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i n t e r v i e w

i didn't fund fundamentalists!

An interview about the controversies surrounding ARR. A R Rahman has been in the midst of a controversy storm. He has been accused of numerous things; funding findamentalist and throwing out his father's close associate amongst other things. He is a person very shy and publicity wise a hermit,a person who keeps a very low profile,hardly attends functions and socialises. That such a publicity shy person,has come out in the open to clear his name of the various taints only shows the extent of his hurt. Here he gives a very open heart to heart interview with IMN dealing very clearly what had happened and why his name has been ragged through the mud. He first burst on the cinema field in Mani Ratnam's Roja. The songs and the background were a hit and he never looked back since. Before 'Roja',he was composing music for advertisements and his music for the instant coffee advertisement is a classic. Here are the excerpts from the interview he gave us.

Tell us about your childhood.

The only thing I remember clearly of my early childhood is,of frequent visits to hospitals. My father Sekhar,leading music player,was fequently hospitalised for stomachache. The doctors operated upon him thrice but they could not find anything wrong with him,He died when I was 9 years old. The responsibility of looking after my mother and three sisters fell on me. My studies were ended and I started playing the keyboard to earn a living. We later received some indications that my father died of black magic by jealous rivals.

When did you convert to Islam?

Since I had been struggling from such a tender age, for sometime afterwards I stopped believing in God. But later when I stabilised myself the concept of God in Islam was very appealing. So I and my whole family converted to Islam. This was around 1989. Anyway my mother was from a Muslim family. Family probelms and the need for peace of mind made me convert.

About the recent controversies.

It is better that I clear everything up. About the rumour that I had fundamentalist,how can it be that I provide funds for them, when I have received death threats from the extremist and the state government has posted police personnels to guard my residence? Another rumour concerned my giving away money as charity to such organisations. Charity is done to satisfy my urge to do more for the poor. And anyway I have to tell you,I don't give charity only to Muslim charities,I donate to
Hindu and Christian organisations too. The money I give as charity is limited as I have to improve my instruments. I have invested heavily in technology and there is not much left to indulge in mass charity. The amount I give is definitely not enough to help the extremist to buy arms with my money!

About the rest of the controversies.

I am coming to them. Another rumour has been going around that a beggar I picked up at a Darga has become an absolute tyrant and has become the reason for sending out M K Arjun. M. K. Arjun was a a very close associate of my father and my adviser. The truth is Arjun's son wanted to set up a recording studio in Kerala. I gave him some of my instruments. And M. K. Arjun went back to Kerala to help his son set up his recording studio there. Therefore there was no question of an outsider making him leave,was there? And while on this point, I did not pick up any beggar on the streets. Another rumour which is spreading is that I convert people close to me. What nonsense. If I had converted people,Noel,Shivakumar etc would have changed religion! When I am not perfect myself,how can I convert others? I follow my religion, let others follow their own.

Whom do you think is behind these rumours?

The whole thing was cooked up by a freelance journalist called Bismi,who married my sister and later divorced her. He met her when she was doing some stage shows and we sort of forced her into marriage with him. But unfortunately we came to know that he was only after my money. He used to be very upset with my giving to charity. Anyway as soon as my sister came to know that he was only after the money she separated. But during the time when he was around he learnt a lot of the family's inner issues and now he is spreading rumours to upset me.

Let us forget the bitterness. How did you get your first break?

I was doing the music for many advertisements and they slowly picked up. By this time,I had invested heavily in the latest instruments and technology. The break came when I was asked to do the music for for Mani Ratnams film'Roja'in 1989. That was my turning point. My computerised instrument technology has helped me to move ahead. God has given me a chance, an ideal and I do not intend for rumours to upset me. I want to provide many more years of quality music by God's grace.

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