and so I have seen his work there. And then I worked for him, which was a great experience. It was a historic moment when he felicitated me along with stalwarts like M S Viswanathan, S Janaki and Balmuralikrishna and everybody had tears in their eyes”.
So is he still running away from people as he had said during his last visit to Pune? “I am. I need more time for my music. I love to be with people and I know that it is their love but not at the cost of my music.”
Speaking about Rahman, Lata said, “I had heard a lot about him before we actually recorded Jiya Jale’ in Chennai. Balsubramaniam (popular singer S P Balsubramaniam) had told me that he was young, new but very talented. And so it proved.”
“I knew he would go a long way,” she said.
Asked her what makes Rahman different from his peers, Lata said, “I think it’s the way he views Indian music. The ragas and everything else remains the same, but he brings something extra to it,” she smiles.
“I was happy to hear about his achievement at the Oscars this year. It is no small achievement and he is still as humble as he ever was,” she said. “I am happy he agreed to perform in Pune, the proceeds of which will go to charity the Lata Mangeshkar Medical Foundation being one of them.”
SPECIAL THANKS TO TOI