Harmony with AR Rahman director on working with Oscar-winning composer: Wanted to bring out his human side
National award-winning documentary filmmaker Sruti Harihara Subramanian is a hardcore AR Rahman fan. She confidently admits that she knows every fact about the Oscar-winning composer’s life that’s available in the public domain. When she landed an opportunity to work with her idol, she didn’t want to make just another documentary. “As a Rahman fan and a filmmaker, I wanted the world to know his human side. He has an amazing sense of humour and I wanted to bring that side to the fore,” Sruti told Firstpost in an exclusive chat about her latest non-fiction series, Harmony with AR Rahman, that’s anchored by the composer-singer.
In Harmony, which is currently streaming on Amazon Prime, Rahman travels to four places in India to meet four indie musicians. Recalling the birth of the project and how it was put together, Sruti says: “After I won the National Award for A Far Afternoon, I was approached my Kavithalaya Productions who, at that time, were planning to foray into the digital space and were keen to explore the non-fiction space. They approached me with the offer to make a documentary on rare musical instruments,” she said, adding that music has always been part of her life.
“Apart from the fact that I have been a Rahman fan for the longest time, music has always been an integral part of my life. I had worked on a music video with Kailash Kher. In college, I’ve sung chorus for Yuvan Shankar Raja. I’ve been a dancer. The idea to do something in music about these rare instruments really excited me. But we didn’t want to a regular documentary. Instead, we wanted to tell a human story, so that even a non music connoisseur would appreciate our efforts. People have always felt documentary is not as important as mainstream cinema. We were particular that we wanted to change it and prove that even documentaries can be entertaining.” In order to achieve it, months of research went into making the final product. Rahman was mighty impressed with the research and when he came on board; his trust meant the world to Sruti. “He loved the idea and jumped at the opportunity. As excited as we were to have him on board, we didn’t want to let him down.”
As part of the series, Rahman’s conversation with each musician touches all the right chords. Sruti said as part of the research, they found commonalities between Rahman and the musicians to make their conversations fun and lively. “We wanted to bring forth Rahman’s sense of humour. It’s one of his sides that people rarely know. We wanted to convey that his journey as a musician is no different than anyone else’s. As the research progressed, we tried to find commonalities between Rahman sir and the musicians. Only if we have commonalities, they will have something to talk about. We believe that’s why the conversations were fun and equally emotional. For instance, we knew both Rahman and Ustad Mohi Baha’un-din Dagar lost their fathers at a very young age. In a way, their loss at such a young age shaped their journeys. We wanted them to talk about it. Similarly, we brought the band reference in the story of Mickma Tshering Lepcha as many people don’t know that Rahman sir was also part of a band. So we made them speak about their band experiences. We had the situations and topics placed in, but what they spoke was very organic.”
The biggest challenge for Sruti and her team was to execute the documentary like any feature film. “We wanted to treat it like a feature film. Another challenge was to travel across Indian and shoot in locations that were conducive for sync sound. It’s not every day that you actually do a musical session in a live location. Moreover, we had very short time to execute everything.”
Working on Harmony has been life-changing, says Sruti, who admits she’s a changed person now. “Best thing about documentary filmmaker is that you become changed person with each project. You deal with a lot of real things, be it people or places. In this journey, working with these musicians has had a very strong impact on me. Their passion and drive to be committed to your art left me motivated. It was equally inspiring to work with Rahman sir.”
Thrilled with the overall response, Sruti is yet to decide what she wants to make next. Despite working with filmmakers such as Vishnuvardhan and Vikram Kumar in mainstream cinema, she says she might take the plunge to make a feature film. However, she isn’t too sure about it yet. “Right now, I have not thought about anything. It's been a year of intense work. I have to let go of Harmony. I have learnt to trust the universe.”
Updated Date: Aug 20, 2018 11:45 AM