| IN-CAMERA CRESCENDO: Music-maker A.R. Rahman at the Unity of Light show at Salt Lake stadium last week. Picture by Pradip Sanyal
On stage, all the artistes were singing Vande Mataram. In the stands, the paper torches that had burnt so bright during Chhaiya chhaiya were starting to flare up again, one by one. And perched on the highest gallery at Salt Lake stadium, on the night of February 1, taking it all in on his Sony hi-definition camera, was film-maker S. Muthu Ganesh.
“It was awesome,” Ganesh gushed later. This was just one of the magic moments he had captured during his city sojourn. The man from Chennai, who owns Fine Frames Productions, is travelling with Team Rahman on the Unity of Light concert tour.
“The project is the brainchild of Deepak Gattani (of Rapport Global, event managers for the show). We want to show A.R. Rahman through the eyes of the nation, and also capture the pulse of India through the adulation of the fans across the country. Every concert will add a shade to the theme, Unity of Light. It will be a docu-feature, something like Woodstock, the Movie.”
The yet-unnamed project got the green signal at 3 am on January 26, six nights before The Telegraph Unity of Light concert in Calcutta. “We decided to shoot on wide background. I picked up this camera from Wizcraft, Bangalore, which has just acquired the first three pieces to reach India. This is what George Lucas had shot ET on.” From then on, it was a mad race against time, capturing the rehearsals at the Madras Race Course ground in Chennai, making the cuts and holding hasty meetings with the man himself.
“His (Rahman’s) involvement is amazing. Through the evening, he was in a series of meetings with music directors, discussing his forthcoming assignments. In the middle of it, he gives me a call and says: ‘Hold on, I’ll give you another track,’ and comes over to the studio with Mustafa Mustafa on a DAT player.”
But that did not surprise Ganesh. For he has known the king of the keyboard since 1989, while he was doing jingles for ad films. “Rahman can work the whole night at his studio and be in office at 8 o’clock the next morning if a meeting is scheduled,” he reveals. The master melody-maker also thinks ‘visually’. “The afternoon we came to Calcutta, I was supposed to have handed him the recording of the rehearsals by 5 pm. But the tapes reached late. So he had to see it on his laptop on the flight. The song Tauba tauba was supposed to have opened with a background scene of a single drum beating on the videoscope backstage. He wanted the footage to start with 50 drummers (‘It'll look better. You go ahead. I’ll change the track’, Rahman said).”
Ganesh is “thrilled” with the footage he has got — the little moments on stage, like the hug SPji gave Rahman, or the glint of light reflected on the silver foils that fell in a shower at the end… “I used up eight 50-minute tapes here,” he laughs. The morning before the concert, he was busy shooting the streets of Calcutta from a tram. “I ran it in stop block motion (one second per frame) to get the feel of life whizzing by before I zoom in on the stadium,” he explains.
The show over, it’s time to be back in the Chennai studios for a meeting with the Hyderabad team (where the concert is headed next), and Rahman himself. “I also plan to meet Mani Ratnam as Rahman is keen that I discuss the style of the project with ‘Mani sir’,” he says. The Chennai show, in fact, is a fundraiser for Ratnam’s Mahesh Cancer Trust, dedicated to the film-maker’s classmate Mahesh, director of the Kamalahasan starrer Kurdipunal, who succumbed to cancer recently.