Review ‘One Heart’: What I Learnt from AR Rahman’s Concert Film

Chennai has seen unending turmoil since November last year. The succession of crises seem to arrive with the surety of the waves along Besant Nagar beach, one after the other. AR Rahman’s concert movie, One Heart, is a gentle reminder that the city is still full of beautiful memories, nostalgia, and has a brighter, happier future waiting to unfurl.

Bad Film, Nice Thought

The concert film seems to have been an afterthought.

“We’ve earned enough on the tour, let’s make some more money by cutting/pasting and releasing it in theatres.”

That was probably the brief the makers of the film One Heart worked on. The movie features excerpts from the ‘Intimate Concert’ (North America, June), interviews of the band members and a few disconnected videos of AR Rahman on holiday with his family.

In the interviews, Rahman and his band are wonderfully genuine. But except for the maestro, everyone else’s bytes are relegated to one question, and one answer.

Q: How does it feel to be a part of AR Rahman’s band?

A: It is too unbelievable! I feel blessed! Fortunate!

Except of course, Annette Philip who spoke about jazz and what she brings to the table.

The Band

AR Rahman, Ranjit Barot (drums and more), Annette Philip (vocals and more), Marie Calhoun (violin and more), Jonita Gandhi and Haricharan (vocals and more), Mohini De (bass guitar and more), Keba Jeremiah (guitar and more), Devi Rani Najev (dancer) and a few others are a part of the band.

AR RahmanThe people in the band have been cherry picked.

If Rahman grew cherries, these would be the best in the world. What was beautiful to watch, was that it was hard to attribute a particular instrument or performance to an individual. They all doubled as background vocalists, some played the keys while not singing, others kept up the tempo while not playing.

Annette Philip’s instrument is her voice. She took scat singing to a whole new level with a jazz number, that almost seemed like an improvisation.

Jonita Gandhi is the android of the group. Between Naane Varugiren, Munbe Vaa and Jiya Re, she traversed multiple genres, voices, and singing styles.

And then there was Devi Rani Najev, who danced in the background to a couple of the songs. Her moves were simple, very reminiscent of the Whirling Dervishes most of the time and yet, there was something to her that ‘fit’ into the entire ensemble perfectly.

Music Out of Thin Air?

2004, was when AR Rahman went on his first world tour, performing in front of a live audience. He admits to being petrified. Blending real instruments with electronic sounds is his thing. How does one translate all of that music programming onto a stage show? He had to record parts of the song and play it using pro-tools, pre-record synth bases, and perform parts of the song LIVE!

Which is why, the ‘Intimate Concert’, more than a decade later, is a culmination of sorts for the maestro.

AR RahmanWhen it came to this show, I was like...everything is going to be fine. I wasn’t worried.

Rahman and Ranjit Barot featured ‘Real Sense’, Intel’s ‘curie’ based tech, through which they tapped, tweaked and thumped on thin air, and made music! It was like watching two Nintendo Wii players.

For someone who’s watching Rahman’s concert for the first time, it might seem like a cakewalk; he’s got all of the toys, and the best team. How hard can it be?

In a sense, Rahman had to wait over two decades, for technology and talent, to catch up with his needs as a composer. I’d say that’s a pretty hard wait.

The Music

It’s hard to write a review when at the first few strains of each song, my eyes would automatically close shut, in a mixture of nostalgia and that familiar tug deep within, that music alone can elicit. Rahman says this is the first time he’s successfully translated his songs onto a live stage.

After listening to Munbe Vaa, Nenjukkulla, Saathiya and Naadaan Parinde, I believe him.

While the ‘movie’ in itself isn’t much to talk about, the world (specifically, me), needs more of AR Rahman’s music. Despite his visible discomfort in the ‘holiday videos’ and his gawky stance on stage, Rahman is magic!

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