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AR Rahman: ‘99 Songs is a Big Advertisement for Musical Education’

99 Songs, the 2021 Hindi musical romance, co-written and produced by AR Rahman, is a “big advertisement for musical education,” revealed the composer during a Clubhouse session held on the occasion of the birth anniversary of late Samir Bangara, the co-founder of Qyuki, a ‘creator-focused new media company’, on Thursday.


Rahman, who also serves as a co-founder of the company, was speaking in the session titled Artist x Entrepreneur: Balancing Creativity and Capitalism, which was focused on how artists try to strike a balance between the business side of their art and their creativity.

Rahman pointed out that when it comes to art and entrepreneurship, he learned that there needs to be a balance between mind and belief. It cannot be a binary, he said, one has to follow a middle path. He mentioned that qualities such as a leap of faith, goodwill, honesty, and smartness are necessary to conquer the world of entrepreneurship.

Speaking about his film 99 Songs, Rahman said, “It is about every middle-class family where, when a kid says that they want to learn guitar or painting, they are told they can do that, but must also find a job. People don’t believe that those things can be the job. And this happens not only in India but all over the world. Everybody can relate to that. No one has ever made a movie about that and I felt that we needed to make a statement on that in a beautiful and cinematic way, which Vishwesh (director of the film) and Ehan Bhat (protagonist) brought to it.”

When asked how he balances between making the art that he wants and what is demanded of him, the musician said, “As an artist, we all want to do something cool. When it comes to films, they want a particular kind of music and I cannot deny their requests. So I analyse the options I have within that space.”

“But, it’s usually the things that I do for myself that get the most attention. Songs like Humma Humma (Bombay) and Khwaja Mere Khwaja (Jodha Akbar), I composed for myself. When Mani Ratnam heard them, he took them for the films, though they were done for albums. When you create music with the pure intention of art, it sounds much better,” he added.


He revealed that it was Mani Ratnam from whom he learned about making creative work that is artistic and commercially viable. “He made movies that are very artistic and at the same time, even a person who wants to just watch entertaining films can enjoy them. He pulled off the balance from his early days, with films like Agni Natchathiram (1988), and Nayakan (1987). So, you learn from your mentor,” Rahman observed.

Rahman also revealed that he has finished the soundtracks of his upcoming films, including Cobra, Mimi, Atrangi Re, and Ayalaan, all during the Covid-19 pandemic induced lockdown.