AR Rahman: We need more art centres!

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By HT

NEW DELHI, Aug. 10 -- Few musicians can claim to have reached the global stature that AR Rahman has, which is why his modest and mild nature comes as a pleasant surprise. 

Having established himself with compositions for hundreds of films, Rahman is now on the lookout for musicians specialising in unique instruments from remote parts of the country for his show, Harmony With AR Rahman, for a digital platform.

Rahman feels that each city in India deserves its own orchestra. He says, "Just how in Europe, the state sponsors the art (of course, they do it for classical music), in India too, that concept could be expanded, and we could have traditional and international orchestras. And because we have so many talented people, we just have to lead them to something good. If this is done, so many new jobs would be created." 

Rahman says that if more art centres are created, they could be like movie theatres. "Make more art centres so that it will be like going to a theatre for people. People will still go to the theatre, but there should be an alternative. I've been saying build more art centres for the past five years, and I am hopeful that it will happen," says the composer. This, he says, will help boost tourism as well.

Rahman also doesn't feel that India's diversity would stop us from showcasing one form of art as the face of the country. "Why do you want the nose to be like an eye or why do you want the mouth to be like an ear? These are the features that together make the face. That's what India is about, and that's what I discovered when I went to Manipur, Sikkim or Kerala, because they are not bothered by these things. They have their own lifestyle; they have their own problems. But when we watch TV we feel, 'Oh, India is burning', but that's not true. There are people doing their own thing, and that's the way it should be," he says 

Rahman has won several national and international awards - including two Oscars - but does he feel like he has achieved a lot? He says, "My scale is not awards. I feel like it's a blessing to get awards, but as an artist, that is not the high point, because when you do something and just ten people hear it and they feel it is a piece of art, you feel elevated, so that's the checkpoint we all have." 

Rahman will make his debut on the digital medium with this show, and the only worry that he seems to have is the lack of "gatekeepers" in this medium. "OTT platforms, unlike YouTube and other platforms, do a lot of checks and make quality products. But one thing we need to be careful of is that we should not cross moral lines just for the sake of interest, because there are no gatekeepers here and kids have access to these shows. That is the one concern that we have," says the 51-year-old.