National Award-winning director Sruti Harihara collaborated with Oscar winner AR Rahman for the musically and visually rich Amazon Prime Video web series Harmony with AR Rahman. In an exclusive conversation with indianexpress.com, Sruti recalls the “best experience” she has ever had.
Q. How did the idea of making Harmony with AR Rahman come up?
I believe a lot in serendipity. It was one such thing for me. When I won my National Award, Harmony production house got in touch with me. They had the idea of doing non-fiction in the digital space. It was their idea to bring different musical instruments together. They knew if they have a concept that is exciting for AR Rahman, we can have him on board. The plot of covering musical instruments had me hooked. I love music. I love travel. So it was a go-ahead for me. I was very sure of making it entertaining in order to reach out to a wider audience. I wanted the core to be emotional so that it appeals to people who are not that into music.
Primarily, we looked at diversity. We wanted to show the entire India. So, we made sure that we don’t have multiple people from the same region. We were sure that we will have an ensemble performance in the finale episode. So, we were looking for one percussionist, one vocal, one string and one wind instrument. We were asking questions to these musicians not only related to their music but also gave a sneak peek into what their life is like. I was particular about having one woman in the series.
Finally, we zeroed in on four musicians and went to Rahman sir with the concept. He instantly said yes.
Q. How was the experience of working with AR Rahman on Harmony with AR Rahman?
I am super huge Rahman fan. I have been following his work since his debut. For me, the challenge was to bring the side no one knows about.
I have attended most of his concerts. So, being such a fan, I was extremely nervous to meet him, but he is so amazing. With him, it is what you see is what you get. He immediately makes you feel comfortable. It is like you are talking to someone you have always known. So, that way he is very childlike. The first thing I noticed in him is an excitement. He has a side that hasn’t come through his interviews. I wanted to introduce the audience to it. Also, he is so committed to his work. He completely let himself go and trusted me. If I would ask him about something, he will say “You’re the Director.” There is so much to learn from him. This was the best experience I have ever had.
Q. Was it planned to include religion, culture and the caste discussions too in the series?
We were searching for people who have the storytelling skills. We were also trying to find commonalities between the musician’s stories and AR Rahman’s life to have a natural screen conversation. We looked into their life, background and everything.
We were doing a complete personality breakdown. Not just music, instrument or its history but even the person. We realised every story had so many layers to it. Eventually, caste, family equations, a story of sacrifice and how music connects you with nature, all these aspects came into play.
Q. How was the experience of shooting the 22 min climax?
The final jam was important. We did an extensive recce for the same. Everything was shot in live sound. Apart from being beautiful, we had to make sure how the music would sound. We were very sure about treating it like a concert or a music album.
Q. Was there a moment when you had let the fan in you take over the filmmaker in you?
I was the director. So, I could not afford to get carried away. However, in the last episode, during the jam, I did steal a moment or two of being a fan. We would often speak in between the shoot to know if it is going right.