After 25 years of entertaining people, A.R. Rahman opens up about how music has become a way of life. In an exclusive chat with us, the Mozart of Madras waxes eloquent on a number of topics, including the advice he gives his team, the different avatars he’s taking on nowadays, and much more as we delve into his beautiful mind!

A journey of 25 years
I am grateful for the love of people, the directors, lyricists, singers and actors.

Did you always know music was going to be your life?
I was more interested in electronics! (laughs) But my mom knew even back then; parents always see the future and have better foresight. Once I started pursuing music though, I developed an active interest in it. Initially when we went to a studio, they chucked us out. But once I started my own studio, the interest of creating something new and the responsibility of doing good music grew.

Today, I always ask my people this question… now you have a studio, equipment, time, energy and money; what stops you from doing great work? Why should you settle for ordinary? Being in music is the biggest gift one can get. It is very important to be focused and not get into the wrong things. Musicians occasionally have a stigmatised lifestyle that has to be avoided.

You always talk about choosing love over hate in your path. What lessons did you learn?
You play different roles in life. When you become a leader, responsibilities come with it. As a team leader, you have to finish the soundtrack on time. During the release time, you can’t choose love, if they don’t do good work (laughs). You really can’t do that!

But, as a human being, when you face challenges and when it comes to taking decision of judging others according to what they do, I just go, ‘If you want to do that, please go ahead’. It doesn’t bother me. Actually, ‘loving’ is a very selfish thing, but in a good way. It exhausts you at times, but towards the end, it will elevate and enhance you.

What do awards and honours mean to you?
It is a good feeling as a composer and a music producer. I am heading the team and people love the music I make. It’s like a validation for them and for my team. It gives us a lot of energy and motivation to prove more.

You always help your protégés with kind words and promote them on social media…
I think it helps them! And I don’t lose anything by doing so. It is very important to recognise good talent from the next generation. When I have the time, I support them without any expectation.

You have seen plenty of success as well as few failures. How do you handle both?
As long as we do our work properly, it feels good. At the same time if it fails, it is disheartening. There are many other factors which result in the failure of a film. There’s no point in brooding over it. Moving on is my policy.

How important is a director’s contribution to your work; Mani Ratnam, for instance?
Mani is open to experimentation. Each other’s ideas inspire us. It’s the vibe that matters for me. There need to be some kind of inquisitiveness and positive vibes that push us to work harder and experiment.

Are you a very spiritual person even today?
I am strongly driven by spirituality — every three hours, I pray. If I miss out on my next prayer, the whole system collapses! It is good for me that it has become a part of my life, like eating or breathing. My prayers protect me — physically and mentally.

You are associated with so many causes. Do you think you can do a better job by entering politics?
No way, I’m not inclined towards politics. But it’s important to invest in creating a great leader. I tell people to invest in a leader who is kind, forward-thinking, and who will change the country. If done, in 20 years from now, we will become a truly great country.

Social media — a boon or a bane?
I always keep whatever I do and say, recorded. If all those things are played back in front of everyone in the world after I die, will I be proud of it? If I say something, I should stand by it.

Sometimes Wikipedia and other websites carry news without checking. Do you know how I lose movies in Hollywood? They list movies — even those that I am not doing! When a Hollywood filmmaker sees that, he or she feels I am very busy and may not be available for them.

Tell us about your new avatars — scriptwriter/producer for 99 Songs and director for Le Musk…
99 Songs is in the preproduction stage. The shooting for Le Musk is over — it is not a regular feature film. I found that a lot could be explored in music through the concept of virtual reality. In Le Musk, using VR, the viewer is virtually transported into the film and all the objects become mobile and one can even smell the surroundings!

On the Biopic Sachin — A Billion Dreams
I’m honoured to do the film Sachin. It is one of the most exciting movies I’ve ever done.

Original article written by Anupama Submranian for the Asian Age.