Oscar award winning music composer A R Rahman has turned writer-producer with the film 99 Songs. Presented by Jio Studios, the film is produced by Rahman’s production company YM Movies and co-produced by Ideal Entertainment. The movie is all set to be released in Tamil, Telugu and Hindi on 16th April. Ahead of this, Rahman shares his experience about 99 Songs and much more.
How did you come up with the idea of 99 Songs?
The starting point of 99 Songs was a one liner, like a fairy tale. What if a guy has to write 100 songs to win a girl. It is not that simple and writing even one song is not that easy. I conceived this idea in 2010 following which I developed it. I was studying many things, taking workshops, finding the director and the right cast. Now the movie is complete. It is like going to a university, learning something and coming out with a movie.
Was it easier to write and make the movie as it was based on music?
I think since it had music in it, it was much more difficult. It is difficult to make people sit through a movie. There were days when people used to sit and watch movies with music. There was also a time when music was made to make people sit. In 99 Songs, it is a cross between both. There are so many distractions, some people text and tweet between movies. Today’s movie watching experience is even more complex. In this film the screenplay kind of moves fast and that will keep the audience engaged.
Were there any specific challenges while developing the story?
The question of “is it good enough” makes you work harder and harder. These questions sometimes have to stop when you break yourself. When you work as a team, you have to be clear on what is needed and also have the ability to adapt. As a first timer we would want to put everything in the story. But later I had to filter it to ensure that the story only had what was needed.
Why did you choose Vishwesh Krishnamoorthy as the director?
He was recommended by a friend from MTV Chandru. He has done good advertisements, music albums and is very experienced. We had a good vibe between us. He himself is an musician and actor. He has a different combination of skill sets which I really liked. He has really got the job done.
You have worked with many leading directors, did you consider working with them?
As a composer, I have worked with some of the most amazing talented directors. As a writer I am a new person, a newcomer. So I did not have the courage the tell them what the story is. But with newcomers I do not have to be intimidated to tell my ideas. We can judge together and we can learn through experience. In the end we are proud of the product what we have done together. This freedom is also what turned me into producer. I wanted to work freely without thinking about what others would say.
Why Ehan Bhat was chosen?
The script demanded new faces, we felt like that the persons needed to learn piano, music. This is time consuming and is not possible with an established actor. Having somebody new would make our vision will come alive. This is why he had to choose a new actor and Ehan fit the bill perfectly. We auditioned like almost 700 to 800 people for the role. I liked his energy.
It is said that 99 Songs is based on your life…
This story actually is not from my life. My life is exactly the opposite. My mom chose music for me. I had to live by her dreams. However the story of 99 Songs is different, but there are experiences from my life that are put in the story.
What did your director friends said after watching the movie?
A lot of people watched the trailer and said it looks fantastic. A few people said that it was on par with Hollywood movie trailers. Most of them are experienced and gauge what the film would be. I have not played the movie to many people yet. But those who have seen are excited about it.
What you made make the movie in three languages?
I have done three languages before and I still do. Most of Mani Ratnam’s movies are multilingual. They resonate well with audience. Since this is a movie with newcomers, it needs that exposure. Moreover, music is a common language and anyone from the world can relate to it. Even business wise it would be better if we had the movie in three languages.
Do you intend to write lot more stories after 99 Songs?
After writing 99 Songs, I have developed and learnt a bit of skill sets. I have kept a few scripts in a semi developed stage. But first I want to see how 99 Songs is received.
Can we see Rahman – the actor or director soon?
I have acted as myself in a few movies. I do not see myself as an actor, as it requires a different skill set. You have to let go of our inhibitions. It’s a huge effort and I am too old for that. Becoming a director is not a easy job and is time consuming. It is easier to write a story and carry out production with a team. I have already directed a movie called Le Musk. It just took minimum time. Le Musk is a sensory project. It has scent in the screen, it has audio, 3D visuals, We need to install chairs from Positrons. It is one of the most fascinating things that I have done.
In what ways do you think Indian cinema should progress?
In my opinion Indian cinema has a lot in store and there is a void in the world for this culture. If it is presented right, people will embrace it. It is okay, if a few people feel that we do not need that market. But personally, I feel we need to empower our films so that the world understands us. Most of the movies that appeal to the Western people are those associated with poverty. But that should not be the pattern. There should be movies made with our culture and our filmmakers should let their imagination go to the sky and bring some world class entertainment.