A. R. Rahman returns to the Chennai stage with ‘Jai Ho’, a fund-raiser concert for The Shakti Foundation on October 11. Divya Kumar reports

It’s taken close to eight months, but it’s finally here. On October 11, double Academy Award winner A.R. Rahman returns to his hometown stage for the first time since his incredible run at the Oscars this year with — fittingly enough — the Chennai edition of his Jai Ho World Series concert.

The concert, to be conducted at the immense Marg Swarnabhoomi grounds on the ECR, will be in aid of The Shakti Foundation, which champions the cause of the physically challenged, a cause Rahman has been closely involved with in the past.

All for a cause

“It’s a great cause, and what they’re doing is great work,” said Rahman, who previously did the music for the foundation’s public awareness documentary on the need for ramps directed by Mani Ratnam and featuring Sachin Tendulkar. “They’ve been asking me to do a concert for them for a couple of years, and I found this was the right time to do it.”

That sentiment does Rahman’s dedication to charity a great deal of credit, considering that time is the one thing he hasn’t had a lot of these past few months.

“This has been a very busy year for me,” he admits, sounding rather careworn at the end of another long day of events and recordings. “If I don’t do this now, I don’t think I will be able to do it next year. We evolve every year... next year will be different from this year, just like the previous year was different from this one.”

For the chairman of The Shakti Foundation, Vasanth Raghuvir, Rahman’s decision is, quite simply, an incredible boost. “That he’s chosen to give his first performance in Chennai for The Shakti Foundation — in spite of several other offers — empowers the children of Shakti and lends tremendous dignity to the cause,” she said.

Part of the Jai Ho concert series that has been travelling around India and will soon be going abroad, this show promises to be something out-of-the-ordinary. “Apart from vintage numbers such as ‘Roja’, this concert will definitely be different from the ones I did here earlier,” said Rahman.

Held on 60 acres at the heart of Swarnabhoomi, the concert will feature a massive 80 by 120 foot stage, with pyrotechnics during the show and huge fireworks afterwards, according to G.R.K. Reddy, chairman and MD of the Marg Group, the sole presenting sponsor of the concert.

“The concert has a special meaning for us, because it raises funds to provide equipment for The Adhiparasakthi Medical and Research Hospital in Melmaruvathur,” he said. “That is where people living in the 200 villages around Swarnabhoomi go for healthcare.”

For Rahman, this concert comes at the end of what was one of the more challenging periods of his career. “The first three months post-Oscar were difficult — there was so much socialising and so many things pulling me out of focus that it took away a lot of my creative time,” he said. “And if I didn’t go and do music, there wouldn’t be any new music next year!”

He added ruefully, “Everywhere I went, 500 people wanted to take photographs, and sometimes I just wanted to be alone and be left alone!”

Back in focus

But now, returning after a four-month stint in Hollywood where he’s wrapped up work on the movie “Couples Retreat”, he’s back in focus. “That was definitely a great change — working with a totally different set of people and a great orchestra,” he said. “Now, for the rest of this year and the next, I’m going to limit myself.”

‘Limiting himself’, in the overworked Rahman’s book, means completing an English album he was signed for post the success of the music of “Slumdog Millionaire”, and finishing the movies he’s already taken on. “I’ll resume work on new films probably next Diwali,” he said.

Meanwhile, there’s the concert on October 11 to look forward to, both a gift of music and an ardent appeal by the Shakti Foundation for the inclusion and integration of the physically challenged into mainstream society. “It’s a great homecoming,” said Rahman.


Rahman live! October 7, 2009