The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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City Lights
Tradition ’n’ tech in melody mix

He has collaborated with Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and L. Shankar, Dominic Miller and David Byrne. He has performed live with Michael Jackson in Munich, filled up giant football stadiums in Malaysia and the UAE, and the Skydome in Toronto. Now, the pioneer of techno-fusion is ready to weave his magic in Calcutta, in his first-ever full-fledged gig in this country. On a reconnoitre visit ahead of the February 1 Salt Lake stadium show, A.R. Rahman spoke to Subhro Saha:

Metro: You have performed a couple of numbers live at Vijay Chowk in Delhi before. But Salt Lake will be your first full-fledged concert in India. How significant is this for your career'

A.R. Rahman: It is very significant since it will be a new area for me to start from. I want to do an amalgamation of the melodic music of this place with my music and see how it works out. The world tour is extremely important to me as it will be a great learning curve, and the audience feedback in Calcutta can put us on the right track, since this is the first stop.

Q: Hindi film music has catapulted you to the zenith of popularity. At the same time, you have successfully collaborated with so many musicians from the West. Is it difficult to maintain a balance between the two worlds'

A: I think we often tend to treat our film industry in a step-motherly manner. There’s a pseudo-intellectual trait among many who feel film music is trash and Western music is always superior. That’s changing and the recognition of the Hindi film industry abroad is a big boost. You must remember that the Andrew Lloyd Webbers are coming to you for what you are and we have to be firm about that. That’s what they want. But yes, keeping the focus is not always easy. Sometimes, you feel you are marooned on an island, lonely and depressed, and then suddenly, something emerges from nowhere. I have also been fortunate to be able to generate positive vibes with my collaborators most of the time.

Q: You started learning the piano at four and since then, have had a host of musical influences along the way. Is the Rahman sound a blend of all those elements'

A: In the journey of life, nothing is planned. If you plan something, it becomes mediocre and predictable. Some people aim at something and something quite different happens, which turns out to be right for him. When I did Roja, I was a fan of the old school of music, 60s’ stuff, which had strong lyrics and definitive melody. But I was upset with the irreverence of today’s generation about Hindi film music. So I thought why don’t we do a mixture of the best of both worlds — the production finesse of the West and the strong melody of our own. That, you can say, is the stamp of my music, of course with the help of so many extraordinary lyricists, directors and singers.

Q: Is there any A.R. Rahman dream project waiting to take shape'

A: Not at this point. Whatever I have dreamt of before, I have been doing since Roja, at least a percentage of it. So, God has been kind to me. Since I do film music, I get into many areas and a lot of things have opened up. But I have to take things one at a time.

These Unity of Light concerts are very special for me. Once I finish this tour, I will know better where I stand. Once we do the show in different corners of the world, there could be something really big coming up.

In lake district

With new clubbing destinations like Space Circle, Ffort Magna Charta and Ibiza becoming increasingly popular, Lake Land Country Club, “a unique lake district” on the west bank of the river, is also gearing up to offer an attractive alternative. “We gave Eastern India its first country club and holiday resort and we intend to compete with the very best in the near future,” says Ram Ratan Chowdhary, chairman and managing director, Panchwati Holiday Resorts Ltd, developers of the resort.

Lake Land Country Club is spread across 40 acres of unpolluted countryside, including 15 acres of interlined natural lakes, off the Kona Expressway, around 15 minutes’ drive from Esplanade. The state-of-the-art club, built in Gothic style with grand arches and pillars, has a rich array of facilities. Squash court, billiards, card and chess room, gymnasium and health club, cycling, boating, angling, go-karting, open-air theatre, giant banquet hall and last, but not the least, a 12,000-sq. ft swimming pool complex, including a 2,000-sq. ft kids’ pool.

The group, which has a stake in the Dhulagarh truck terminal and has built the Howrah indoor stadium, has now embarked on a country house project, Viviene Valley. Comprising an array of individual bungalows, duplex row houses and apartments, the sylvan setting of the project is perfectly complimented by the adjacent Lake Land Country Club. “We will provide all modern amenities that a member would be looking for in a facility like this. There will be bowling, disco, jogging track, a library for senior citizens, and much more,” promises president of the club M.P. Singh.

The club management is banking on events to make the property a happening place. After Bollywood heartthrob Rani Mukherjee had set the party alive on December 31, 2001, it was the turn of Shweta Menon and Nethra Raghuraman to warm the dance floor this New Year’s eve. Ghazal maestro Pankaj Udhas is set to weave his magic on February 1.

Retro chic

Even in their state of dilapidation the stately homes of north Calcutta look like tragic heroes. Dipali Bhattacharya, who teaches at the Government College of Arts & Crafts, had used them in a collage she had executed for a five-star hotel. She goes back to them once again in the paintings she has done for Gallery Samukha in Bangalore which will be displayed at Renaissance Gallery from January 17.

In what may be called retro chic, she transfers silk screen prints of photographs of old buildings directly on canvases and paints ensembles of women (picture of one of the exhibits above) with or without their men in elaborate period costume on the foreground. Something like prettified Shyamal Datta Rays. She also has on display a suite of very pretty women chiselled out of wood almost in the same breath with which she executed her paintings. Everything very pat and pretty and what the interior decorator recommended.

Big little affair

The Nandan complex is ringing with the knock of hammer on nails as preparations are on for the fifth Little Magazine Fair. The curtain will go up on the five-day affair on Saturday evening with chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee doing the honours. Invitations have been sent out to about 500 organisations in all the districts of Bengal and beyond - Tripura, Assam, Bihar, Delhi, and even Bangladesh and Sweden.An exhibition will be held at Nandan IV on 'Translation in little magazines'. The afternoons will be packed with sessions on recitation, story-reading and discussions at the Bijit Kumar Dutta Mancha, the Akademi auditorium and the Jibanananda Sabhaghar. Other than this, 41 magazines have been granted time slots for their own programmes.An integral part of the annual fair is the awards. "We scan magazines which come out regularly and maintain quality. The special issues they bring out in a calendar year are sent to our panel of experts," said administrator, Paschimbanga Bangla Akademi, Debiprasad Chattopadhyay. The Little Magazine Award 2002 will go to Amritalok of Midnapore for its Gujarat genocide number. Three editors from north and south Bengal and Calcutta have been chosen for felicitation - Biren Chanda (Uttardhwani), Azharuddin Khan (Sabder Michhil) and Pabitra Adhikari
(Rangabyango Rashikeshu).

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