“What you see of AR Rahman is just a tip of the ice-berg,”

Says the veteran singer Hariharan. The artiste who is part of the AR Rahman concert at Dubai Expo, tells us that the work Rahman does behind the scenes is immense and humungous and that is why you see perfection onstage and onscreen!

When did you first meet AR Rahman?

He came to Mumbai a year before Roja. He had heard my ghazals, and wanted me to sing Tamizha Tamizha, that later dubbed in Hindi as Bharat Humko Jaan Se Pyaara Hai. When he gave me the track, I found it very interesting. He had something of his own. He was very soft-spoken and shy and when he talked of the track, what he wanted from the song, was very clear. When I started recording with him, he opened up and we started chatting. We both speak Tamil and that helped. He us a very humble human being and I have seen him grow. He is very focused, very clear and did every bit of recording himself.  The amount of hard work he does behind the scenes is amazing. When he did his show, it was impeccable When he does something it has to be perfect to a T. So much of work behind the scenes, it is awe-inspiring!

Do you see Hindi film music in a pre and during Rahman era?

He brought out a total sound change in Bollywood. There is nothing newer happening after that. No breakthrough yet. Yes, I will agree to that!

What is your favourite AR Rahman song?

My favourite song is Pudu Vellaimalai from Roja that was made into Yeh Haseen waadiyan in Hindi. It was sung by the late SP Balasubramanian.

Tell us about independent music today. You’ve been part of it for several decades?

There is a surge today also because of the current Covid situation and a lot of streaming has happened. You can experiment with any genre when you create independent music. Not all will be hits but it gives people so much for creativity without the commercials in mind. Yes, once it is ready, it can be put out into the market. There are no diktats to independent music and for any kind of breakthrough you need independent music. How long can you hear a mukhda and antara? How long can songs be composed for heroes only? Where is room for gayiki? Art-out-of-the-box is important. That is the staple food for creativity. Today good music doesn’t need the vehicle of Bollywood.


How do you have such impeccable Urdu?

I worked on it when I met Jaidev jee in 1977. My teacher was from Lucknow but lived in Mumbai and there was a mini Lucknow in their house. It seemed that the frenzied pace of Mumbai slowed down in their home. Not just the language, I learnt the fine nuances of culture from them and that reflected in my singing. You have to soak in the language’s colour. Every language has a pitch – Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam are high-pitched. Kannada is softer. Urdu has a bass in its sound.

Have you said no to lyrics that you don’t agree to?

They don’t come to me.

How do you see the 100 million likes to songs versus a few hundred likes to some?

It is a huge con. It was there in the past too but artistes were lesser in number. Today it is a lot about image and people aren’t really bothered about the depth of the song or what you are saying. Flashy and funky things catch attention and so I cannot take the world of likes seriously. Talent hi nahi dikhta hai.

What can we hear this evening?

I am singing seven songs and some of them are Chanda Rey, Uyire, Nahi Saamne etc.


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