A.R. Rahman Unveils Music Documentary ‘Headhunting to Beatboxing’ at Cannes (EXCLUSIVE)

Oscar-, BAFTA-, Golden Globe- and Grammy-winning composer A.R. Rahman has unveiled music documentary “Headhunting to Beatboxing” at the Cannes Film Festival.

Directed by Rohit Gupta, the documentary follows the Naga tribe in the northeastern Indian state of Nagaland, once engulfed in the depths of violence and bloodshed, that resurrects itself through the healing power of music and emerges through a musical renaissance.

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Rahman was always intrigued by the music of India’s northeast and he visited the region for the first time when he was invited to the annual Hornbill Festival, a cultural celebration of all the ethnic groups of Nagaland.

“I was blown away, the whole story, that we’ve been hearing for years, decades, and suddenly the transformation of young people taking to music and they’re all out in the streets,” Rahman told Variety. “It was like a dreamland for me. I said, ‘Oh, my God, this exists and nobody knows about it’.”

The composer immediately called Gupta, whose Netflix documentary series “The Creative Indians” he had featured in, and who specializes in shooting on the iPhone, as he rated his work highly. Gupta arrived in Nagaland, “And then we were in it,” Rahman says. The composer produced via his ARR Immersive Entertainment outfit.

“We also adopted an orphanage there to teach music. We teach them strings. They’re much quicker because they have this church choir, so they have music in-built in their process,” Rahman said.

On the philosophy behind the film, Rahman says, “Gandhi’s non-violence was such a great statement to the world, an inspiration. How you can achieve freedom through non-violence is one of the biggest achievements in the world. And now the world is so primal and going back to killing and there’s so much suffering happening. And I felt that here is a community which were violent, and not because they wanted to be violent. And they’ve completely moved away. [Now] they have a minister for music. And being a musician, I think it looks like an amazing combination of things, an evolution, which could inspire the whole world. Like anybody can turn into anything. And music plays a great part of it.”

“And it is not just Naga music, they are independent singer-songwriters, where they just pick up a guitar and play a tune and you just close your eyes. You could be in America, the voices and the lyrics are so beautiful,” Rahman added.

The plan for the Nagaland musicians is to get them more exposure, including training them at Rahman’s KM Music Conservatory, mentoring them as part of the NEXA Indie Indian Artists initiative, including them as part of his film compositions and taking them to the Hollywood Bowl as part of a showcase of Indian indie musicians the composer is putting together.

The film is now headed to festivals.

“The film is truly special for me for many reasons. It took us five years and many hours of footage to arrive at a film that we are both proud of and captures the essence of what we set out to achieve. Each note carries a story, each scene a journey, and I can’t wait for audiences to experience the beauty we’ve uncovered,” Gupta told Variety.

Headhunting to Beatboxing
“Headhunting to Beatboxing”

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