I am an “accidental” documentary filmmaker. That is what I tell people if they ask me how I started making documentaries.
After assisting in many mainstream commercial Indian films across various languages in Tamil, Hindi and Telugu in 2015, I had an opportunity to “Document” the process of eminent artist Krishen Khanna while he was painting a large 20-foot canvas. I realized that this had a bigger story to say which soon became a 73-minute feature length documentary titled A Far Afternoon. It not only was my debut film but it also won 2 awards at the 63rd National Award in the Best Art /Cultural film and The Best Music categories. The film was also received in various national and international film festivals. Thus began my journey as a documentary filmmaker.
Last year, I was invited by Kavithalayaa Productions to collaborate with them on a non-fiction concept based on rare musical traditions in India. As someone who absolutely loves music and visual arts, as well as traveling, I couldn’t refuse this offer. In addition, I was introduced on screen for the first time as an actor by the legendary director, the late Mr. K.Balachander, who had started the production house.
This was the beginnings of the 5 episode musical docuseries Harmony with A. R. Rahman.
Watch the trailer here:
For more than 6 months we did extensive research and arrived at 4 musicians that were featured in the series.
With the research, we studied both the personal and social depth of the musicians as well as looked for diversity in the type of instrumentation used and the geographical locations covered. The geographical diversity particularly highlights the unlimited beauty that our country has to offer. We also ensured that we included at least one woman musician.
The musicians featured were Kalamandalam Sajith Vijayan from Kerala who plays the Mizhavu, Ustad Mohi Bahauddin Dagar from Navi Mumbai who plays the Rudra Veena, Lourembam Bedabati Devi who sings a folk form called Khunung Eishai from Manipur and Mickma Lepcha from Sikkim who plays the flute, called Pangthong Palith.
The title Harmony was coined to encapsulate all of this diversity, yet at the same time, showcase that we are all one. Music continues to be one of the best mediums to bring us all together. Having noticed the in-depth research that we had done, Mr. A. R. Rahman started the discussions of the execution of this project with a lot of excitement. As a person who has closely followed his work for many years and who is a great admirer of his personality, this surely was the makings of a dream project.
In this series, Mr. Rahman travels across the Indian subcontinent to meet each of the musicians and experiences their particular tradition in its original context, igniting soulful conversations and an exciting exchange of ideas, resulting in an impromptu musical jam session.
The research content, as well as knowledge of Mr. Rahman’s career and life, helped us to verily easily structure the episodes. The interactions between Mr. Rahman and the musicians are all organic and not scripted. Through these episodes, I believe that not only do we get to know the musicians, but we also get to know different facets of Mr. Rahman. The music in each episode too is very organic with Mr. Rahman jamming with each of the musicians to create a new and unique sound.
In the final episode, all the musicians come together to create a finale musical piece. This piece, Mann Mauj Mein, is probably the longest song composed by Mr. Rahman, and it is a celebration of love and harmony, a perfect end to the 5-episode journey.
Harmony with A Rahman released on August 15th on Amazon Prime and all 5 episodes are currently available for your binge-watching pleasure!
Sruti Harihara Subramanian is a national award-winning filmmaker and an entrepreneur. In 2002 she won the title Miss Chennai. She has conceived and directed the musical docuseries Harmony with A R Rahman.