Composer AR Rahman has been hailed as a global music icon.
The double Grammy, double Oscar, BAFTA and Golden Globe winner, who also has four National Awards was named one of the world's most influential people by Time magazine, in recognition of his contribution to music.
Scoring the award-winning soundtracks for over 100 movies including Slumdog Millionaire, Elizabeth: The Golden Age, Million Dollar Arm and The Hundred Foot Journey, to name but a few, he is now bringing his music to London's 02 arena for a greatest hits show.
In an interview with IBTimesUK, A.R. Rahman reflects on his musical journey.
You're due to perform at the 02 arena on 15 August. Why did you decide to stage a greatest hits concert at this juncture in your career?
"London is a very happening part of our tours and we always come and perform there. We've been getting a lot of feelers from audiences for the past couple of years and it seemed to be the apt situation for a celebration."
You're performing songs from an illustrious career. How did you decide which tracks from over 100 movie soundtracks will be featured in the concert?
"I just finished a tour in the US so we drew on many things. One is nostalgia, one is compositional value, one is the newness with all the recent songs. So the playlist is based on a mix of all these three elements."
Which of your works has meant the most to you, either for its personal significance or the impact on your career?
"It's whatever stands the test of time. But it should be melodic. I make songs for movies mostly and sometimes you have to compromise on certain things. It comes from deep inside, lyrically and tune-wise and that's what becomes a classic. Most of the songs in the show are songs like that that just fell into place."
Of all the accolades from Oscars and Golden Globes to being feted by Presidents, what has meant the most to you?
"I think at every stage all those things are important. But I think the love and blessings from the fans, that's most important and that's what keeps you going until now. For an artist inspiration and encouragement is very, very important. And what happens when you feel the love from the fans, is that you want to do more. You want to make it better and draw on all that you've learnt and go much further."
Your association with Mani Ratnam has spawned some iconic soundtracks and you've also worked with the likes of Mick Jagger, Dave Stewart and Joss stone as part of Superheavy. How have these diverse musical influences impacted how you approach music?
"As a mentor Mani Ratnam is one of my favourite people. But I think everything musically that we do is honest if you can feel that in the music There's a trueness about it. That's what I think if a compose an Indian melody. It should come from within. And even with the western music. There's a simplicity and yet there's a complexity in the harmonies and everything. So I draw on those aspects. I'm a big fan of music. Not just a particular kind of music. I appreciate everything and that became in a way the philosophy of my music."
You recently mentioned on Twitter that you met with Quincy Jones. Are there any plans to collaborate with him?
"Quincy is such a darling man. We've known each other for the past two three years because we are ambassadors for the same organisation so we met through that. He said to me 'lets do something together' a lot of times and he said 'tell me in advance.' But I don't want to trouble him. I'm a great fan of Quincy and he loves me too."
Modern Hindi films place a lot of emphasis on catchy item songs. What is your view of commercial Hindi music today?
"It serves a purpose for people. But when there's a musical like the one I'm producing, there's lots of challenges like you have to have certain melodies. I'm also doing Aamir Khan's next movie which is very music based. All of these require music as a central feature, but the ones that don't require music as a core element, just use songs as a marketing tool. It serves as a purpose but the deepest quality of music is missing in those songs. I do commercial movies but I have to have a balance."
What prompted you to go into production on your debut film 99 songs and how did you find the experience of turning scriptwriter?
"When I get movies they come in with the same ideas and the same needs musically. There's nobody pushing the boundaries and saying 'let's try this.' So if you don't get an option, you create a door. So for the past four years we've been setting up a production house and getting ideas for scripts. It's a musical, but I can't tell you much more about it. It's about self-realization. It will be out next year."
You have a slate of films you are working on including Tamasha, Paani, Pele and a new film with Aamir Khan, but what is the biggest difference when working in Hollywood and Indian cinema?
"When you do movies here in India it's a bit slow. When they do songs here, they go back and then shoot it, and so we have enough time. I've been working in Hollywood on one project and there you have two months and you have to finish in two months. I like both. If I get a good movie in Hollywood then definitely I'll do it. I look to do less of both actually so I can study life instead."
You have taken the music of India to the world on such a massive platform and demonstrated just how music transcends all boundaries. How would you define the power of music and what is the message you aim to impart through your music?
"For me I feel that's a blessing and to hold that blessing I should be worthy enough and that's why self refinement is so important. In the album Infinite love what I describe is that we all become judgemental once we get knowledge and intellect. We start to judge people, but when you're a child you don't differentiate There's no borders in your love or your liking. When we are at school we don't bother whether you are Asian black or white. You're just friends. But when you grow up all these dividing factors come in. So when you go back to that zone everything is one in a very simple way."
What has your journey through music taught you?
"The greatest lesson? To be self-refining. To be refining constantly and that would take a lifetime I guess."
AR Rahman's Greatest Hits concert takes place at the 02 Arena on 15 August.