For India’s Independence Day AR Rahman, held a concert at the O2 Arena to a sold out crowd, accompanied by an orchestra of musicians, singers, table players and qawwalli’s.
The concert was dubbed as « The Greatest Hits of AR Rahman » and whilst driving to the venue, it made me ponder: how can one compound Rahman’s oeuvre into a single sitting?
His musical portfolio is ginormous! In the 23 years of his career, he’s composed over 100 soundtracks for the various regions of Indian cinema, as well as performed stage shows, private albums and dabbled in Hollywood, (If winning an Bafta, a golden Globe,2 Grammies and 2 Academy Award can be called dabbling) whilst never compromising on the quality of his music. (Take that Dr Dre!)
And all this whilst jumping from one genre to the other and mastering pretty much all of them. (I’m a hip hop head and his mastery of rap has been weak since Patti Rap)
When Rahman debuted on the Bollywood scene in the 90’s, Hindi audiences had heard murmurings of some of his offerings down South with Roja and Kadalan (Hum Se Hai Muqabla) dominating video charts.
The music scene was much more fractured and isolated in the 90’s and there wasn’t ever a need to importing talent from another region. If movie producer or music director liked a tune, they just copy pasted wholesale and had the son resung by another local singer and no question was asked. This even happened to some of AR Rahman’s early songs, there were at least 4 Hindi versions of Muqabla floating on the airwaves at the same time.
But Rahman’s talent was such that his unique voice could not be denied. His music has always felt very personal, making the audience feel a sense of misplaced ownership. But sitting in a jam packed arena, I understood, I wasn’t the only one that felt this ownership over « my» AR Rahman. AR, like any musician, understands that his music is not his anymore once it is released to the airwaves but belongs to a collective that needs to be fed.
He tried to deliver on the expectations his audience has with him, he managed to partly on the promise despite some production mistakes.
Javed Ali started things off with a very soulful rendition of Delhi 6’s Arziyan, which seemed to be a prayer to kick off the concert as well as salutation to the audience.
Arziyan was followed up with a selection of classic hits like Chinna Chinna Aasai /Choti si Aasha (Roja), which was in 2 different languages sung by the wonderful and ever present Jonita Ghandi, the seemingly demure Shashaa Kiran Tirupati and the vastly under-used vocal powerhouse that is Neeti Mohan.
Tu Hi Re was the sole pick from the Bombay soundtrack (I was hoping for so many more like Satrangi Re of Jiya Jale but alas) by Haricharan who managed to command the song in 2 different languages versions – whilst doing a pretty good Hariharan impression. Then came Dil Se’s title track sung by AR himself as he duelled Natalie Klouda, his wonderful violinist on the piano, which was an amazing spectacle.
The next half hour block was mostly from AR Rahman’s South Indian and private albums, which unfortunately for most of the Hindi audience in attendance felt like watching other people have lots of fun whilst they had a glazed expression over their eyes. Some audience members even started grumbling quite vocally and this might have been the only dip in the otherwise amazing set.
Some of the production choices were very odd, the first half ended abruptly and there was confusion if there was going to be an interval or not, the audience was left to their own devices, which is never a great choice with a South Asian audience. This happened again at the end of the show, there was a definite lack of cues and the band just disappeared without an encore.
The confusing interval ended up lasting only a couple of minutes, the curtain suddenly went up and AR and Jaaved Ali had donned their qawalli hats and tablas for the double whammy of the hypnotizing Kun Faya Kun (Rockstar) and soulful Khwaja Mere Khwaja (Jodha Akbar). Unfortunately some the magic of the Sufi segment was broken by the part of the audience hurriedly running back to their seats with still very wet hands from their bathroom visits.
Always being a trailblazer, AR wanted to showcase a movement based instrument but technology failed the crew twice, forcing AR to climb back behind his piano and nervously entertain the audience with impromptu tunes. When they managed to get the tech to work, you realized it was supposed to be background vocalist IsshrathQuadhre time into the limelight but unfortunately for her and the audience the moment had passed.
From then on there was a clear course correction and the hits and performances were non stop, Neeti Mohan brought energy with her RE RE segment (Rangeela Re and Jiya Re) but overall she felt a bit underused compared to Jonita who pretty much dominated the pre-interval as well as jiggy-ing in group songs and some Hindi too. Jonita is a wonderful stage presence and very versatile, definitely one to look out for. Same for Karthik who was an absolute crowd favourite amongst the South Indian and clearly a born showman but only made a fleeting appearance and didn’t sing any Hindi songs.
During the different sets, AR Rahman would change get ups, some with hilarious combinations like a sparkly hat paired with a biker jacket or in the case of the bluesy Jaane Tu Ya Jaane na, he wore sunglasses like he was Ray Charles from Chennai, luckily the music always delivered and the powerful voice and jazz scatting of background vocalist Annette Philip’s really stepped up to the plate.
The show provided every member of AR Rahman’s band to shine too. The ones that really stuck out were Naveen Kumar’s flute during the Roja interlude, Mohini Dey’s bass (a 19 year old prodigy part of AR Rahman’s band NAFS who is also rumoured to be collaborating with Quincy Jones), Ranjit Barot’s drum and Keba Jeremiah Arul’s guitar solo’s during a very rocky rendition of Nadaan Parindey.
Ultimately the show couldn’t possibly have delivered on every song that a demanding fan might want of AR Rahman’s as we are a spoiled bunch now and even if combining sets from all languages didn’t always works as well as one would hope. What the show does give you is an evening with an artist of the likes only comes around once in a century, and as an audience member, that seems like the highest privilege.
Photo Credit: Nicky Kelvin
For more badly shot videos you can head over to my Instagram here
This time we’re attempting to unpick and unravel the ever expanding Marvel universe of superheroes and shine a light on what was previously a sub-genre restricted to Superman and Batman and therefore DC.
All levels of geekdom are catered for, ranging from the casual viewer / person best representing his parents’ generation through to the fully formed, limited edition boxset-buying expert and whatever lies in between!
Winner of the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, ME AND EARL AND THE DYING GIRL is a uniquely funny and moving story about Greg, a high school senior who avoids deep human relationships as a way to safely navigate the social mine field that is teenage life. In fact he describes his best friend Earl, with whom he makes short-film parodies of classic movies, as being ‘more like a co-worker’. But when Greg’s mum insists he spends time with Rachel – a girl in his class who has just been diagnosed with cancer- Greg discovers just how powerful and important true friendship can be.
Director:Alfonso Gomez-Rejon Cast:Thomas Mann, Olivia Cooke, R.J. Cyler with Nick Offerman, Molly Shannon, Jon Bernthal and Connie Britton
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl releases into UK cinemas4 September 2015.
This movie is very close to my heart, it means a lot to me, especially because it is a movie about Martial Arts, which makes it even more important for me. The movie is releasing in August this year, which also co-incides with me completing 25 years in the film industry and it means so much to me that this happens to be a movie about Martial Arts commemorating the accomplishment of my 25 years, when it’s because of my martial arts background that got me into the film industry in the first place. We’re mliterally going full circles.
Could you please tell me more about the character you’re playing in “Brothers”?
My character is a school teacher who teaches Physics and Chemistry. He used to be Mixed Martial Artist who would fight on the streets for money. Mixed Martial Arts is a very dangerous profession and due to issues monetary issues, my character faces he has no choice but to go back to the streets to flight in a professional tournament.
How was your experience working with Karan Johar?
Karan is mainly in the production side for this movie so I don’t really get to work with him much. But he really knows how to make big and brilliant movies; he knows how to do it right and I’m just here to make him happy 🙂
Mixed Martial Arts sounds dangerous!
Yes, Mixed Martial Arts is a dangerous practice that could result in injuries and loss of life. Even during filming we would end up with abdominal injuries and smacks on our face but overall it was important for the role to look realistic and conditioning for us actors to make the movie as real as possible.
Desipte being a professional martial artists, I underwent vigorous training for six months to be fit for the role. But besides all the fighting, there’s also a poignant love story at the heart of the film which we find out later is the main reason why my character goes on to become a street MMA fighter.
What all was involved in the training for the role?
The main part of the training was a 6 month intense and gruelling work-out followed by practicing different fighting styles like Judo, Karate, Kyudo, Aikido and other Mixed Martial Arts.
What was the most challenging part of your role?
The most challenging part was fighting like a professional MMA fighter, learning from the best and then trying to catch up with their fighting techniques! But I thoroughly enjoyed it as my teachers are from everywhere around the world – from Brazil, LA, Bangkok and Japan – they are true MMA fighters. It was an honour to learn fromt the best.
As part of our training programme I had to lose upto 16 Kg’s and Sidharth Malhotra had to gain 13 Kg’s in weight!
Whilst fighting was a major physical challenge, we also had to face a lot of mental challenge. A very high level of mental attention is required to remember your punches and every move.
Wow that must have been a challenge! Do you ever take a break?
Hah, its been 25 years and I haven’t had a break J Jokes a part my international filming schedulre becomes a break for me. Its the best thing if your work is your passion in life. It makes me feel like I’m always on break.
How was it working with Sidharth Malhotra?
Sidharth is a very talented young man; he is very professional when it comes to work. Although he had no experience with MMA he did really well. He also went through 8 months of training.
Sidharth has a great future ahead of him. In Brothers he plays the character of a “man” unlike his ealier movies, where he’s mostly played young characters.
We had a great time on set. He’s a Punjabi, I am Punjabi and even our director Karan Malhotra is Punjabi! We spoke in Punjabi all the time to the degree the film should have been called Prah (Brothers in Punjabi). Haha.
Do you have some MMA tips or warnings for your fans out there?
Mixed Martial Arts is wonderful to watch, it is very parctical but dangerous at the same time. You have to be very careful when doing something like that. Watch and enjoy MMA, and if some people are thinking about doing it, they must be very careful and think about enrolling in training first, they must make a thoughtful decision before actually doing it.
There are lots of talks going on about the movie everywhere, you must’ve done an amazing job. Infact I was researching about the movie right before this interview and I found out that the movie is a remake of the movie “Warrior” by Gavin ‘O Connor and Cliff Dorfman, I believe you will put forward an amzaing performance, maybe better than the original?
Well that’s news to me but very humbling to hear. We have tried our level best to give the best performance we can. I wouldn’t really compare the two movies to be honest as we probably can’t make it better than the original but we gave it all we could. Let’s see what the audience says.
The movie has a wonderful cast, we also have an “item-number” performance by Kareena Kapoor. Sidarth Malhotra and Jackie Shroff also play lead roles.. Is there a love story somewhere in the story line?
Absolutely, there is a love story in the movie. I mean the movie is about street fighting, but there’s a reason to why the fighting happens in the first place which emenates from love. You will get to know that there’s a love story between Jacqueline Fernandez and I, there’s also a family related love story between Jackie Shroff and Sidharth and also between Shefali and I. The fighting comes later on in the movie, the film’s main emphasis is on it’s relationships.
Akshay, what’s your favourite genre of movies? I mean you’ve done many different types of roles in different movies, which one is your favourite? Is it comedy, drama or action?
I like comedy when its mixed with action, its just so much fun to do comedy with a bit of action, its fun to watch and also so much fun to do.
So the movie is releasing on the 14th of August this year, which is just one day prior to the Indian independence day, does the movie have a hidden message of patriotism or any message relating independence of India?
No, no, there’s no patriotic messages, the movie is not related to the independence day and it does not end with me waving a flag J
How has it been working with so many Karan’s in the movie? The director is Karan Malhotra and Karan Johar is producing the movie? Is there more Karan’s you’ll work with in the future?
Ha, no that’s just a co-incidence, it was not planned to be like that.
What are your next projects?
My focus is on the release of Brothers. After that I have Singh is Blinng coming out on the 2nd October and then Airlift in January 2016. In Singh is Blinng i play a larger than life character, something I haven’t done in a couple of years since Rowdy Rathore. My films have been pretty serious with Gabbar, Baby, Special 24. I’m really excited about Airlift as it is a story about Saddam Hussein’s attack on Kuwait.
What is your hope for Brothers?
I hope it brings in the mullah and gets the box office ringing whilst also gaining critical acclaim.
Your final message to your fans please!
I would just like to tell my fans how much it means to me to make a movie that they like. I really hope all my fans like Brothers. I would also like to tell them that the movie took about one whole year to make, we literally put our blood, sweat and tears into the making. The climax of the movie took about 52 days to shoot, just to get it perfect for the audience. All the fans across the globe should watch this movie on the big screen, watch it with your family and loved ones, do not watch pirated versions of it, we poured out our sweat and blood into this movie.
Gary Fernandes (Jackie Shroff), a former alcoholic and street-fighter, returns home after serving a prison sentence of 10 long years to find that the wounds of the past still haunt his family. His two sons, David (Akshay Kumar) and Monty (Siddharth Malhotra), who had parted ways as kids, are grown men now, but are still bitterly estranged. Gary himself carries the burden of his guilt. His elder son, David is an ex-fighter turned school teacher. He and his wife Jenny work hard to make ends meet and to provide the best they can for their ailing daughter Poopoo.
Troubled financial circumstances drive a desperate David to return to the world of street fighting. While, Monty struggles with his lonely complex existence. An alcoholic, he is active in the world of street fighting, but lacks focus and determination. He strongly yearns for the acceptance, love and respect of his family. As the story unfolds, we see the journey of these three men, as they seek to find redemption and healing.
Meanwhile, the arrival of ‘Right to Fight’ is announced in India — the biggest international event in mixed martial arts history. Both brothers, at the crossroads of their lives, end up enlisting to fight in this ‘Winner-takes-all’ event. And it is here after an age of estrangement, unknown to the two siblings, they finally stand to face off with each other and against their personal demons, in the ultimate final battle.
It is said, that when a deep injury is done to us, we can never recover until we forgive. With twists and turns, pouring emotions and edge-of-the-seat action, will this final battle between the two brothers repair old wounds?
Brothers releases internationally on 14th August 2015 through Fox Star StudiosIndia.
Which 1981 Bollywood film did the ‘Jaanisar’ director Muzaffar Ali direct?
A. Muqaddar Ka Sikandar
B. Umrao Jaan
(Winners will be announced Tuesday 12/8)
(Only UK entries apply -but if you’re nice and I like you, I might make an exception!)
Jaanisar stars Pakistani actor Imran Abbas and one of India’s leading style icons and fashion entrepreneurs Pernia Qureshi.
Playback singers for the soundtrack of the film have some of the most celebrated singers of the music industry like Abida Parveen, Shreya Ghoshal and Sukhwinder Singh. Music is by Muzaffar Ali as well as Ustad Shafqat Ali Khan. It truly has some great music.
It’s pretty much the type of music you should be listening to instead of whatever guitly pleasure is looping on your playlist now!