When I started out, I was terrified to go on stage… I was afraid the sound, which I worked on for months and months, would get messed up… I would have sleepless nights,” says AR Rahman at one point in One Heart, which captures his journey from being a once-shy musician, blushing at his first success to a consummate showman on stage.
The film unfolds as a series of songs performed at the concerts, punctuated by on-camera interviews with Rahman and his team, off-stage footage from the tour (club-hopping in Nashville), and some recorded moments of the maestro with his family, which showcase his affable side. On a hot-air balloon ride, we see Rahman calling up his family from up above, and even as we hear their elated voices, he jokingly asks them, “Shall I jump?”. We also get a brief footage of Rahman and wife Saira Banu acting goofy during a photo shoot.
There is also an eerily prescient moment when Rahman says, “Fame is a double edged sword… I know all the love could change if you don’t deliver.” It makes us think of his recent Wembley concert fiasco, where there were reportedly walkouts because he did not sing enough Hindi songs.
It is these moments, when Rahman isn’t on guard, that make One Heart interesting, though the film somewhat short-changes us in this regard.
However, as Rahman claims in the film, the concert series was “not just about me, but showcasing the talent and making the audience feel how great the band is”. And the melting pot of talents that he had assembled deliver — from Ranjit Barot (credited for additional arrangements and music direction) and international violinist and Rahman’s SuperHeavy bandmate Ann Marie Calhoun (“I was the least heavy member of SuperHeavy,” she modestly says) to Indian musicians like guitarists Mohini Dey and Keba Jeremiah, and singers Haricharan and Jonita Gandhi.
As a first-of-its-kind concert film from India, One Heart works, because, ultimately, it is all about the music! The songs — a potpourri of his Tamil and Hindi works (from vintage ones like Chinna Chinna Aasai and Dil Se Re to recent chartbusters like Nadhaan Parindey and Nenjukulla), an international track (from his Chinese film Warriors Of Heaven And Earth) and his non-film number (Naan Yen Piranthen from M TV Unplugged) — are presented as reinterpretations for stage, making them sound new and exciting. The visuals are aesthetically shot and edited, and the setting is a stark contrast from the over-the-top, garish stage set-ups of his concerts in India; it is intimate and dreamy, and perfectly suits the kind of songs performed — more melodies, which might disappoint those hoping for high-energy numbers. However, Rahman fans will surely savour this experience.