Faces Behind the Voices

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

Written by Sankhayan Ghosh | Published: July 30, 2013 1:54 am

As someone who has known AR Rahman from the time he went by the name AS Dilip Kumar –— this was before Rahman turned to Islam –— T Selvakumar is well aware of the maestro’s discomfort in front of the camera. Having observed him from close quarters,fellow musician Selvakumar also knew about the former’s affinity towards his singers. So when Rahman made a comment during one of his photo shoots,Selvakumar was quick to join the dots. “He mentioned that there are many singers he works with who look more beautiful than him and that I should click them and stop bugging him (Rahman),” 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 have given an elaborate credit list for his singers. Even if one had 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. One often sees him employ relatively unknown voices as opposed to established playback names. 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. He started dabbling in photography as a hobby but now he has taken it up as a profession on the side.

The list of singers featured is comprehensive indeed as it includes everyone from legends such as Lata Mangeshkar and seasoned voices such as Mohit Chauhan and Shreya Ghoshal to newcomers,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 a total of 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. “For instance,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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