The Tsar of Sufi, A R Rahman has long since turned composing music into a spiritual experience. Speaking about it, he avers that his music should work for him first. It’s important for him that he should like it because he is living with it longer than any other person. If it consistently gives him a good feeling, then he knows it will be good for others too.
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Dubbed the Mozart of Madras in Hollywood, what Rahman craves is the feeling of being in union with his Creator while composing. He points out that the Sufi tracks he has composed wouldn’t have happened had he not felt a connection. On days while he is working on spiritual themes, his connection with the Divine is stronger. Surrendering to God’s will, Rahman reveals, has helped him create songs like ‘Khwaja mere khwaja…’, ‘Oh palan hare…’ and ‘Faya kun…’. Rahman is humble enough to admit that this state of mind doesn’t happen very often.
Interestingly, besides the Sufi creations he composes for films, he also creates such songs only for his friends and family. In his search for this union with the Divine, he goes where there is a calling, including shrines of saints. At the dargahs, he leads a life of austerity and simplicity, sleeping on the floor and avoiding all luxuries. His spark of humour is still very much in evidence when he points out that now that he has developed back pain, he has to behave according to his age!
A marked absence of ego characterizes the child-like musical genius, as he discusses the different types of ego. He states that while one might have the ambition to create the best music in the world, it doesn’t make you any special as a person. His creative ego is entirely separate from his personal ego, he points out, adding that it is important for an artiste to take his professional responsibility seriously. Being paid to create and deliver means needing to have a sense of pride and working hard towards the brief.
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The balance A R Rahman has struck between materialism and spiritualism is commendable. It comes from his philosophy of following the Middle Path as expounded by the Prophet, who always cautioned against going to extremes. And that is evidently our man’s secret!