AR Rahman's AI Debate: Why Creatives Are Torn On The Issue

You either learn how to work with AI, or get replaced by it.

Published On Feb 01, 2024 | Updated On Mar 05, 2024


When ChatGPT first arrived on the scene in early 2023, I thought I was done for. They call me ‘worst case scenario Sumona’ for no reason! 

Simply put, I am a writer. I put together words to express ideas, emotions, information and opinions. From ideating editorial calendars to designing launch campaigns for brands, I work with, you guessed it, WORDS. Which technically should make AI my nemesis. Not long after that, my work was being compared to prompts from the app and unintentionally mean comments about “Oh we can just use ChatGPT for that” started to float by. The threat of creatives being replaced by machine learning is ever-looming and I am not going to be 'delulu' and say "but the human touch..." no, we're all replaceable to some degree.

So, as a creative myself, I often come across debates and conversations about the role of AI in creating media. ChatGPT can spit out a short film script in 10 minutes. Midjourney can imagine what a mighty, ancient God might look like. You can also whip up the perfect digital partner or friend with Character AI. But deep down, we'll know it's machine generated. So where do we draw the line? And who becomes the one to draw it? The internet has some views.

Enter: AR Rahman, the now-iconic music director whose name has become synonymous with original music that's the work of a maestro. He recently found himself courting controversy when the voices of the late Bamba Bakya and Shahul Hameed for a song in the upcoming Rajnikanth-starrer Lal Salaam was generated through AI. The dearly departed singers passed away a while prior to the production of the song began and their voices were recreated with the help of AI technology. This did not go down well with audiences and industry experts who believe that the use of AI to mimic somebody's work posthumously may be unethical, even if necessary permissions may be in place. Besides, recreating the voices of such revered vocalists via tech feels disrespectful to the masters who spent years perfecting the craft. 

Personally, I am torn on the issue. While adding Paul Walker's likeness in Fast & Furious 7 was considered as a tribute to the late star, similar use elsewhere may not always be well intentioned. As a young industry professional, I look up to legendary animator and founder of Studio Ghibli, Hayao Miyazaki, stating that AI might be the death of human imagination. And Martin Scorsese's derision towards CGI generated films filling up cinema seats over thought-provoking stories is understandable. I look to media doyens of their particular fields for guidance and with A R Rahman's use of AI, I feel I have been denied just that. Industry and business stalwarts need to lead the charge on regulating use of AI, because let's face it, it's not going away anytime soon. And frankly, as someone who uses AI on a daily basis, I would very much like to be living in a world where creatives and AI can exist together harmoniously. Why? Couple of reasons!

As someone who's had gigs as an AI trainer, I know the role biases play in the data they are trained on. In a world where we're already plagued with so much misinformation, I'd hate for people be misguided by machines too. Plus, companies and media professionals need to push harsher regulation for AI to avoid instances like Rashmika Mandanna and Taylor Swift's deepfakes, BEFORE we make the technology so easily accessible. Lastly,  we have the responsibility to safeguard a new generation of writers, music producers and creators entering the workforce. Which makes responsible use of AI the need of the hour!

Photo: Instagram/Arrahman