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Tuesday, April 13, 2021

AR Rahman on 99 Songs: I am looking at music from perspective of a filmmaker

AR Rahman speaks about his labour of love, 99 Songs. The the trilingual film stars Ehan Bhat, Edilsy, Lisa Ray and Manisha Koirala.

Written by Gabbeta Ranjith Kumar | Hyderabad |
March 26, 2021 6:47:15 am
Ehan Bhat and AR RahmanEhan Bhat and AR Rahman during the promotions of 99 Songs in Hyderabad. (Photo: PR Handout)

Mozart of Madras and Oscar winner AR Rahman has turned into a story writer and producer with the movie, 99 Songs. Directed by debutant Vishwesh Krishnamoorthy, the film marks the feature debut of Ehan Bhat as a hero. The musical drama also stars Edilsy, Tenzin Dalha, Lisa Ray, Manisha Koirala, Rahul Ram, and Ranjit Barot.

Ahead of the film’s release, AR Rahman along with Ehan Bhat and Telugu lyricist Rakendu Mouli shared details about the film. Here are the excerpts.

What inspired you to write the story of 99 Songs?

AR Rahman: When I went for Bombay Dreams to London, its musical producer asked me, ‘Rahman, do you have any story?’ Then I said, ‘I am just a composer, why should I write a story.’ Then I started thinking, stories, music and life all are connected. We see stories in music, people and experiences. After the Oscars, I became a member of the academy, and I attended many workshops related to cinema. My introduction to filmmakers like JJ Abrams and others, my journey with them, the whole process changed my thought process about cinema. Now I am looking at music from the perspectives of filmmakers and storytellers. Artistically, I am now going much deeper into things.

How has been your journey as a music composer to a story writer to a producer now?

AR Rahman: Being a producer is very much a gamble (laughs). Even after being careful, filmmaking experiences will scare you. In our case, we tried our best, and finally, we got a cut that we are feeling happy about. I hope people also like it. All three versions of the film have been refined over the past one-and-a-half years to just make them perfect.

How was your working experience with AR Rahman?

Ehan Bhat: I grew up listening to Rahman’s music and I am a big fan of his. When I got a call for the audition, I could barely hold my excitement. After a little gap, I got a call saying that I got selected as the lead. I was so emotional as it was a dream come true. My relationship with Rahman goes beyond the producer-actor relationship. He cares about me, he guides me.

It was Rahman’s idea to send me to KM Music Conservatory, which is in Chennai, to learn piano. I learned piano for one year. Because he wanted the authenticity of the character to be there. He treated me like his brother.

Why the title 99 Songs?

AR Rahman: You will come to know about the reason behind the title once you watch the film.

Is 99 Songs a fictional tale, or did it take any inspiration from true events?

AR Rahman: The film is inspired by the real-life stories and experiences of other musicians. I think the credibility for music and music as a profession is still not there. We have entertainingly touched upon several layers.

I have great admiration for director K Vishwanath for his screenplay work with music. I think there should be music stories coming out explaining the social status of musicians, and the entire struggle that goes behind the scenes.

How was it like having so many singers for a musical film like 99 Songs?

AR Rahman: Casting singers is like casting actors for a movie. For instance, we did 25 versions of the Sai Baba song in the movie. We go through a very tedious process for music.

99 Songs is slated for a release in Telugu, Tamil, and Hindi on April 16.

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