AR Rahman tops list of 300 most influential figures in South Asia

Abdul Karim Hanif/Dubai
Filed on October 30, 2020 | Last updated on October 30, 2020 at 01.35 am

The list also includes notable personalities such as Shankar Mahadevan, Sonu Nigam and Rahat Fateh Ali Khan among the top five.

British journalist and entertainment entrepreneur Kiran Rai has compiled a list of 300 most influential people who, he thinks, hold the keys to Bollywood.

The '300 Asia Power List', commissioned by the New York Press News Agency, names Indian music composer AR Rahman as the most influential figure in the year 2020.

The list also includes notable personalities such as Shankar Mahadevan, Sonu Nigam and Rahat Fateh Ali Khan among the top five.

In order to compile the list, Rai had conducted interviews with the 300 personalities over Zoom, and uploaded them on his Instagram feed, while being based in the UK. Its purpose, according to him, was to celebrate and recognise their success stories on a global platform.

Khaleej Times spoke to Rai to know more about the list. Here are the excerpts:

Q. It all began with a list of the 100 most influential people at the start. What made you compile this?

It all started when we were in lockdown. I realised as a journalist writing for the New York Press News Agency that the whole media attention was focused on the coronavirus every day and that people were beginning to get tired of reading about the virus. I also felt that somewhere these established artists across the world got eclipsed overnight due to one virus. So, I felt it was right for me to make sure people remember who these people are and that the spotlight is back on them once again for all the right reasons.

Q. You interviewed legends such as Grammy and Oscar winning composer AR Rahman among 300 people across Asia. What was it like interacting with them?

It was fantastic, but at the same time I wasn't there for any personal gains or exposure. My aim was to bring all the talent across the world together on one platform and give them what they deserve. It was the human element about them that has to be appreciated. We were all in the same boat during the pandemic, sitting comfortably in our homes and in pyjamas when we did the interviews. They all talked about how they became closer to their families and picked up new skills such as cooking. Some Bollywood stars even opened up by saying they were worried about their mental health.

Q. You also spoke to Pakistani figures. Who do you think you connected with the most?

It was Wasim Akram, one hundred per cent! I have to tell you that he was not easy to book for an interview either. Wasim has a charismatic personality which was great for an engaging conversation and he remains the favourite Pakistani personality I spoke to.

Q. Who do you think you got on well with and would remain in touch with regularly?

Straight up, it was Rahman, who was extremely polite during the interview and we were able to strike a long conversation.

Q. Which one of the celebrities you spoke to would you like to go on a holiday with?

Shruti Haasan and I got along really well. She knew that I am a big fan of hers and was incredibly nice during the interview. As a result of this list, she has become a very dear friend of mine.

Q. Did you have a difficult interview with anyone?

Towards the end of the conversation, I did feel Sonu Nigam was annoyed with me. I think he did get throttled a bit as he must have faced a lot of interview requests following the demise of Sushant Singh Rajput.

Q. How did you start your career?

I was a former supermodel and television presenter, having presented at over 100 major events. I managed to get my first job as a journalist on the back of all those years of experience and of networking.

Q. You're working with young talent, including Jay Parmar. How did that start?

Jay has been part of my news agency for a few weeks now, and mentoring him and giving him what he needs is clearly a role model sometimes young people need, most certainly when trading comes in between the surface.

Q. Are you planning to go on to the 400 most influential people?

You can never say never. India has a population of 1.3 billion people and I feel like the young people there also need a chance for their voices to be heard. I know opportunities are hard to come by for many on the top of their game, who may not necessarily be award-winning names like Rahman.

Q. How do you think you have impacted the lives of the people you have mentioned?

I am purely here to put the attention and focus back on the people across Asia, and yes, I have had lots of Bollywood stars, top chefs and YouTubers thanking me for my work involving them. It really feels fantastic that the work I've created has helped.

Q. What does social media mean to you?

Social media is a great platform for great content. Twenty years ago or more, there were never such opportunities like this. So, I think people should take advantage of this and push forward and make their dreams happen.

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