A.R.Rahman talks about his Favourite Composer, Working with Hans Zimmer and his First Love

Our Oscar Hero A.R.Rahman participated in a Q&A session with his numerous fans from America for Reddit. Here are some of the best excerpts from the interview 

Vanakkam ARR! I'm a huge fan of your work especially with Mani Ratnam. Could you describe what was it like in the early 90s when you started composing a few jingles for advertisement companies and eventually, Roja?
I think that's the most fascinating time, when you discover things which are so new to you but most the exciting time of your life. I would say it is almost like first love.

Avid fan here. Just one question...
Which of the contemporary music directors' works do you enjoy?
There are many now, actually. I do like some of Preetam Mithun's work, and a new composer named Santhosh Narayanan.

Would ever work with Pharrell Williams? That would possibly be the best thing in the world!
We got very close to working for Million Dollar Arm, but I think what happened is Pharrell was doing his promotions for the pre-Oscar thing and the director preferred more rappers than musician-like fellows. So unfortunately even though we had a great meeting, and I tweeted the picture too, we are mutual admirers and we played together with Hans Zimmer a few years back. But maybe someday.

Do you have any memorable moments while working on Slumdog Millionaire?
Yes. There are so many actually. It was all under pressure, good and bad. The good moments, I had a holiday when I was working on Slumdog, when I was working all my family was there, I would work 9-5 and then evenings would be going out to the park, so it was more like a holiday scoring for me. And the bad memories were actually mixing the soundtrack, my sound engineer passed away at the end after giving the masters, he had a heart attack. So that was a bad experience.

Hello Rahman sir! This question in on every fans' behalf. Can you please re-produce some of your old songs as an album? When we hear these songs unplugged and sung, performed by others on reality shows, it makes us yearn 'What if Rahman sir re-made these?'. It will enable you to show how much has changed in the way you composed those songs then and how you would now? Try a test run and you will see the reception as overwhelming (as always) p.s. I love the song Khalifa so much now!!!
Oh thank you! It's very flattering when you have the younger generation embrace your songs. So it's not a bad thing, it's a good thing. When I see some of those young people perform, they also take it further in the way they perform it. So me performing the old songs could only be in a concert, because I want to move on and do new things, maybe someday I might have a concert version of my songs going on. You never know.

Do you still hold the recordings of every song you've done since 1992? I want to be in that storeroom :D
Funny! Yes, we have most of the recording tapes I guess. Most of them. We might have lost something, because I think when we did the first few movies we didn't have money to buy new tapes, so I had to erase the old tapes to make new masters.

What do people close to you call you? Any nicknames?
I don't like any nicknames. People just call me A.R. My mom calls me Rahman. My wife calls me A.R. So it depends, I guess.

Tell us the most interesting titbit of a song, that we haven't heard anywhere before, of a song you produced!
There are many stories like this. Actually most of the song ideas come so instantly you don't even think twice, are the best songs. The ones you try hard it always shows, and sometimes these - in the car I will have an idea, come back to the studio and flesh it out, or on a flight i will go in a catering area and sing on the phone secretly so not to wake everybody up, sometimes when I am walking that happens. Ideas keep coming at vague times actually. And it's become so handy to have a phone that has everything in it. It's much easier to be spontaneously capturing things, unlike before when you had to have a huge tape cassette recorder.

Mr Rahman, Thank you for your awesome music, Especially from Saathiya. I wanted to ask you, What do you wish you knew when you started your career?
When I started my career, I was under no ambition to succeed as a composer. I thought I would do one movie and disappear. I did not think I had enough to sustain for so many years as a composer. But I think life is all about evolving oneself and growing and evoking and discovering, and that is what I have discovered over the course of life.

Wow I'm a huge fan of dil se, the song in it was amazing until this day. What was it like working with actors like SRK? wad there a bond after the movie?
No, I usually never meet the actors, since I stay in South India and I only met them during the music release, but he really loved the music and expressed the music. Mostly I don't get to see the actors or anything, except in very rare situations, except in rare situations like Amil producing Lagaan, when I got to go to Chennai and work on the music.

Hello, I've been a fan since I was a child. Movies like rangeela and roja formed the sound track to my teenage life. Your International work has been exemplary and I'm glad you've won two oscars!
Few questions:
How closely do you work with the movie director while scoring the soundtrack? What is your creative process like?
Is it true that you work best at night and do most of the composing and recording after midnight?
Thank you for doing this AMA, and please stop by /r/India sometime!
EDIT: For our friends across the world, the /r/India mods have put together a primer thread about AR Rehman here.
Mostly I work on multiple projects, because of the way movies are done in India, where we do 2 songs, they go for shooting, then we do another movie's two songs, and then they go for shooting, it's cyclic, and then it comes together in the end. So the director of a movie has their undivided attention on the project, so I respect their vision a lot, so we have a lot of discussions, a lot of energy is given to the director. He is mirroring the vision, for me he is the mirror of the people's taste and what he does is trusted. So sometimes he takes things along beautifully, but there are always creative risks we all take. Sometimes there are projects where a director will say what goes on the recording.
In the 90s I used to work at night. Yes, I will stop by /r/India to say hello!

Hello Mr Rahman! I have a couple of questions!
1) What do you think the reception of Kochadaiiyaan will be like worldwide? 2) Do you have a certain genre you prefer to score (romance, comedy, action etc)?
Not much of a question but I'm waiting for the gold disc edition of the Kochadaiiyaan soundtrack, really excited for it! All the best for that film and your films in the future!
Well, that's an interesting question. Since I've been there from the beginning of the process, I think it's a good idea to have the character and animation thing. Though the budgets of this is not 1/10 of what Hollywood spends, I still feel it has a lot of good things that people are going to enjoy, amazingly. I think (mostly because of the high expectations of music) I naturally tend towards more music-dominated movies, so people get more bang for the buck, so I take it as a a platform to challenge myself most of the time. So for me it's all about love songs, and dances, it's entertainment. But in the west I am also doing some interesting movies, which you guys will know very soon.

Are you a vanilla or chocolate ice cream fan?
Ha ha! Actually I am not a fan of chocolate. Somebody taught me that we have acidity, and because of my unusual sleeping hours I get more acidity, and vanilla kind of heals it immediately. It's a strange coincidence. So it kind of heals the acidic when you have strange working hours and sleeping hours. So vanilla.

Hello Rahman Sir, Hans Zimmer thanked you on the soundtrack CD of "The Dark Knight Rises" What was your work on it ? Any future collaboration with him ? :)
No, he did express that he was open to collaboration. I am still trying to find time to meet him in person. One day I must meet him for coffee. He is a great friend.

Avid fan here, just a simple question...
What does A. R. Rahman listen to everyday?
Good question. I mostly listen to classical music. Because I think it is very refreshing, classical music always has tonality and depth and you get refreshed listening to it. So much not pop. Maybe in the car when I travel, I listen to pop music on the radio.

Hello Rahman, Vanakkam. Hongkong-il irundhu oru Tamilan! (Hello Rahman, good day. Question from a Tamilian in HK)
How do you create more magic with ManiRatnam vs others?
There is some criticism that you rehash / copy your old tunes.. would you be happy to help understand?
Do you still have people threaten you for the "Bombay" movie music ?
You introduce new singers almost every film... that is a great gesture.
Nandri! (thanks)
Mani Ratnam is my mentor. When I work with him, it is beyond money, so we try to communicate in another plane totally. And it's unfortunate that some of his movies don't do well, but he is creative a genius and I respect him a lot.
I re-use some of the songs. In the west, it is a natural habit, because most of the songs are done in another time. I am proud of my work, and sometimes I re-use it.
No. Nandri!

Did you anticipate Jai Ho's success at all?
No! Haha. Not at all. I think sometimes you just do stuff, honestly, and the rest is taken care of I guess. But we did really really work hard to make it to the schedule and the pressure to finish it all so quickly. So we didn't think about all this.


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