Actor Kamal Haasan and music director AR Rahman teased fans with an unreleased track, supposedly the latter’s best composition as on date, during a live video chat on Friday. In an hour-long conversation hosted online and moderated by film reviewer Abishek Raaja, Kamal and ARR spoke on a wide variety of topics – from music and film, to language, society, and revolution.
“It is one of Rahman’s best, after Indian,” Kamal said about the unreleased track. “I’ve never heard a song like that. It is not out yet but we will bring it out. Even if not, I’ve asked if we can release it as a private album,” Kamal said. The two are working together on Kamal’s Thalaivan Irukindran.
“You won’t believe it, people thought it’d take a few months for us to finish the song. But I returned from his studio around 2.30 am and by 8.30 am I had sent him the lyrics. That evening the recording was over. Everyone was surprised,” Kamal laughed.
During the chat, with a nonchalant frankness, Kamal admitted that he began listening to ARR’s music only after the latter had become a popular name. “I think I started listening to you only after the world had already recognised you. I was totally blanketed with Raaja (Ilaiyaraaja),” Kamal said.
“It was a departure from what one hears. He (ARR) kept breaking the pattern. I then started liking it,” he added.
Both Kamal and AR Rahman shared their thoughts on their connection with Malayalam language and its cinema. For Kamal, his seeking refuge in Malayalam cinema when he was in his late teens felt like catharsis. “My characters were not satisfactory in Tamil so I ran to Malayalam. I was able to learn cinema in Kerala,” he said.
For AR Rahman, it was the opposite. “The irony is my father worked mainly in Malayalam and so my advent was there – MK Arjun, Devarajan master, AK Umar, Dakshinamoorthy Swami. After completing it, after working in Kannada, Malayalam, Telugu, I was craving to play in Tamil films. Finally I went to Raaja sir. I worked with him for 1.5 years and it felt like catharsis for me,” ARR said.
Speaking about each other’s work, both AR Rahman and Kamal Haasan agreed that it was wrong to say the audience expected a certain kind of art from an artiste. “I feel suffocated when someone asks me to do something that I've already done. It’s very hard for me. People too can understand it's fake,” ARR said.
Kamal added, “It is wrong to say audiences expect the same. They are just like us. If there’s something we have enjoyed, it will surely be celebrated by the audience, if not now then perhaps a few years later.”
On gender equality, ARR spoke about mutual respect and understanding; he also expressed that women tended to have different instincts when compared to men, drawing psychological comparisons between men and women. “I’ve seen it in my mother, my wife and my daughters,” he said.
Kamal on the other hand, while agreeing that men and women are equals, pointed out there can never be complete equality since “a man can never give birth to a child.”
AR Rahman opened up that he would sometimes sit in airports in a different country and observe people, “I’d like to observe people and think of what their story might be. Outside a mosque in London, I see a culmination of humanity. People from different parts of the world would gather. I think without travel, man cannot understand life.”
He shared that this helped him with scriptwriting. “Everyone has the same hope, sadness, love… we can connect these stories and do music accordingly. Everyone has different experiences in life. Take the revolution happening now in America for instance. Three-hundred years of suppressed energy. It’s sad to see a developed nation going primal. Such an incident becomes an inspiration to write a story. Stories and art connect people,” he said.
Rahman said, for a society to improve, a successful person should spread knowledge by being self-aware. “It is a responsibility. Every citizen should be self-aware. In a way there is exploitation. One can follow anyone they like – be it a leader or a cinema star – but they should not forget their own family. Pull them up along with you. The world is full of racism and division. Beyond language, nationality, every captain of that family, both the mother and father, should pull up everyone else in the family with education and art. When that happens our standard of contributing to the country, our standard of appreciating art will improve,” he said.
“Earlier when you are born in a village or in a certain caste you are taught that you are not eligible to think beyond. Those shackles will have to be broken,” Rahman said.
Kamal added, “We’ve started doing it. It is not complete but we can start seeing faces. Soon it can be made an equal ground. Rich-poor divide will always exist. Lesser artiste-greater artiste divide too will always be there. But we should know to respect each other. Lesser artiste too contributes to art, to make it better.”
Watch their full conversation here.