It’s taken Khatija Rahman some time to come to terms with having a famous father – especially since she’s in the same musical field. The daughter of Oscar-winning music composer AR Rahman tells Gulf News ahead of her show at Expo 2020, “I’m still finding myself and I hope there is a day when I’m just defined by my name. That’s what I’m craving. I spoke to a lot of people who said it’s very normal to go through that existential crisis – like, what am I doing? Am I doing enough? Then I thought I won’t pressurise myself, I’m Just going to go with the flow – and that’s been helpful.
“There’s no point in thinking should I do as much as my dad, because the circumstances which he grew up in were different and the circumstances I grew up in were different, so I’m just going with what’s possible and going with the flow. It really helps.”
In an interview with Indian daily ‘Times of India’, Khatija admitted that having a famous dad gets you a foot in the door. “I’ve thought a lot about this. In my opinion, your entry is easy because of your background. But after a point, you can survive only if you are good. The eyes and ears of the audience will not differentiate between an insider and an outsider,” she said.
However, the 23-year-old does bow to his creative wisdom – you can see it when she talks about her song ‘Farishton’, which she’ll be performing on Saturday alongside the all-women Firdaus Orchestra. The video of the song recently won the Best Animation Music Video award at International Sound Future Awards, and she credits its inception to her father. “We were watching some [Studio Ghibli co-founder] Hayao Miyazaki films as a family during the [COVID-19] lockdown and you know dad, he doesn’t just want to watch, he always wants to do something different. And it was that thought … the video is inspired by that style,” she recalls. “We had a lot of time, so that’s how it happened,” she explains.
A high note
This family does like its musical discussions. Khatija explains: “We sing at home – when we have time we do have a jam session, but it’s really rare. We’ll sing some ragas, or exercises or take a bandish – like a small piece from classical music - and just improvise on it.”
As for disagreements, she allows that there might be some. “I just tell him that I disagree or these days, I just keep quiet. Because they [Rahman’s generation] come from a different thought process, it’s not easy for them also. These days I think he understands – he’s been around a lot of young people so that helps. I just keep quiet sometimes, I don’t always have to poke and say I don’t agree. I don’t want to do that.”
Picking her battles has worked well for Khatija, who has had to contend with trolls in the past. “I honestly went through enough and I decided I’m not going to care anymore. It’s just a waste of time and draining. There’s so much to do and accomplish and I just focus on that,” she says. “Earlier, I used to keep explaining myself; I think that one thing my dad said [really helped me] – you don’t have to keep saying things or explaining, you should let your work speak. So that keeps me strong - I’m like, I’ll show them.”
Khatija has performed in recording studios, as part of a choir and with her family at home so you’d think she’d be comfortable on a stage, but she cries, “stage fright”.
“It’s been bad. You can ask everybody around me,” she giggles. “I’m really scared honestly; it’s a huge orchestra and it’s the first time [being solo on stage] for me. I’ve seen them record in studios but performing with them, rehearsing with them was intimidating. But they’ve all been kind and have been saying such nice things. And I have a wonderful support system. I’ve [had times where I’ve thought], ‘should I back out?’ Then I’m like no, I’m not going to run away. I know that at the end of it, I will like it,” she says.
Khatija will be performing her single ‘Farishton’ on Saturday. “It’s World Children’s Day on November 20 and this a song that not only adults but also for children will relate to, so I think it’s the perfect time to be performing this. I’m nervous and excited,” she says.
Then she straightens up, it’s go time for the little Rahman.