A.R. Rahman – Indian Music Composer and Golden Globe Winner



The music maestro who will now be known as the first Indian to win the international Golden Globe award (for best original music score for the movie ‘Slumdog Millionaire‘), has been entertaining India and the world with his great ear for Music for over 15 years and will always be remembered as one of the greatest Indian Composers of all times.

Known as the “Mozart of Madras” A.R Rahman is one of the world’s top 10 all-time top selling recording artists which is a huge achievement. With over a 100 movies under his belt as a composer, singer and music director this Music genius revolutionized Indian film music over a decade ago and continues to do so today.

Here’s a look into A.R Rahman’s Journey to becoming the Golden Globe Award Winner he is today:

His early days

Born as A.S. Dileep Kumar on January 6, 1966, in Madras (now Chennai)a southern city in India, to a musically affluent family, Dileep was musically inclined form a very early age. He started learning the piano at the age of 4. At the age of 9 his father passed away and the pressure of supporting his family fell on him, which led him to drop out of school and join ‘Ilayaraja’s’ troupe as a keyboard player at the age of 11. The good side was, because of this he traveled all around the world with various orchestras and got exposure to the music world.

He accompanied the great tabla maestro Zakir Hussain on a few world tours and also won a scholarship at the Trinity College of Music at Oxford University, where he studied Western classical music and obtained a degree in music. Due to some personal crisis, Dileep Kumar embraced Islam and came to be known as A.R. Rahman (Allah Rakha Rahman).

In 1987, Rahman moved to advertising, where he composed more than 300 jingles over 5 years. At an advertising awards function, Rahman met one of India’s most famous directors, Mani Ratnam for whom he played a few of his music samples. Mani loved them so much that he asked Rahman to compose the music for his next film, “Roja” (1992). ever since he arrived with “Roja” he has revolutionized music. The rest, as they say, is history!

A.R. Rahman and films

After the success of “Roja” Rahman went on to compose several great hits for Tamil-language films before composing the score and songs for his first Hindi-language film, Rangeela in 1995. The enormous success of his first Hindi venture was followed by the chart-topping soundtrack albums of films such as Bumbai (1995) , Dil Se.. (1998), Taal (1999), Zubeidaa (2001), and Lagaan: Once Upon a Time in India (2001), which was nominated for best foreign-language film at the 2002 Academy Awards.

A.R Rahman has over a 100 films under his belt today and has won numerous prestigious regional and national awards for Best Music Director, Best Background scores/ soundtracks and so on. Rahman was also awarded the civilian honor title Padma Shri by the Government of India.

More recently he has done the music for popular films titles like Rang De Basanti, Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na, Slumdog Millionaire and Ghajini.

His other works

Rahman has been involved in several projects aside from films and advertising. On August 15, 1997, he released an album called “Vande Mataram,” on Columbia/SME Records, to commemorate 50 years of Indian independence. A tribute to the motherland, it featured songs for each of the Indian flag colors. The album was released simultaneously across the world in 28 countries, and Rahman himself performed in New Delhi to a packed audience including the honorable Indian Prime Minister. Over 1.2 million copies were sold in India alone. He followed it up with an album for the Bharat Bala–directed video Jana Gana Mana, a conglomeration of performances by many leading exponents/artists of Indian classical music.

In 1999, Rahman, along with choreographers Shobhana and Prabhu Deva Sundaram and a Tamil cinema dancing troupe performed with Michael Jackson in Munich, Germany, for his “Michael Jackson and Friends Concert.” In 2002, he composed his maiden stage production Bombay Dreams (2002) following a commission from musical theatre composer Andrew Lloyd Webber, a success in London’s West End.

Slumdog Millionaire -The Soundtrack

Composer A. R. Rahman planned the score over two months and completed it in two weeks. He has stated he was aiming for “mixing modern India and the old India” with the music, but that the film and soundtrack “isn’t about India or Indian culture. The story could happen anywhere.” Boyle, who “hated sentiment” and told Rahman “Never put a cello in my film”, wanted a “pulsey” score. Rahman appreciated that Boyle liked how Indian films mix music, saying the director wanted “edgy, upfront” music that did not sound suppressed.

Rahman’s score won a 2008 Golden Globe Award for Best Original Score making him the first Indian citizen to win one.