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AR Rahman: The man who put India on the global music map

Hello everyone, welcome to Bollywood Bubble. Music is the language of the soul. It transcends boundaries, connects hearts and heals those who are broken. And one man from India has been creating wonders when it comes to music. For nearly 3 decades now, A.R. Rahman has been constantly breaking the moulds, patterns and delivering the melodies that spell magic.

Today, we will talk about A.R. Rahman, the maestro who changed the Indian mainstream forever.

A.R. Rahman is the second child and the only son of Rajagopala Kulashekhar Shekhar and Kasthuri (who later became Kareema Begum after the family converted to Islam). Rahman’s father was also a musician, composer, arranger, musical pioneer and an innovator, who came up the hard way and worked mainly in Malayalam cinema. He had a profound influence on his son.

When Shekhar died at the age of 43 after a prolonged illness, the young Rahman had to become the man of the house. Guided by his mother, he helped rent out his father’s eclectic collection of instruments alongside pursuing an education. Rahman’s mother refused to sell off the instruments because she felt that they would be useful for her son’s career.

The name Allah Rakha Rahman was selected by his mom after the family converted to Islam. After his father’s departure, Rahman was going through a phase in his life and he wanted to be born anew, to drop what he describes as the insecurity of his old life and wipe the slate clean.

Up until he was 16, Rahman balanced his studies with musical assignments, which included assisting composers during recording sessions, playing the keyboard and fixing musical equipment. He also became an expert at programming when the sequencer arrived in India and became the man who knew, “how to make computer music”. Eventually, it became impossible for him to manage both academics and work. His mother, one day had to make a tough choice between the two. And she told him to drop out of school and focus on music. Well, that’s the kind of faith parents need to have in children.

After taking up music full – time, Rahman started composing for jingles and one day he met the legendary Mani Ratnam. Rahman was introduced to Mani Ratnam by Ratnam’s cousin, Sharada Krishnamoorthy, and her husband, Trilok Nair. A nervous Rahman played a bunch of tunes for Ratnam, the first time the director came to his studio. What he didn’t expect was how Ratnam would react. The director thanked Rahman and left the studio. Rahman thought that Mr. Mani Ratnam hated his music, but the director told Trilok that he was stunned that day in the studio. He could not believe what he was hearing. In 1991, noted Mani Ratnam offered him, “Roja” which was a run-away success and brought nationwide fame and acclaim to the composer. The movie also won Rahman the Indian National Award for the best music composer, the first time ever by a debutant. Since then, Rahman has gone on to win the National Award 3 more times, the most ever by any music composer.

In 1997, to commemorate 50 years of Indian Independence, Sony Music signed up Rahman as its first artiste in South Asia. The result was Vande Mataram, an album that instantly made Indians relate to it and succeeded in rekindling the spirit of patriotism.

Rahman’s music led him to be noticed internationally with several of his tracks featuring in movies such as, “The Lord of War”, “Inside Man” and “The Accidental Husband”. His composition, Bombay Theme holds the distinction of being featured in over 50 international compilations. He also scored the music for the Hollywood productions, “Elizabeth – The Golden Age”, “Couples Retreat”, “127 Hours”, “The 100 Foot Journey”, “Million Dollar Arm” & “Pele”. In 2008, his work gained global prominence with the extraordinary success of his score in “Slumdog Millionaire” that won 8 Academy Awards including two for Rahman, for Best Score and Best Song. Rahman won over 15 awards for this score including two Grammys, the Golden Globe and the BAFTA.Rahman has also been conferred with honorary doctorates from the Trinity College of Music, Aligarh Muslim University, Anna University, and the prestigious Berkley College of Music. He was also named by Time Magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world, in 2009.

With some of the cult albums under his belt like, “Rangeela”, “Rang De Basanti”, “Bombay”, “Lagaan”, “Yuva”, “Guru” and many more Rahman is one of the most sought after music composers in the world. Well, the man has been conjuring melodies consistently with his unmatched skill and knowledge of music; it’s only natural for people all over the world go insane at just his mention of his name.

So that was our story on the ‘Mozart of Madras’, A. R. Rahman. Tell us in the comments about your favourite Rahman album. We will be back with more stories. Till then, keep reading Bollywood Bubble.

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