AR Rahman ensures everyone gets their due recognition: 'Ponniyin Selvan-II' singer TS Ayyappan

T S Ayyappan
The Sanskrit sloka was retained in all five languages – Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Kannada and Hindi. Photo: Special arrangement

The song 'Shivoham...' from 'Ponniyin Selvan-II ' has been receiving a lot of praise from the audience for how A R Rahman infused the celebration of a coronation of Madhuranthakan and that of spirituality in one song. The Sanskrit sloka was retained in all five languages – Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Kannada and Hindi.

Onmanorama spoke to Perumbavoor native T S Ayyappan who was part of ARR's sextet that crooned the song.

How did you get involved with the project?

I received a mail from music composer AR Rahman appreciating me for my song 'Krishna Nee Begane...', which I had sung some years ago. After two months, I received a phone call from his sound engineer during the pandemic regarding a song recording. I didn't know the song would be for 'Ponniyin Selvan-II' then since the studio maintains complete confidentiality regarding the project. However, I was surprised to see my name in 'Ponniyin Selvan-II', when the makers announced it two years later.

About the opportunity to work with ARR

Working with AR Rahman was a dream come true. I began singing for several music composers after my MBA graduation. I have worked with the likes of Vidyasagar, Harris Jayaraj, Ghibran, Deepak Dev, and Gopi Sundar. Even before I took up music as a career, my father had asked me (12 years ago), when I would sing for AR Rahman. Even Arjunan master, with who I was very close, had prophetically told me that one day I would sing for AR Rahman. Now, both of them are not there, but I believe their blessings are with me, which is why I got to sing this song.

How different is AR Rahman as a musical composer?

I like how he treats the artists. He gives equal respect to all the artists who arrive at his studio irrespective of whether they are beginners or established singers. He also ensures that everyone who works under him gets the respect and recognition they deserve for their work. I believe this has got to do with the fact that he never got the apt recognition for his work as a music programmer during his starting days. Also, when you go work in his studio, you need to keep your ego at bay, since it has a different energy and vibe. They also record the sessions from a different perspective.

The cultural significance of the song 'Shivoham' in 'Ponniyin Selvan-II' and your experience singing it?

The sloka is basically the Nirvana Shatakam, which has been beautifully placed in the movie. The sloka is sung during the coronation of Madhuranthakan. There is no other sloka that would have been apt for this moment, though not everyone has been exposed to the Nirvana Shatakam (written by Adi Shankaracharya). Singing it is like breaking the ego inside you. It is a pure blend of consciousness and bliss. You can't lie to yourself at that moment as it is an eternity feel of Shiva.

Basically, Shiva is a warrior. It’s a highly positive vibe, even if you chant it without knowing the meaning. That’s the beauty of the sloka.

Your previous projects and future work?

I have worked as a playback singer in Mohanlal-starrer 'Pulimurugan' (Tamil) and also crooned a semi-classical song 'Madhu Mozhi' in the Tamil version of Mammooty movie 'Masterpiece', besides singing three songs for Kamal Haasan’s 'Uttama Villain' ( Tamil & Telugu). I have done several Carnatic projects for renowned music companies like Saregama, and Sathyam, among others. As a music director, my projects include two pan-India musical projects 'Nila' and 'Navarasa', which are now in the race for the International Film Festival (Oscar & Bafta). 'Navarasa' just won Best Music Video at the 13th Dada Saheb Phalke Film Awards, which was announced on April 30. I have also done unique work in an upcoming Telugu movie, which is expected to release soon.

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