AR Rahman interview | 'Stevie Wonder taught me you don’t need all your senses to enjoy life'

AR Rahman bares his heart on what he hopes to achieve in his new series of concerts, and who has influenced him the most in life.
AR Rahman
AR Rahman

They say, a man is defined by the moments he decides to push boundaries and inspire a brilliant sense of awe. This has never been truer than for the likes of creative geniuses like AR Rahman. A long and ceaseless procession of laurels won by him at the global and national level including two Oscars, two Grammy awards, National Film Awards and five honorary doctorates besides countless felicitations seem to have made little difference to the sheer humility in his attitude and posture with which he seats himself across me.

The man is not just a maestro of music, but an individual who speaks for far more complex challenges of human nature. Perhaps, his spirituality, which is at the core of his art and of his life, is what enables him to be so detached and unassuming. As I walked into the hotel Sheraton Grand in Bengaluru, I spotted a huge screen with a teaser video of the upcoming show, set to be held on December 22.

As I made my way up the wooden stairs, and walked into a warm and welcoming yellow-hued room on the first floor, I could sense the symphony in the carefully chosen ambience by the entourage of his logistics team. And there sat the maestro, dressed in an all-black ensemble of a blazer, T-shirt and trousers, sporting a snazzy pair of sneakers with silver studs, and joking about his wife, Saira Banu, attending to his wardrobe with much care, to make him look far younger than his 51 years. Clearly, there’s a lot more than just music to his secret elixir.

I began my interview with the reason behind the tour. He offers, “It has been seven years since my last tour, and I figured it was about time. From my last time on tour, I still remember the love of my audience and I wanted to feel that again.” One heart, one love Launching the One Heart Tour from Bengaluru, the concert will bring on stage a long and distinguished line of stars of distinctive musical genres, including Harsheep Kaur, Udit Narayan, Haricharan, Ranjit Barot, Vijay Prakash, Shweta Mohan, Neeti Mohan and Jonita Gandhi.

And Rahman seems intent on conveying a message: ‘Music and Art unifies our nation. Listen to that heartbeat and feel the oneness.’ As I query Rahman about what he hopes this tour will achieve for him, he explains, “I want to vibe with my fans, they are the ones who have kept me inspired and going.” We start to dwell on the tour and what songs he’s looking forward to perform, and his eyes immediately light up. At first he says, “Every single one of them.” After a tad bit of prodding, he gives in to reveal that he is excited to perform “new songs from movies like Chekka Chivantha Vaanam and Sarkar”, but he stops short and adds, “You have to come to my concert, as I definitely have a few surprises in store, and a new song for an upcoming proAject,” making my curiosity rise.

On top of his game I ask him if there is any new collaboration that he is excited to perform on tour, and without any hesitation, the first name that comes to his mind is Udit Narayan. “It was amazing to have him in the US tour, we share a great brotherly love. When he comes back on stage and sings, it’s beautiful to see the warmth of the people.” So that’s definitely a part of the show that you need to look out for. I then ask him to give me the name of an artiste who inspires him, and he seems rather excited to answer. “I just met him a couple of months ago,” he declares.

“Stevie Wonder! He is an amazing person, with the way he lives life. He taught me, you don’t need to have all your senses to enjoy life. Do what you have to do to make you happy, express what you want to do, and all the while be a kind human being.” He goes on to tell me that the one driving force in his life is his “inquisitiveness to learn, not just to learn but to analyse and argue with what I am doing”.

This trait of inquisitiveness, to learn something new as often as possible, runs through his innovative music styles and the many new projects he keeps exploring. Rahman’s versatility is reflected in his international collaborations, which include the likes of Iggy Azalea, Wale, Dido, MIA, KT Tunstall, The Pussycat Dolls and Kendrick Lamar.

This year, his incredible performance of the catchy anthem at the Hockey World Cup 2018 opening ceremony, and his new avatar as an anchor of the Amazon series Harmony with AR Rahman, are just a few of those epic moments to look back upon. The concert will take place in Bengaluru on December 22 at Ozone Urbana. Rahman will take his One Heart Tour to four other cities in India.

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The New Indian Express