Rahman's biography launched
It was Mani Ratnam, director and long-time friend of Rahman, who officially launched the book, A R Rahman The Spirit of Music, a the Novotel Hotel in Juhu, Mumbai. The book was the result of a series of conversations with documentary filmmaker and writer Nasreen Munni Kabir.
Before getting around to actually launching the book, Ratnam recalled on how they first met at Rahman's tiny studio. It was about one-fourth the size Ratnam was used to but the melodies he heard were simply beautiful.
But Ratnam says there is more to Rahman than mere music.
'As much a fan I am of his music I am a larger admirer of him as a human being,' Ratnam said of his friend.
The book took four years to come together, during which Nasreen spoke to Rahman some times in person, at others via a video conferencing facility.
Image: Nasreen Munni Kabir, A R Rahman and Mani Ratnam
'Rahman is not a shy person'
"Rahman is not a shy person but he is a reserved person you have to engage him properly to talk to him," she said. Kabir is used to nuance, given the disparate characters she highlighted in her documentaries about Hindi cinema, including Guru Dutt, Amitabh Bachchan and Shah Rukh Khan.
Speaking about the book, Rahman said his favourite chapter describes the time his mother, seeing how depressed he was because he had no money to buy equipment for his studio, sold the jewellery that she had kept aside for his sister's wedding. He used the Rs 4 lakh she got from the sale to buy the equipment.
His mother Kareema was not in to hear the story. She, and Rahman's sister Raihanah were among those who came in late after being trapped in traffic. Rahman's wife came along with him so she was not delayed.
Rahman went on to describe the people who contributed in his successful journey in music. Naturally, he mentioned Ratnam, his friend and early mentor, before going on to name Ashutosh Gowariker, Ram Gopal Varma and Subhash Ghai, all of whom were present. Also present were director Imtiaz Ali and percussionist Shivmani.
Image: A R Rahman with his wife Saira
'Failure came, in a way, but I could handle it'
Discussing his book later with rediff.com, he said, "There are lots of facts about me. What Nasreen wanted is a completeness." He described the book as universal while still maintaining a simple tone.
"Most of the stuff in it is are what already I have talked about but there are some aspects [that have] not revealed before," he said.
Asked if he had yet endured failure after the high of the Oscars, he responded philosophically, saying that if fame came along in plenty, the opposite was also a likelihood.
"I am just waiting for it. In fact it came, in a way, but I could handle it, it was not as disastrous as I had thought. Plus, it was helpful [that I was] spiritual. I have been famous from the age from the age of 13. I was playing [music] on Doordarshan. But after a while you get immune to all [these positive strokes] in a good way.' And that detachment has helped him manage even the few crises he has had to deal with, Rahman says.
Image: Shivmani, Rahman's wife Saira, Ram Gopal Varma, Rahman's sister Raihanah and mother Kareema
'The idea of a movie company that everybody is talking now is inspirational'
"The idea of a movie company that everybody is talking now is inspirational [but] it has to become reality. It is difficult to talk about it now. It is going to take time," Rahman said, adding that if and when the plan goes ahead, the stories the new firm deals with be rooted in Indian settings.
However cautious he is about a film company, Rahman has nothing to worry about on account of his music school, the K M Music Conservatory. The school, on which the musical mastermind lavishes attention, is headed for bigger things, Rahman says, while keeping things all mysterious.
"We are planning something big for the music school. I just saw the annual day of the school and it really moved me. I am not saying this because it is my school," Rahman says, pointing out that he does not pick graduating students into his projects because he does not want to foster jealousy among them.
"They are just showcasing their talents among themselves," he says.
Image: Mani Ratnam, Ram Gopal Varma and A R Rahman