A R Rahman, the much celebrated musician, turned writer and producer with 99 Songs, which hit the screens on April 16. What’s next for the Oscar-Grammy winner?
A master blaster when it comes to music, Oscar-Grammy winner A R Rahman is now trying his hands at something else. 99 Songs, a film which had its release recently, marked the arrival of the ‘Mozart of Madras’ as writer and producer.
99 Songs hit the screens in Hindi, Tamil, and Telugu on 16 April, 2021. Presented by Jio Studios, the film is produced by Rahman’s production company YM Movies and co-produced by Ideal Entertainment.
The film features debutant Ehan Bhat and Edilsy Vargas in lead roles with musician-director Vishwesh Krishnamoorthy helming the project.
The composer-producer knows that the film — a passionate love story with music at its core — is far removed from mainstream offerings.
“People’s experience of a movie truly depends on whether the story resonates with them or not. After the pandemic, our sensibilities have changed. 99 Songs is more of an experiential movie. The sound and visuals are an experience unto themselves,” says Rahman.
On what made him take up writing, Rahman says, “Mani sir (Mani Ratnam) once said to me that making a movie is like composing a song. You have the introduction, the song’s theme, the tune and then you do the background mixing. Then comes the antara, and with it, you have a journey that comes to an end beautifully. That’s when it struck me how [fulfilling] it is to create another art form in your own language.”
Talking about choosing Vishwesh Krishnamoorthy as director, the music composer says, “He was recommended by a friend from MTV Chandru. He has done good advertisements, music albums and is very experienced. We had a good vibe between us. He himself is an musician and actor. He has a different combination of skill sets which I really liked. He has really got the job done.”
“The question of “is it good enough” makes you work harder and harder,” says Rahman, talking about challenges while developing the story.
“These questions sometimes have to stop when you break yourself. When you work as a team, you have to be clear on what is needed and also have the ability to adapt. As a first timer we would want to put everything in the story. But later I had to filter it to ensure that the story only had what was needed.”
On the choice of Ehan Bhat, he states, “The script demanded new faces, we felt like that the persons needed to learn piano, music. This is time consuming and is not possible with an established actor. Having somebody new would make our vision will come alive. This is why he had to choose a new actor and Ehan fit the bill perfectly. We auditioned like almost 700 to 800 people for the role. I liked his energy.”
So, is 99 Songs based on Rahman’s own life? To this question, the Oscar-winner’s answer is: “This story actually is not from my life. My life is exactly the opposite. My mom chose music for me. I had to live by her dreams. However the story of 99 Songs is different, but there are experiences from my life that are put in the story.”
Though the box-office response for ’99 Songs’ was not much encouraging due to the Covid-19 restrictions and fear, Rahman, it is learnt, is likely to pen more scripts as he has many ‘interesting ideas’ in store. On the music side, he is currently working on a string of movies, including Mani Ratnam’s magnum opus multilingual ‘Ponniyin Selvan’.