This One Heart – The A.R Rahman Concert Film review can be summed up in a few words. It’s a playlist of some of Rahman’s best songs. A playlist you didn’t create and perhaps unfairly skewed towards Hindi songs.
The documentary and, perhaps music video? – was made with footage of the 2015 A.R Rahman Intimate Concert tour in the US, with some clips taken of Rahman and family on holiday, and some “mood” shots of ARR at a beach, in a forest, and other exotic, open, empty spaces.
Produced by Saira Rahman, Karan Grover, Ym Movies, and edited out of footage from various sources, by Nasreen Munni Kabir, Amith Krishnan, and Hashim Zain, the documentary (of a total running time of about one and half hours) puts you at the equivalent of a mosh pit at a live concert.
On stage are Mohini Dey, Ann Marie Calhoun, Ranjith Barot, Annette Philip, Haricharan, Karthikeyan Devarajan, Sanket Athale, Keba Jeremiah, Shiraz, and others. And Rahman.
A few weeks ago, Twitter and Facebook was filled with angry, irate Indians, demanding refund of money they paid for a Rahman concert in Wembley London. Their gripe: Rahman played *gasp* Tamil songs in a concert titled Netru Indru Naalai. This was unforgivable and beyond tolerance for Hindi fans. Never mind that the concert with a Tamil name, by a Tamil music composer, had more Hindi songs than Tamil. The very presence of Tamil was unpalatable for these uber-national, Hindi-loving fans.
Perhaps all these angry idio…err fans should have paid for a ticket to the US, and seen Rahman live in concert there. In a two hour playlist, nearly 80 per cent of the songs were in Hindi. Even originally Tamil compositions – Endrendrum Punnagai, Chinna Chinna Aasai, Pachai Nirame – were only partially rendered in Tamil, with the Hindi taking over from the second stanza onwards.
This was a bit of a grouse, but understandable given that the documentary is released across India and Tamil Nadu, and some pandering to non-Tamil tastes will translate to better earnings.
There are many modes of making a documentary. And there is a lot of discussion, debate, about the role of documentary cinema and the perception of ‘truth’. There’s also a whole debate about how this ‘truth’ is created in a documentary film. Is merely recording an event as it happens, a truthful account of the event? Are interviews with the event creators and event footage together truth? Why does one choose one mode of documentary over the other?
Why did, for instance, Ym Movies – who directed the One Heart documentary, select this particular style for this film? The film features ‘live footage’, backstage interviews, ‘home movie’ clips, and some clearly staged scenes – ARR on a boat, amidst crashing waves, in a forest.
What truth are we being told? What is the perception being created?
But does it all matter? For one hour and thirty minutes and some change, we are all treated to great music. And some magic. As Rahman and Ranjit Barot create music out of thin air. A new, still-indistinguishable-from-sorcery piece of technology that takes the shape of a wrist band. Both ARR and Barot wear it, and gesture with their hands. And music plays.
“Musicians like gadgets,” says Rahman.
The One Heart – A.R Rahman Concert Film is a cinema experience. No major plot or narrative arc, no villains and heroes, no henchmen, no evil corporation, no heroines (unless one counts the amazing musicians – Annette Philip, Mohini Dey, Ann Marie). But the audience was hooked. Whistles, whoops, screams, and singing along. For an hour and half. Considering we paid much less than half the price the people must have paid to see the event live, it was entirely worth listening to a few Hindi songs.