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Faces Behind the Voices

A coffee-table book puts the spotlight on the singers who work with A R Rahman

Written by Sankhayan Ghosh | Published: July 31, 2013 12:04 am

As someone who has known A R Rahman from the time he went by the name AS Dilip Kumar –— this was before Rahman turned to Islam –—

T Selvakumar is aware of the maestro’s discomfort in front of the camera. A fellow musician,Selvakumar also knew about the former’s affinity towards his singers. “On one photo shoot,Rahman mentioned that there are many singers he works with who look more beautiful than him and that I should click them and stop bothering him,” says Selvakumar,who decided to take that idea forward and make it the subject of his first book featuring only Rahman’s singers. “He is the first composer in the Indian film music to give an elaborate credit list for his singers. Even if one has sung just one line in a song,he or she would get credit,” he says.

One of the noticeable aspects of Rahman’s music is the singers he works with,including unknown voices. The recently launched coffee-table book,Reflections,attempts to bring these lesser-known faces to the fore. “There are many of his songs that are loved and yet people don’t know the names of the singers. This book celebrates those voices,” says Selvakumar,who is also an entrepreneur,the director of an audio-visual company and the founding CEO of Rahman’s KM Conservatory. Photography was his hobby but now,he practices it professionally.

The list of singers featured is comprehensive indeed as it includes legends such as Lata Mangeshkar,Mohit Chauhan and Shreya Ghoshal as well as newcomers such as Harshdeep Kaur and Neeti Mohan. “Twenty years after my first film,I am pausing to reflect on the people who have contributed so richly to my music,” says Rahman in the epilogue of the book that features 72 singers. Select photographs from the book were recently exhibited in a gallery in Chennai.

Shot by Selvakumar in sets and studios in Chennai and Mumbai,the photographs capture the singers in candid poses. Given the shuttling between the two cities,the shoots could have been a logistical nightmare but the singers,points out Selvakumar,were enthusiastic enough to give him time for the photo shoot. “In Mumbai,we were shooting in a studio that happened to be owned by Sunidhi Chauhan’s father. She has hardly sung one song for Rahman to be called one of his singers,but she came on her own and became a part of the book,” he says.

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