Rahman Sings New Tune: VR The World

As AR Rahman prepares to embellish the upcoming period film Sangamithra, directed by Sundar C., with his compositions, he is now all set to strike a new note. Rahman is expanding his horizons by trying his hand at screenwriting and film direction

Photo Caption: A.R.Rahman Music Composer

The world sways to music maestro A.R. Rahman’s irresistible beat. And even as he prepares to embellish the upcoming period film Sangamithra, directed by Sundar C., with his compositions, he is now all set to strike a new note. Rahman is expanding his horizons by trying his hand at screenwriting and film direction. Is it any wonder that we can hardly wait to see what the outcome of the effort will be?

For starters, trust the double Academy Awardwinning music composer never to tread the beaten path. For his first shot at film direction, Rahman is focused on conquering the next frontier of storytelling with a real-time sensory movie-watching experience aimed at stimulating the sense of smell.

Titled Le Musk, it is a virtual reality immersive narrative about an orphaned heiress and part-time musician. The film is produced by Rahman’s newly launched company, YM Movies. A three-minute prelude to the film was unveiled at the brand-new PVR VR Lounge in Noida, on the outskirts of Delhi on May 5. Chennai-based Thenandal Studios Ltd is the co-producer of Le Musk.

At the event, organized by PVR Cinemas, which is collaborating with the first-time director for the India launch, Rahman opened up on the impulses that enthused him to experiment with virtual reality filmmaking.

Le Musk, featuring French actress-singer Nora Arnezeder, English theatre actor Guy Burnet, musician and actress Munirih Jahanpour and pianist Mariam Zohrabyan, had its global launch at the NAB Show in Las Vegas on April 24.

The ‘Prelude to Le Musk was launched at NAB by Intel and Rahman, powered by Intel technologies in multi-sensory ergonomic motion guided Cinematic VR chair developed by Positron. The premiere garnered outstanding reviews and drew long queues. It was shortlisted for special previews at a VR Society event in Hollywood and an upcoming VR event in New York. The overall experience powered by various technologies and the Le Musk team allow audiences to enjoy multi-sensory 360 Cinema VR comfortably while he or she is transported to an incredible world. Le Musk is now considered by leading industry experts as one of the world’s first, and India’s first, multi-sensory VR 360 cinema experiences.

Speaking to the media at the PVR VR Lounge, Rahman revealed that the basic idea of Le Musk was from a casual conversation with his wife. “She is very fond of perfumes. It is she who suggested that I should make a movie on smell. Things have fallen into place and here I am,” he said.

The year 2017 is a significant one for Rahman both personally and professionally. He turned 50 in January this year. That apart, it was 25 years ago – in 1992 – that he burst on the movie music scene as a whiz kid with Mani Ratnam’s Roja.

So, 2017 is as good a year as any that he could have picked for the showcasing of newer facets of his creativity. Rahman has conquered the world many times over as a creator of unique sounds that have fetched him two Grammy Awards. His first film, experimental as it is, will be watched with keen interest by his fans across the globe.

Grace Boyle, the science director of UK’s Shuffle Festival, will be contributing the olfactory element to Rahman’s highly anticipated film. Her London-based company provides the technology that releases scent during the film.

Grace is the daughter of director Danny Boyle, with whom Rahman has worked on two films – the Oscar-winning Slumdog Millionaire and 127 Hours.

She calls these multi-sensory films “feelies”, borrowing a word coined by Aldous Huxley, the author of the dystopian novel Brave New World. Huxley had predicted the advent of real-time experiential cinema as a natural progression from two dimensional movies that have dominated the medium virtually since its very inception.

This kind of VR storytelling is geared towards delivering more than just visuals and sounds to the audience. It draws its uniqueness from also generating the sense of smell, touch, taste and movement while delivering a 360-degree viewing experience.

It isn’t unusual at all for Rahman to gravitate towards the unknown. When he began scoring music for the movies, he ventured in a direction that was entirely his own, which entailed blending traditional music and classical strains with techno-pop and electronic sounds. The result, as we are all aware, was heady.

Experimentation has been the hallmark of Rahman’s career. Le Musk, filmed on locations in Rome, is another push towards a fresh terrain.

Why has Rahman chosen VR, and not a full-fledged conventional film, to debut with? He admits that he has attention deficit disorder and “therefore short format filmmaking is just right for me”.

But, of course, for his first film as a producer, 99 Padalgal (99 Songs), Rahman has opted for more orthodox means. The Tamil-Hindi bilingual musical, scripted by Rahman himself, will be directed by the multi-talented Vishwesh Krisnamoorthy, writer, actor, stand-up comic, musician and theatre artiste

The under-production film, unsurprisingly laden with a slew of songs composed by Rahman, has a cast of new actors. It tells the story of the struggles of a determined young singer who wants to make it big as a musician.

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