AR Rahman talks about death a lot for a man whose music gives life to all it touches. Not in a morbid way, but in a way that makes you feel good about yourself, enables you to see what you have, make the most of it, and unleashes your creativity without inhibition.
Rahman, also known as Isai Puyal, is feeling under the weather when we meet at the KM Music Conservatory in Chennai on a December evening, a day after Cyclone Mandous made landfall in nearby Mahabalipuram. He is in the middle of catching a cold and has bloodshot eyes from not getting enough sleep.
He has been travelling extensively, performing in Jeddah at the Red Sea Film Festival, performing in Abu Dhabi for a concert, and travelling to Canada and the US to screen his feature film debut, Le Musk.
Rahman explains that it has been difficult to fall asleep after the adrenaline high.
He chuckles, adding quickly that after a certain age, every year seems like a blessing, “And one day I don’t sleep, I get sick.” “You know, you can go whenever. Therefore, I believe that every day, every second, try to be positive instead of cursing or acting negatively. Life is about sharing, receiving, and learning knowledge. It involves making it easier for you to provide knowledge or assistance to other people. Of course, music is also a gift and is the best.
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For the musician, 2022 has been a “roller coaster”—”in a nice way”—and not just over the last few days. He was performing live at Expo 2020 Dubai, where he helped 50 musicians construct the country’s first all-female orchestra, called “Firdaus” (which means “paradise” in Arabic). Additionally, he launched the Firdaus Studio in Dubai, which will serve as both the headquarters for the Firdaus orchestra and “a space for collaboration among musicians across the world,” in his words.