The Music Man

The Music Man

On a whirlwind visit to the city to formally announce his forthcoming concert, A. R. Rahman, famously described as the ‘Mozart of Madras’, chats with us about his legendary status and what Dubai can expect from his performance

By Ambica Sachin

Published: Sat 26 Nov 2011, 6:32 PM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 7:16 AM

Clad in a sleeveless leather jacket, with his trademark shy smile in place, A R Rahman could easily melt into a crowd but for the big bouncers leading him on.

But as millions of fans across the world have come to learn, the musical magic pouring forth from this shy, unassuming man can transport one to heaven and beyond.

He might not have the presence of a rockstar or the gait of a big-screen legend, but when the man Time magazine feted as one of the world’s most influential people walks into a room, what strikes you immediately is the humility emanating from him. Despite having slept only for two hours before the event, there was none of the impatience or arrogance people with half his talent are known to throw around.

‘Music relaxes me’

One might almost assume that he would be more comfortable behind his turntables than facing the shutterbugs, but Rahman is quick to correct us. “I like to promote my shows. When I am at a show, it is a different kind of energy altogether. It is just that I have come from a two-hour sleep right now,” he said by way of explaining his low-key appearance.

“Making music relaxes me, just as long as it is done without pressure,” he asserts.

“When I take on too much, it leads to pressure,” says the music maverick who has gained a reputation among film directors for taking his time with his compositions. “Mostly I take on projects that don’t put pressure on me. You go into some of the projects and they tell you, ‘the heroine is getting married’ or ‘the hero is going away’ – most of the projects are handled in such a way…”

To Dubai with love

While Rahman seemed a bit reticent to discuss his plans for the Dubai concert in its entirety, he assured us that his fans can expect “a lot”.

“Dubai is an amazing audience, so I am happy to be back. I couldn’t make it for the past one-and-a-half year. There were so many offers but I guess the Talent Brokers was worth it.

“I will of course be performing Sadda Haq (from Rockstar), Rang De Basanti and some Qawalis.” The two-and-a-half-to-three hour live concert will have the maestro taking to the stage in what is being touted as a “theatrical experience that will blend new technologies with powerful dance arrangements and acrobatics.”

“In live situations you never know what will happen next - you just have to be prepared for anything – and just pray that it all goes well. It is of course, very risky because there is a lot of expectations … Some of the stuff has to be synchronised – the choreography, the moments, the singers – it all takes time.”

And as for any special personal preparation that goes into the staging of a concert of such grand scale, all he would say is, “As long as we sleep enough it should be good!”

‘Setting an example for kids’

Time magazine famously referred to him as one of the ‘World’s most Influential people’. So how does a man who comes across as extremely low key and humble react to the tag?

“When it comes to being a composer or an artist, you feel that people love you for certain things – and then you start valuing the same things that you have inherently. In a way that also keeps you grounded – wondering, am I worth that? Am I worth what people are respecting me for? It also helps me to focus on my character and be honest to life – not play a double role where I am something inside and something else outwardly. So it makes me more transparent.

“So the influential thing comes in that whatever I am doing, I am also in a subtle way setting an example for my kids - ’cause you want your kids to be proud of you. It is always that way, isn’t it? It is not about others; first you give preference to your own.”


What: A. R. Rahman Live Concert

When: December 9, Friday

Where: Dubai International Cricket Stadium, Sports City

Tickets to the show are on sale at

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