Tuesday, July 27, 2010

AR Rahman to arrive at Showing Off headquarters

AR Rahman

A superstar film composer who conquered the rest of the world from a position of dominance within his own Asian environment

Film composer AR Rahman talks about his craft Link to this video

Waiting for AR Rahman to arrive at Showing Off headquarters, I imagine some kind of powerful, glamorous giant will arrive, swathed in ego, surrounded by adoring entourage, encrusted in diamonds, trailing mist, ribbons and glitter behind him. I will need to bow in his presence, and the idea of asking about world music seems particularly preposterous. He's a superstar composer who conquered the rest of the world from a position of dominance within his own Asian environment.

Thinking of his achievements and successes, all the way up to the Oscars he won for the soundtrack to Danny Boyle's sweethearted fable Slumdog Millionaire, is enough to make me swoon. There are BAFTAs, Golden Globes, Grammys, National Film Awards, Time magazine named him the "Mozart of Madras" and estimated him to be one of the world's 100 most influential people, he's sold more than 150 million copies of his albums worldwide, which makes him one of the world's all-time best-selling recording artists, the only Indian and the only soundtrack composer, in the top 200. He's got this way of fusing classic Indian techniques with frenetic, bombastic ideas borrowed from modern Hollywood composers like Vangelis, Hans Zimmer and John Williams so that his music combines illuminating commercial glamour with flighty, spirited artistry. He's worked with the Andrew Lloyd Webber, M.I.A, Michael Jackson and the Pussycat Dolls; he's a pop star himself playing arena sized venues; he received an honorary degree from Stanford University for contributions to global music; his first film soundtrack in 1992 for Mani Ratnam's Roja was voted one of the top 10 greatest of all time alongside the likes of Citizen Kane, On The Waterfront, The Good, The Bad and the Ugly and The Man With The Golden Arm. Thinking of all that, it seems that the man who will arrive will be the size of a mountain and make a noise when he speaks that is beyond the hearing of mere mortals.

I compose myself to meet the great composer. When he does arrive, it's a surprise. He is normal sized. He does not breathe fire. I can hear him speak, although he does so very quietly, and with no sense of hurry. There are no diamonds. He wears quite modest clothes, indeed clothes you might buy at River Island. He boasts a subtle smile that is actually not boastful at all. He has a certain sort of genial serenity about him that suggests his ego is tethered elsewhere and only revealed on very rare occasions. He brings with him a video message on his iPhone from Danny Boyle's editor, who, so AR and Danny think, looks like me. "Frankie says," the message goes, "be kind to AR."

And of course, just in case he does in fact suddenly turn into a diamond encrusted giant complete with dramatic, kingdom come soundtrack that threatens to knock me out, I am kind to AR.



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