How did the project happen?
It all happened 3 years back when I was composing for the Broadway version of 'Bombay Dreams'. There were lots of things happening around with different kind of music being composed and I was wondering what was I doing?
I thought that I should be a part of something bigger with a human contribution to the world. I went through a few hospitals in New York, London, New Delhi etc. and while I was just waking by, I could almost sense people dying and asking "Pray For Me, I am dying" or "Pray For Me, I Am Suffering". Immediately I called up Blaaze [co-lyricist and rapper] and asked him if he could do a song on this concept.
Finally we had a version where it was pretty acceptable and I could relate to it and "Pray For Me' was born. Then we found an extraordinary visionary in the form of Bharatbaala with whom I had worked earlier on the event of India's 50th independence anniversary for 'Vande Mataram'.
Purpose of the song "Pray For Me Brother"
The song is aimed at inspiring the governments and the people to make a change. This may not happen immediately but at least the process needs to start now in aid of the United Nations Millennium development goal to eradicate poverty by 2015
First time a song written in English
The song is written in English since the basic idea of the song came in English. Also it is supposed to be the international version of the anthem song. When the song was written, I shared it with a colleague and he came back exclaiming "What a superb line!". When I asked him which one, he said "Are you searching for a reason to be kind". This is it. Instead of ending the song with "Pray For Me Brother", I had the one mentioned by my colleague as the one which now comes in the end. Somehow now it almost seems like a perfect ending.
Idea of the video
We were just toying around ideas of what the videos should look like. We could have gone the serious route by showing miserable people; suffering people but then that was not the way we needed it to be since this was done too many times. We wanted more friendly video to be watched by the people. We jammed and thought around why should the video be shot only in India, Africa or somewhere else? Why not America? So we selected that as the place where we could show these huge skyscrapers with signs of modernity and progress on one end and a beggar on the platform; something that I see in Manhattan. There was an idea about this couple who are almost splitting and there the man sees huge hoardings with people with extraordinary expressions who almost seem to be talking through the pictures. Bala then came up with some real magical moments!
The video was scheduled at number of places like Manhattan, Tokyo, London but every time the plan got canceled. Finally got a call and was told that "Pack your bags and catch a flight to LA". I reached there and caught some eye problem due to which I had to wear specs. Now I am never comfortable wearing those but was forced to do. so It almost looked like an attitude with the specs on in the music video but it eventually turned out to be falling well with the video. Then there was this shoot in the desert and Bala always likes to put some huge fans to make my hair fly. We didn't need them eventually since there was a huge storm and made the flow come naturally.
Rahman's own foundation
"Pray For Me Brother' is the first humble step that I have taken in creating a song in a hope that inspires and changes the attitude towards poor people.