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'I'm dedicating it to Ustad'

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By A.R. Rahman remembers Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan's upcoming 10th death anniversary with the musical score of Guru. By Sneha Hazarika (SAMPURN)
  • Published 22.12.06
A.R. Rahman
Tarapada Banerjee

Be it Roja, Bombay, Taal, Lagaan, the Broadway musical Bombay Dreams or Rang De Basanti, A.R. Rahman’s music has been widely acclaimed. Two of his compositions from Rang De Basanti will be considered for Oscar nomination, yet another well deserved feather in the composer’s cap. Currently, the music he has composed for Mani Ratnam’s Guru is a hot subject of discussion for its haunting melody and class. Rahman talks about Guru:

On putting the music of Guru together:

When we started Guru, I had the usual restlessness since the last musical film we did was Alaipayuthey and I didn’t want any of those ideas to repeat. I was in Toronto and did the scratch and sent it to Mani. He liked it and called Gulzar Sahab to write the lyrics and I recorded one of the first songs in Toronto itself. When I was asked to do a love song later, I thought it would be something of a Sufi song like what Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan did and that’s how the idea of Dum dara dum dara was born. I am dedicating it to the memory of Ustad since it’s his 10th death anniversary next year.

Then when I was out on a concert in Hong Kong, I happened to look for instruments in a store and suddenly thought of using the accordion for the film. Usually I buy keyboards and plug in, but this time I settled for a solid vintage item and started learning how to play it. You can see the influence of the accordion in almost all the songs. And there is this simple Yaman Kalyani melody I have tuned to the lyric of Hazrat Amir Khushroo which Gulzar Sahab had modified. After all, it’s a 15-year-old musical journey and so I wanted to attempt something really satisfying.

On how his favourite song from the film Maiya Maiya was born:

I went for Haj this year and I saw this guy near the river who kept on saying, ‘waya waya waya. I realised that waya, waya means water and felt it was an interesting sound that is very Indian. Maiya maiya came from there. The interesting thing is the Gujarati bit in the end. It was Mani’s idea.

On Ash’s song on a bicycle which had to be scrapped:

Mani said he wanted to shoot Ash’s introduction song on a cycle. I got the lyric from Gulzar Saab. The song, the strings, the words and everything else was completely embedded together to match the energy of the cycling. Mani said Aishwarya has to learn cycling before he starts filming. Unfortunately, she met with an accident. She fell down from the cycle and the song did not work out. Na na re was made in its place.

On his long association with Mani Ratnam:

I had started out with Mani Ratnam and it’s been an interesting journey. More than us, people must be speculating as to what we are going to do next. We are on the same ground and each time I look at one of his scenes, it’s a kind of challenge for me and I always speculate on what else can be done. When he listens to my songs, I guess he feels the same. In this film, too, we are depending on each other. And interestingly this time most of the songs were complete before he went for the shooting.

On his rapport with Gulzar:

Yes, we have not worked in many films together but whatever we have done, I think we have shared a real good rapport with each other. Gulzar Sahab and I have a common interest for Sufi kind of songs. We have great fun while working and only when he is satisfied, he goes back. It’s amazing that at this age also he takes work so seriously and gives out the best.

On making Bappi Lahiri sing in the film:

Mani wanted a bhang song and at that time, I happened to go to a music awards function and hear Bappida sing. I felt he did it so beautifully. We wanted someone to sing, Bolo Guru, and then Gulzar advised that Bappida should be brought in, as his voice suits Abhishek. Bappida too was kind enough to sing this song.

On his singing in Guru:

I have used my voice in Tere bina and then the theme song, Jage hain. Also a little bit in some other pieces.

On singing for superstars:

Every time I sing, be it for Shah Rukh in Dil Se and for Abhishek here, I feel my voice doesn’t match them at all. Only after checking it 20-30 times I feel okay. I have this kind of paranoia. In fact, the first time I see it, I feel a kind of shock and only later get used to it. Hope others don’t think similarly (laughs).

On other highlights:

When you do a soundtrack, you don’t realise what potential it has initially. We have to look forward to how the audiences react. I am praying to God that they react positively and encourage us.