An open discussion with Indian composer A.R. Rahman, and moderated by Egyptian Composer Hesham Nazih, took place during this year's Cairo Industry Days, as part of the Cairo International Film Festival 43' edition. Rahman was also honoured during the festival with an award which read "Special tribute certificate to the Indian composer A.R. Rahman for his creative contribution that span both cinema and music."
If you've watched movies, you have heard Rahman's infectious music, and in 2009 both his score and song 'Jai Ho' -- with lyrics by Gulzar -- written for Danny Boyle's Slumdog Millionaire won the Chennai native two well-deserved Academy Awards. Rahman was nominated five times for the Academy Awards, and seventeen times for the Indian Filmfare awards, which he won a record fifteen times.
On winning these awards, Rahman said: ‘It is a huge honour and gives you that stamp of approval that you need around the world. But as artist the most important thing is your work and that speaks for itself -- and there’s a lot more to do."
Rahman is on double duties while in Cairo, also presenting Mostofa Sarwar Farooki's latest film No Land's Man which he co-produced and for which he penned an eclectic score, mixing Irish-sounding tunes with soulful sounds.
"If music can help heal people, then I think you’re a doctor -- that can be my mission!" -- A.R. Rahman
A. R. Rahman has sold more than 150M copies of his works and composed of more than 100 soundtracks, albums, and film scores. Among his most popular are 'Chaiyya Chaiyya' from Dil Se, which Spike Lee used as the opening of his 2006 film Inside Man, and also 'Tu Bin Bataye' from Rang De Basanti directed by Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, which was a huge hit in 2006 and starred Indian megastar Aamir Khan along with a brilliant ensemble cast.
Talking about creativity, Rahman confessed that "it’s like an ocean, there is so much beauty, that one lifetime is not enough."
Rahman's scores written for films in the West include his work with Boyle, on Slumdog Millionaire of course, but also the filmmaker's 2010 survival story 127 Hours; his score for Shekhar Kapur's Elizabeth: The Golden Age starring Cate Blanchett, and Lasse Hallström's The Hundred Foot Journey starring Helen Mirren.
When asked if music can make the world a better place, the Indian composer answered: "If music can help heal people, then I think you’re a doctor -- that can be my mission!"
At the moment, Rahman is residing in Dubai working on a special project during Expo 2020, where he has his own studio. Part of the creation coming out of it is an all-women orchestra of women from over 23 nationalities, coming together through music -- a unique musical experience called The Firdaus Orchestra. Under the patronage and leadership of Her Excellency Reem Al Hashimy, UAE Minister of State for International Cooperation and Director General, Expo 2020 Dubai.
The conversation in Cairo was with Hesham Nazih who is an Egyptian composer. Nazih has won many international awards and has composed more than 35 musical works for both film and TV -- in addition to composing the music for 'The Pharaohs' Golden Parade' which was broadcast to the world in April, 2021.
After the talk, later in the day, India House in Cairo threw a beautiful tribute evening in Rahman's honour where he spoke of his love of Egyptian cinema and how he hoped to collaborate soon in the Region. Rahman also disclosed that as a child he would watch a lot of Egyptian TV and movies.
The Cairo International Film Festival runs through December 5th.