Why The BAFTA Is So Special For A R Rahman

By Subhash K Jha, In some ways BAFTA was more special than any of the other Slumdog awards so far.

It also has to do with the sudden coming-of-age of Indian music.
Says Rahman, "For 18 years I've been hearing it will happen now, it will happen now. It didn't happen with some of my earlier efforts like the staged musical Bombay Dreams. Finally Indian music has gone international. And frankly, the expectations scare me."
On Tuesday Rahman returned from London to Chennai for just a day before heading to Los Angeles for the Oscars.

Says Rahman, "Danny, Dev Patel and the crew are all Britishers. To be honoured back home is another high altogether. For me also, London is like a second home. I've been coming here since 1996. It's my favourite city outside India. And to be getting the BAFTA is special."

Rahman thinks the popularity of his Slumdog score has a lot to do with the fate of the overall product. "It's the entire product that audiences have liked , and my music is part of that product. My song Jai ho has touched a chord because of the way it has been used. It comes at the end as a cathartic eruption of song song dance and happiness. That's the spirit in which people have received my music."

Rahman looks back on his life after Slumdog with some amazement. "It's been like a rollercoaster ride for one and a half months. The Oscar will be the culmination of the whirlwind of activities. Are people back home looking at me with expectations? I hope I don't let them down. I feel God has already given me much more than I ever expected."




Few music directors in present-day Bollywood dare to showcase South Asian classical music in its purest forms. Fortunately, AR Rahman is one who does. His latest release comes at the end of a particularly fruitful creative period. It began in early 2008 with notable soundtracks such as Jodhaa Akbar and Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na, and continued with the soundtrack to Slumdog Millionaire, for which he has won a Golden Globe and a Bafta, and secured three Oscar nominations. Now, with Delhi-6, he impresses again.

The film, directed by Rakesh Omprakash Mehra, tells the story of an American-born Indian who travels to Delhi with his ailing grandmother. What was meant to be a quick visit turns into a protracted journey that places him in the heart of Chandni Chowk, the rambling, mazelike market district in Old Delhi. The number 6 is derived from the last digit of its postcode, which has become its local shorthand name.

The first song of the album, Masakali (Free Spirited) sung by Mohit Chauhan, is playful, with soft percussion and keyboards. The accordion takes centre stage along with Chauhan's voice, the music and vocals expressing the song's sentiment perfectly. Rahman's Sufi influences are evident on the second track, Arziyan (Requests), performed as a qaawali, the style of religious song made famous by the Pakistani singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. In turn, Aarti (Tumre Bhavan Mein) is a sombre, Hindu prayer song – the title of which translates as In Your Abode) – delivered over restrained and minimal accompaniment.

However, it is in Bhor Bhaye (The Arrival of Dawn) that the listener is introduced to the rich tradition of Hindustani classical music. Paying close attention to harmony and melody while cleverly tying the past to the present and future, Rahman samples the voice of Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, a legendary Patiala gharana singer who died in 1968, then intersperses it with contributions by the up and coming young performer Shreya Ghoshal.

Delhi-6, the title track, is a jumble of contemporary styles featuring the Tamil rapper, BlaaZe. The song can be seen as an effort to try to capture the two sides (both geographic and metaphorical) of the city in which the movie is set. The north-central side, wherein lies Chandni Chowk, is known for its crowded lanes, mosques and delicious Mughlai cuisine. The southern part of the city, better known as New Delhi is just that: a hub of embassies and gleaming government offices alongside the well-scrubbed fa├žades of five-star hotels and wide, tree-lined streets.

On Rehna Tu (You Stay) the producer leads the vocals in a duet with Tanvi Shah. This track is typical Rahman in at least two senses. Firstly he is known for appearing on at least one track on each of his albums and, secondly, he is responsible for discovering a number of prominent Bollywood playback singers, including Shah, with whom he first worked in 2004.

Genda Phool (Marigold Flower), meanwhile, is just beautiful. Rahman mixes looped synthesised bass into a slow and simple Rajasthani folk song. It sounds basic, but it is this kind of restrained fusion that sets him apart. Indeed this has the subtle, contemporary appeal could place it squarely in the Indian charts.

In short, this soundtrack is not for those looking for cliched Bollywood music, which often involves little more than unimaginative beats designed for actors to dance to, staidly remixed by popular DJs. Delhi-6 is in a different class altogether. With its exploration of the delicate nuances of South Asian classical music, it rewards careful listening. Whatever happens at the Oscars we can expect Rahman to be more of a presence in the international scene from now on, bringing his eastern sensibilities with him and applying them to the music of the world.

Interview with ARRahman: After winning BAFTA

Angelina Jolie to Kate Winslet, everyone is so humble in Hollywood"

The whole of India wants to know, what was it like walking that red carpet at the BAFTA's?
It was phenomenal and an absolutely fantastic experience. It was raining heavily, the weather was damn cold but the entire team of Slumdog Millionaire was feeling warm (laughs).

We also hear that you met and chatted quite a lot with Hollywood's great Clint Eastwood. Brief us a bit about that experience.
Yes, that's true. We had dinner together and were discussing films till we finished our meal. Clint Eastwood is the most respected man in Hollywood today. He is a combination of everybody put together. What I liked about his work is that he does things on his own terms.

All the actors in Hollywood want to work with him. We both shared with each other our experiences on how we started our career in films and so on. He is a great listener too. I spent a lot of time with him on the dinner table which will always remain special.

Any comments from Clint on your film or on your performance in Slumdog Millionaire?
He loved the film and the performances. But what he did mention to me was that a film like Slumdog Millionaire has split wide opened the doors for the actors in the East to come join the West.

There was a time during his peak when they had to rely heavily on the actors only from Hollywood but he feels that even Bollywood has now made its big leap with such a film, thanks to Danny Boyle.

He knows that Indian actors can act and win awards at the worlds biggest award functions. He also predicted that Slumdog Millionaire might do $300 million worth of collection at the box office.

Do you think that Slumdog Millionaire is a Bollywood film then?
It is completely a Bollywood film. The story is very Indian and so are all the actors. Hence I was offered to do Slumdog Millionaire; I didn't know who Danny Boyle was.

For me, he was just a filmmaker who made films. People go to see people in films. So you tell me who were the people in this film? They were Indians. Some like me were professional actors, others were new comers, and some were completely raw in their performances.

But all had one thing in common - They were somehow connected to the Indian roots. Indian cinema should be very proud of Slumdog Millionaire.

 While all the guests and nominees were escorted under the huge umbrella, you went for the role reversal by holding your own umbrella on the wet red carpet. Why?
(Laughs) I had an escort with an umbrella but the way he was holding the umbrella was getting me wet. I got hold of the umbrella myself so at least I could protect my suit and my hair (laughs).

Oscar night is almost ten days away. Any designers who are trying to dress you up for your biggest awards night ever?
There are loads but I'll be sticking to ready made suits. Like the one I was wearing at the BAFTA's was a creation by Armani. I will again go with the best in the business, Armani, for the Oscars.

Did you get emotional when A.R. Rahman and Resul Pookutty walked on the stage to collect their BAFTAs?
We were all sitting together with all of us feeling excited, thrilled and at the same time, a bit emotional. I met both of them during dinner where I showered my emotions on them by hugging them tight.

It was a proud moment for all three of us who represent the Indian Film Industry popularly known as Bollywood. Resul had earlier worked on my film Gandhi My Father for which, I think, he should've won an Oscar for the kind of work he had done in the film.

But sometimes there is something better and bigger installed for you. You have to be aligned doing consistently good work and that's what Rahman and Resul have done. So when you're consistent about your work, not thinking what the result is going to be, and you keep on doing good work, someday you will be awarded.

Will Slumdog Millionaire's success change the fate of Bollywood and Hollywood for good?
A hopeful change, I must say. Everybody has to take a broad minded and a positive attitude towards what has happened with Slumdog and embrace its success. If people, and by that I mean, everyone connected to filmmaking try to put the film down or condemn it, then they will miss this golden opportunity.

 Any Hollywood celebrity you met and mingled with inside the famous Royal Opera House in Convent Garden?
Now this has been one of my big moments in life. I met most of the Hollywood stars like Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, Mickey Rourke and Kate Winslet. I also congratulated Penelope Cruz.

It was just a quick introduction to them. But what I found was so touching about all the names I've just mentioned is, the bigger and richer you get as an actor, the more humble and down to earth you are.

Everybody connected with films all over the world knows everybody connected with Slumdog Millionaire. But I'd like to mention that the one person who was dearly missed at last nights BAFTAs was the Late Heath Ledger. I would've loved to meet him.

Slumdog Millionaire led the BAFTAs with seven awards followed by three awards for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Are you guys ready to sweep the Oscars too?
We are not thinking too much about the Oscars. At the moment, we are only going to celebrate our BAFTA success. Come February 22, things will again get serious (laughs).

Road to Oscars: Mani Ratnam's Midas Touch

One man who needs all credit for spotting the musical talent in Rahman is director Mani Ratnam. Today Rahman has grown leaps and bounds ready to lay his hands on the coveted Oscars thanks to the seeds sown by Mani Ratnam. One man who will be really proud if Rahman wins the Oscars would be Mani Ratnam.

All Mani Ratnam's films starting from 'Roja' in 1992 have musical compositions by Rahman and the director now shares a special bonding with him.

Speaking about Rahman, he said, "I have worked with two very classy composers - Illayaraja and Rahman. Both are from two different schools of musical composition. While Illayaraja is more spontaneous in his response, Rahman takes time to think over tunes, story, situation and the labors over it,' he said. According to him, Rahman, if pushed a little, is willing to think laterally.

With Thalapathi, Mani Ratnam ended his association with music director Illaiyaraja, bringing in Rahman. It turned out to be Mani's greatest findings.

A quiet Rahman in spite of his tall achievements is still humble and down-to-earth. Rahman said, 'I feel my slate is yet to be written on. There is life beyond music, album or record sales.'

Mani Ratnam and Rahman's partnership is widely regarded as having produced some of the best film music in Indian movies since 1990s.

* Roja (Tamil) - 1992
* Thiruda Thiruda (Tamil) - 1993
* Bombay (Tamil) - 1995
* Iruvar (Tamil) - 1997
* Dil Se (Hindi) - 1998
* Alaipayuthey (Tamil) - 2000
* Kannathil Muthamittal (Tamil) - 2002
* Ayutha Ezhuthu (Tamil) / Yuva (Hindi) - 2004
* Guru (Hindi) – 2007

The road to Oscars for Rahman began with Mani Ratnam and will end this February with just 11 more days to go!!!

Courtesy: IndiaGlitz