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Biography A R Rehman

INTRODUCTION:

The name A.R.Rahman needs no introduction. The man who redefined contempor
ary Indian music and is the pride of the entire nation and an idol for mil
lions all over the world needs no preamble. But if you happen to be one,
still among the few unfortunate souls, who are a stranger to him and his h
eavenly music, then read on.

PROLOGUE:

The year was 1991. Ace Tamil movie director Mani Ratnam was on the lookout
for a new composer to give music for his films. His long standing fruitfu
l association with the doyen of Tamil film music Illaiyaraja, which had sp
anned over 10 films and as many years had come to an end when the two had
had a fallout after the latter reportedly made some sarcastic comments dur
ing the making of Mani Ratnam's then latest film 'Dalapati'. One day, at
an awards function for excellence in the field of advertising, Mani Ratna
m chanced upon a young man who received the award for the best ad jingle w
hich he had composed for the popular Leo Coffee ad. At the celebrations pa
rty that followed the awards presentation ceremony, Mani Ratnam was introd
uced to the young composer by his cousin Sharada Trilok of Trish Productio
ns for whose company the young man had produced some outstanding work. Sha
rada had words of high praise for the young composer. Mani was curious and
requested him for a sample of his wares. The composer readily complied an
d invited the director over to his studio. Mani Ratnam turned up at the st
udio only after six months, where the 24 year old lad played out a tune th
at he had been pushed into composing by his school friend G.Bharat alias B
ala when they both had been greatly disturbed by the socio-political tensi
ons in South India over the Cauvery river waters issue. Listening to the t
une that was played, Mani was hooked instantly. Without a second thought h
e signed on the composer to score the music for his next film. That film d
id not work out but Mani signed him on for a new film which was to be prod
uced by the veteran Tamil director K.Balachander for his respected 'Kavith
alayaa' banner. That film was 'Roja'. That tune would become the song "Tam
izha Tamizha" in 'Roja'. The music of the film would be a phenomenal succe
ss that would revolutionise modern day Indian film music. The name of the
25-year old composer was A. R. Rahman. And the rest, as they say, is histo
ry.

Cut to the year 1998. Mani Ratnam's then latest film, his first in Hindi and
his fifth with Rahman, 'Dil Se..' hit the screens. The movie all but bombed
in India. But the music, yet again was a resounding success. The music sol
d like hot cakes even six months after it was released in the market. In a r
ecession hit Indian Film industry, the two biggest hits of the year, 'Pyar K
iya To Darna Kya' and 'Ghulam' had sold 2 million cassettes each. Such was t
he confidence of the music company, Venus, in the Rahman-Ratnam combination
that they started with an unprecedented initial run of 2 million cassettes,
then notched up sales of 6 million and are still going strong. It even succe
ssfully survived the onslaught of what later became the year's biggest hit,
Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. So much so, that just on the strength of its music, Dil
Se.. succeeded in gaining the distinction of being the first Asian film to e
nter the U.K. Top 10. Moviegoers in London said that it is the music that dr
ew them to the movie halls. Such is the spell that the music from the Rahman
-Ratnam combination has cast over music lovers.

The Rahman-Ratnam combination forged six years ago is now five films strong
and has given the world of Indian films some of its best music. The combin
ation has taken music to new heights that has succeeded in captivating mill
ions of listeners not just across India but even in far flung corners of th
e world. Rahman says about his mentor, "I was blessed to be picked by a dir
ector like him. He encouraged me a lot. It was as if I studied in Mani's ow
n university of music. He is like a brother to me."

BACKGROUND:

Going back in History, the following question arises. Six years ago, who l
istened to Tamil music? Only Tamilians. Five years ago, what did teenagers
dance to at discotheques? What else but Michael Jackson, Dr.Alban or the
latest Western dance hit of the day. But one man singlehandedly changed al
l that. With his universally appealing tunes, A.R.Rahman has demolished al
l conventional rules in Indian film music. He amazes with the manner in wh
ich he seamlessly integrates traditionally incompatible harmonies. If anyo
ne can make a perfect potpourri of the latest dancehall rhythms, electro-p
op, Latin melodies, Western and Indian classical and pepper it all with a
local folk touch or even something as otherworldly as Reggae and serve it
all in a contemporary Indian manner that mesmerises listeners, it is A.R.R
ahman. His music transcends all barriers - geographic, age or linguistic.
Everyone from 6 to 60, Kashmir to Kanyakumari, as the cliché goes, are fan
s of his music. He was the first to successfully and solidly bridge the ga
p across the Vindhyas with Hindi speaking denizens who did not understand
one word of Tamil enthusiastically lapping up his music. He gave film musi
c a trendy legitimacy, a legitimacy that made Indian youth who were till t
hen ashamed of admitting in public that they enjoyed Indian film music, da
nce to Humma Humma, Muqabla Muqabla, Musthafa Musthafa and Chaiyya Chaiyya
at every pub, club and disco. Overnight, Indian film music considered 'in
fra-dig' by the youth became 'cool' and 'hep'. All in all, quite arguably,
no one has influenced Indian music as much as Rahman has in recent times.

He is the man who helped south Indian cinema go national in a way that was
considered impossible even a decade ago. He bridged the gap between Tamil (
and even Telugu on occasion) and Hindi with that most universal of all lang
uages: music. Predictably Rahman would later say "I hate the discrimination
between south, north, Tamil, Hindi. If I represent India that is good enou
gh for me. But we should cross all these barriers." Rahman did more: he mad
e, to use film industry jargon, music a territory in its own right. Thus, t
he soundtrack of each movie was sold as if it were a separate entity from t
he film itself. And as if to prove him right, his music assumed a life of i
ts own, flying off the shelves at record speed even when the film in questi
on bombed at the boxoffice.

Rahman's strength lies not only in his perfect sense of melody and rhythm b
ut also in his immaculate sound engineering. His music has been hailed as t
hat of the digital age and has also been assailed for the very same reason.
His music can never be adequately described in words. One has to personal
ly experience the pleasure of his creations. Many of his compositions might
actually sound ordinary the first time. But his music has this amazing cap
acity to grow on you and establish a firm hold on the listener. His composi
tions are an intriguing cocktail of musical pieces that literally blow your
mind. His music is unique in its offbeat instrumental interludes, unconven
tional harmonies, and use of far from perfect voices and thumping rhythms.

PEOPLE-SPEAK:

Says Gangai Amaran, well known South-Indian composer-singer and brother of


Ilaiyaraja, "Rahman's music is of the computer age. It is digital but intel
ligent, not just noise. He concentrates on his melodies and has not totally
deviated from Carnatic traditions". Noted director and lyricist Gulzar say
s "He is a milestone in Hindi film music. He has single-handedly changed th
e sound of music in the movies. He has broken the mukhda-antara-mukhda sche
me of composition and replaced the traditional patterns of tuning. He can t
une to a near identical rhythm in two different songs. But these songs will
still catch the listener off guard even when played immediately after each
other. Instead of having the fixed format, the song can also run like free
verse with his kind of music."

One very interesting aspect of Rahman is his preference for untrained voic
es. Rahman says ".. a defect in the singing adds a human touch." His close
friend and arranger-composer Ranjit Barot adds "In the Hindi music indust
ry, if Kumar Sanu or Udit Narayan don't turn up, the music director starts
panicking. But Rahman would probably look around the studio and experimen
t with some unknown and untrained voice." He goes on to add, "The man is
a whiz coz he eats, breathes and sleeps music. AR Rahman has revolutionise
d the Hindi film music. Before we did Humma Humma for Bombay, the two of u
s composed jingles together. Rahman's USP is his ability to combine slickn
ess with melody. The songs from Roja still haunt me. Few can make a succes
sful transition from doing 30-sec jingles to 5 min songs. He's a genius."
Bollywood movie mogul Subhash Ghai says of Rahman "Rahman is the biggest
representative of Indian music. He is an example for future generations. H
e is the best fusion of art and science in music". One of his favourite di
rectors Ramgopal Varma says," It is a challenge to picturise songs set to
Rahman's music." His erstwhile competitors Nadeem-Shravan say, "The most a
mazing quality about Rahman is that he has been able to create a 'national
sound' which in spite of his strong south-Indian feel appeals to a pan-In
dian audience". Composers Jatin-Lalit say, "He totally changed the sound o
f Indian film music."

Internationally acclaimed Indian Tabalchi Ustad Zakir Hussain reminiscing


about the time when Rahman played the keyboard along with violinist Kunnak
udi Vaidyanathan and drummer Sivamani, on the album 'Colours' says, "He wa
s barely 19 years old then but had mastered many different styles of music
- western classical, jazz, rock and Carnatic. Even after his work was don
e he would stay in the studio, sitting through other musicians' pieces, ey
es and ears tuned in, constantly imbibing. Very intelligent, smart and cre
ative. He started as a young boy working with great composers like K V Mah
adevan, for example. He knows the public pulse and has given the public a
very intelligent combination package. This reminds me of R D Burman. These
guys made it possible to bring together all elements of world music."

Singer Lata Mangeshkar, known as the 'Nightingale of India' with whom Rahma
n worked for the first time in Maniratnam's 'Dil Se' and later in 'Pukar',
'Zubeidaa', 'Lagaan', 'Water' and '1 2 ka 4', is all praise for him, " Rahm
an is known to record only during the night time. But he records with me du
ring the daytime... when my voice is fresh. I don't like recording at night
. And I've heard that Rahman records mostly in the night. But he made an ex
ception for me. When an artiste shows such consideration for another artist
e, it feels good. Aur kaam bhi achha hota hai. (Even the work done is good)
, Rahman doesn't take long over his recordings. Jiya jale was recorded in 4
0 minutes." Singer Srinivas, whose career best numbers have been with Rahma
n is totally impressed with Rahman's dedication to music and says, " He's t
otally absorbed in his music and there's nothing else that affects him. For
him music is God. And he gets the best out of a singer." Says classical tu
rned film singer P. Unnikrishnan who made his debut with the song 'Ennavale
' from 'Kadhalan' and went on to win the National Award for his very first
song, "I have sung more than 500 songs till date but this first song of min
e is something I will remember and cherish all my life. The most wonderful
thing is that today ARR is the most sought after Music Director in the whol
e country but as a person he has not changed and even today he is the same
calm, composed, humble, committed, unperturbed ARR. Thanks to Rajiv Menon f
or having introduced me to such a wonderful artist." At one time an assista
nt to Rahman and today an independent composer in his own right, Harris Jay
araj remarks "I have learnt many things from many music directors. If you s
ingle out A.R.Rahman, I can quote his relentless labour, high enthusiasm, a
nd commitment to the tasks at hand. He would never compromise on the qualit
y of a song. He is quality-conscious and individualistic."

Singer Srinivas, whose career best numbers have been with Rahman is totally
impressed with Rahman's dedication to music and says, " He's totally absor
bed in his music and there's nothing else that affects him. For him music i
s God. And he gets the best out of a singer." Reocunting his experiences he
says, "In 1992, in Coimbatore, was when I went to see Maniratnam's Roja be
cause it was a Maniratnam movie. Dreams of playback singing had taken a ba
ck seat; I was in Coimbatore and travelling and didn't know how to approac
h it now. I was just taken aback by the freshness of Roja's music. After a
long time, I had bought a tamil film audio cassette. This new person, Rah
man, had introduced so many singers; the re-entry of Sujatha, Hariharan , M
inmini and Unnimenon. Immediately, I realized that this person has an att
itude towards introducing new artists, his music sounds fresh and he was de
finitely here to stay! On one of my official trips to Chennai, I got hold o
f Rahman's address and went to see him directly. At that time, he was ver
y accessible (he had just started working on Pudhiya Mugam). He conducted
a voice test; I sang a Mehdi Hassan ghazal and he liked it. I mentioned th
at I lived in Coimbatore and he said that if I moved to Chennai, he might b
e able to work with me. By the time I came to Chennai in 1994-95, he had s
hot through the roof! The gates had become bigger at Rahman's place . It w
as difficult to even get through to his office. With persistance and a lit
tle bit of luck, I was finally able to see him again. As soon as he saw me
, he remembered. That's Rahman!.. He's human... and he's got GOD inside hi
m as well! He slowly started giving me singing assignments. Rahman's appro
ach is totally different which now many people have started following. For
example, Raja Sir has the whole thing in his mind from the very beginning.
You don't have a
doubt about what you should sing and you better not! (laughs). Two totally
different schools of music. With Rahman, when you go in, nothing is ready.
He just feeds in some basic chords. When you listen to them on your head
phones, you are transported to some other world. Within two minutes, he cr
eates a masterpiece of a loop. Those chords are just magic. You feel like
singing so much! He incredibly motivates you when singing, which is also
the reason why artists (singers and instrumentalists alike) give him the ve
ry best.

Vairamuthu, the lyricist, with whom Rahman shares a special bond remarks "
I am considered to be a great poet, but I don't have any words to describe
his genius. A.R.Rahman is not a normal music director. He has some God gi
ven gift in him. Otherwise, how can he compose such soul-stirring numbers?
He is a rare pearl in an ocean of music.When one composes a song he is a
lways worried as to whether the song will click or not. But Rahman is one
composer who does not care about the commercial success of the song. He is
always confident that if a number is composed wth a good heart and self-c
onfidence it will be a big hit. He is like a younger brother to me. The to
tal submission of his (A.R.Rahman) life for the cause of music; his thirst
for creating not any chaff but only grains appeals to me the most!" Anoth
er veteran lyricist Vaali says "I have been in this field for decades and
have seen a lot of music directors come and go.. But this young boy has he
ld me spellbound! His talent, energy, enthusiasm is a lesson to all youngs
ters. He is always experimenting and is always open to new ideas." Grammy
Award winning instumentalist Pandit Vishwa Mohan Bhatt says "Rahman has a
good understanding of both Western and Indian classical music. I was asked
to play for Mani Rathnam's film Anandam (renamed "Iruvar") which Rahman h
as scored. He has high regard for others, and gives due respect to other f
orms of music. I find Rahman very innovative, and wouldn't mind doing more
films with him."

"Rahman's amazing," drools upcoming composer Vishal Dadlani, "I've listene


d to the music of Dil Se.. a hundred times and, each time, I learn somethi
ng new. It is like an encyclopaedia on production." Director Suresh Krissn
a with whom he worked on 'Sangamam' and then the Indian version of 'The Re
turn of the thief of Baghdad', calls him a 'die-hard perfectionist' and s
aid "Rahman's manner of working sounds very unusual. Generally music is co
mposed, lyrics are readied and the recording is done. But with Rahman it i
s not so. Far from it, Rahman composes and mixes the voice with a basic rh
ythm track. Then he goes on adding the music making innovations, inclusion
s and improvisations till the very last minute, or rather till the cassett
e stage itself. At every point the workaholic in him keeps goading him to
feel that 'there should be something more to it.' The singer, under Rahman
's direction, is given incredible scope to delve into every conceivable va
riation and the whole of it is recorded. This system of working was a reve
lation for me." Upcoming lyricist Ilayakamban who is working with Rahman i
n 'Tenali' says "His musical ability to confine the whole world's air in h
is flute; his glowing inner peace; the simplicity of a mother is what I sa
w in him." Singer Harini, who was discovered by Rahman in a talent search
competition says, "The best part about singing for Rahman is the freedom h
e gives the singer. Even for my first song he let me sing the way I was co
mfortable with, eventhough I was a nobody then." "Singing for Rahman was a
wonderful experience. I really enjoyed the song. A R Rahman is a wonderfu
l, humble person to work with. A complete workaholic and very involved wit
h his music. He is very creative and undoubtedly talented," says singer R
oopkumar Rathod. Singer Abhijeet echoes his thoughts, "It is every singer’
s dream to work with A R Rahman because he makes you feel like God. I work
ed with Rahman for a beautiful song called E Nazneen suno and for Nayak. O
f course, I did get nervous when I had to record with him, especially since he records a
night. But he makes you feel as if you are AR Rahman and he is just an ordi
nary fellow. Other music directors should learn to be humble like him. Today
’s music directors do not respect their singers. If one singer is not around
they replace them with another. Also, they demoralise you when you are in f
ront of the mike."

Director Shankar, again a favourite with Rahman - having worked with him o
n on some of his earliest films like 'Gentleman' 'Kadhalan' and later 'Ind
ian' 'Jeans', 'Mudhalvan' 'Nayak' and 'Robot', has only praises for him, "
A.R.Rahman - the name speaks for itself. He knows what clicks and what doe
s not. He composes music according to the demand of the situation. He slog
s so much to see that a song is good. He does not want to give anyone in t
he world the chance to tell him that his compositions are bad. What I like
best in Rahman is his fighting spirit and 'never say die attitude' ." Wor
ld famous guitarist, Jeremy Spencer ,formerly of Fleetwood Mac says 'The o
nly contemporary Indian composer I know of and like is A.R.Rahman. His 'Va
ndemataram' was brilliant'. Lyricist Mehboob, who made his debut in 'Range
ela' and later penned Maa Tujhe Salaam cannot stop singing the praises of
Rahman, "If there is one person whom I revere after God, our prophet, and
my family then it is Mr. AR Rahman. He is like a brother to me. I adore hi
m so much that I have no words to describe my feelings for this gentleman.
" The veteran director Shyam Benegal who shifted from his long time regula
r, the equally veteran Vanraj Bhatia, to Rahman, for the film Zubeidaa say
s, ', I admire three things about Rahman. Among the young composers he pro
bably is the most original. He has a strong sense of melody and his harmon
y is unbeatable. Finally he gives his music a rich tonal color, richness t
hrough his combination of instruments, a character to the music.'

Shankar, Ehsaan and Loy, the composer trio can't stop raving about Rahman.
Says Loy Mendonsa, "Rahman is a great musician, a great human being, his mu
sic is fresh, and honest. That's very important, writing something from the
heart". Adds Ehsaan Noorani, "A R Rahman is my favorite, he's a genius, hi
s personality reflects in his music, it's fantastic, his music is so pure,
it's from the soul." And finally Shankar Mahadevan, "A R Rahman is my favou
rite because he's a genius, he knows exactly what he's doing, he's very we
ll versed in classical as well as western jazz, all kinds of stuff. And he'
s open minded."

Director Bharathiraaja, known for his movies with rural themes - the ones
with Rahman being 'Kizhakku Cheemayile', 'Karuthamma', 'Anthimanthaarai' a
nd 'Taj Mahal' - and once an Illaiyaraja regular remarks "Illaiyaraja is
a born genius. I wanted a change and that's why I shifted to Rahman. There
is something in his music that intoxicates you. You work with him once an
d you will never want to work with anyone else after that." Veteran singer
Chitra says "I have worked with all the music directors in the south befo
re Rahman came in. When I sang for him the first time I found that I was d
oing something really different from what I had done before. I like Rahman
, the music director. But I like Rahman the person even more. I don't how
he manages to keep his feet firmly on the ground even after tasting so muc
h success in this field. He is the only Indian composer whose stuff stands
out." Says director Rajeev Menon "He'll remain my only choice and prefere
nce. He's part of my family. We've been working together for the past 14 y
ears. In fact he was the one who got me into filmmaking, while I called hi
m for a lot of my advertising assignments." Acclaimed singer Yesudas says,
'He is a genius musician knowing the psychology of youth.' Veteran singe
r Manna Dey remarks "I do not think too much of today's melodies. I do adm
ire A.R.Rahman, for he is a master of rhythm. He is extremely experimental
, and leaves no stone unturned in trying out new things."

Composer Vishal Bharadwaj opines "A. R. Rahman has elevated the quality of
film music to an international level. When you hear Michael Jackson and R
ahman at one go, you can't tell the difference in sound quality. Rahman is
a terrific composer. He is a genius." Says old friend and singer Suresh P
eters, "I was a drummer, not a singer and Rahman was a keyboard player. Bo
th of us were working in a band called `Nemesis Avenue'. He was a very tal
ented composer earlier itself, but everything happens only when the time c
omes. He started composing jingles and they started clicking. He was then
signed on by Mani Ratnam and then there has been no looking back. I apprec
iate Rahman's sense of arrangement. No one can teach Rahman how a song sh
ould be composed. He is aware of all the latest in sound techniques. He kn
ows what will appeal to people and what will not. He is very versatile and
different from one film to the other. As long as he does not repeat himse
lf, nothing can stop him from reaching the top ." Independent composer, rh
ythm programmer and close associate of Rahman, Pravin mani says, "...Rahma
n gives a lot of freedom to his technicians and all those-involved with hi
m, while working. Moreover, he is extraordinarily creative. Rahman is the
greatest person i have ever-seen in my life. He is really a humble person.
though he has risen to very high levels, yet he is the same person and be
haves the same way as he used to do in his earlier days, mingles freely ..
., and that shows his greatness."

Singer Kavita Krishnamurthy, a Rahman favourite says "It's such a pleasure


to sing for A. R. Rahman. He's such a simple guy. He has no ego hang-ups.
" Singer Sadhana Sargam, another Hindi singer whom Rahman prefers over man
y established singers, says "When Rehman calls you go without asking quest
ions because you know it's going to be worth it.He's a reserved person and
talks very little but he makes you give your best. He keeps a cassette re
ady wherein he has sung the song himself and listening to it makes your wo
rk so much easier, he allows any number of retakes. If you've sung half a
line beautifully and haven't sustained that in the other half, he'll retai
n that half and make you work on the other half. The result is magnificent
. . And Rehman makes his pleasure very evident when he likes something you
've done... then he won't even be shy."

Veteran singer Asha Bhonsle whose career got a revival when she sang for
Rahman in 'Rangeela', says, "He understands the youth of today, he has br
ought about a freshness, a new sound to film music. He's always experimen
ting, doing something different which is very inspiring for the playback
singer." New age Singer-Composer and a close friend of Rahman, Shankar Ma
hadevan says "I think A.R.Rahman is an absolute genius and is one of the
few music directors who completely knows what he is doing. It's an absolu
te pleasure working with him as he is a cool and modest guy." Noted Sarod
maestro Amjad Ali Khan says, "Wonderful! He has a new approach, he has g
iven a new direction to film music. I think even the established music di
rectors want to sound like him. Perhaps all his songs won't be remembered
and hummed after decades. But for the time being, Rahman's tunes are ext
remely enjoyable." Veteran singer S. P. Balasubramanium says "The man res
ponsible for the variety in today's music is A. R. Rahman." Hema Sardesai
who shot into fame when she sang Aawara Bhanwre in 'Sapnay' is effusive
in her praise for Rahman, "When Rajiv Menon recommended me to A.R. Rahman
, he never gave a second thought and called me over the phone to be in Ma
dras the next day for the recording. Even though I was on cloud nine, dee
p down I was feeling as if somebody had pulled a trick on me. God has bee
n great! He came into my life as Rahman sir." ONe of his blue eyed boys,
singer Sukhvinder Singh says "A R Rahman not only gave me the break (in D
il Se), he taught me a lot of techniques in composing music arrangement a
nd recording. He was the one to impress upon the need to be technically p
erfect before any producer could be expected to invest in you." Composers
Anand-Milind say, "He is the only composer to have brought in something
new all by himself in a long long time." Says Ehsaan of the Shankar-Ehsaa
n-Loy trio ""A. R. Rahman is the best! He is a genius and a wonderful hum
an being and it translates in his music."

Popular drummer Sivamani, a childhood friend of Rahman and a professional r


egular with him, says "Our association began when we both were really young
. We had this band called Roots. We just make very good music together. He
is a master of laya(melody) and taala(beat). The recognition that I enjoy t
oday is because of Rahman. There are so many talented people behind a film
music score. I played for Illayaraja for very long, but my name never figur
ed on the screen or the cassette cover. Rahman changed it all. He gives cre
dit to every single member of his team for whatever part they play, big or
small. That makes him really special. People came to know about me only bec
ause of him. I thank him for that." Javed Akhtar, noted lyricist, says "I t
hink he is an all rounder, I mean his grounding is very very solid. He know
s Indian classical music, he is in touch with Indian folk music, he knows a
bout western music and he has really studied western classical also. He kno
ws about Middle Eastern music. So there is no wonder you see different colo
urs in his songs. But Indian music has borrowed albeit being influenced by
Middle Eastern music in past also. But, you see, when Rahman takes a raag o
r if he takes a folk tune, or if he takes notes of say Arabian music or Sou
th American music. When this music comes to Rahman, it becomes Rahman's mus
ic his influences are beyond film music and he has a kind of courage where
he is not afraid to experiment, he is not afraid to fail and that is why he
succeeds. We remember only those people who were not only successful but t
hey have brought something to the arena that is new. Now this is a another
leap, a quantum leap that Rahman has taken and he has given a kind of new s
ensibility to Indian music listener and the music maker. The sound, the orc
hestration, the very structure of the song. He has challenged the basic str
ucture of Indian film song and he has altered it, changed it. And, I think
his contribution is totally unprecedented. Successful people come and go. U
ltimately it's the pathbreakers who're remembered with the passage of time. People wh
ed on untrodden roads. Success is worshipped momentarily, and then forgott
en. It's not enough to be successful. It's important to attempt something
new. Rahman's contribution to film music will never be forgotten. He has g
iven a new dimension and understanding to sound. Working with him is defin
itely a great pleasure. I get along very well with him. He is one person w
ho is only interested in his work. Inspite of his stupendous success, he i
s so humble and down-to-earth."

Says composer and former Rahman associate Sandeep Chowta, known as 'The p
oor man's Rahman', "Rahman revolutionised sound. He's a trend-setter in m
ore ways than one. The only thing common between us is the fact that we s
tarted out in advertising and moved on to films. There's just no comparis
on otherwise. Rahman is a legend of sorts. Rahman is unique. He doesn't h
ave set ragas. Yet his chord progressions are beautiful. People sometimes
compare me to A R Rahman, it happens. People like Lata Mangeshkar, Asha
Bhosle and even Andrew Lloyd Webber have paid tribute to him and called h
im a legend. I can't even begin to fathom the reasons for the comparison.
He's in another zone altogether, he is amazingly brilliant. If people co
mpare me to him, I'd take it as a compliment. " Bhupen Hazarika, the lege
ndary Assamese composer with whom Rahman worked on 'Desh Ka Salaam', opi
nes, "People become immediately entranced by whatever Rahman composes. He
is a phenomenon. He's young and talented. And he has his fingers on the
pulse of the new generation. Like Salil Chowdhary he knows both western a
nd Indian music styles. He's a great talent but his talent shouldn't be o
verutilised." Many other noted personalities like lyricist Javed Akhtar,
actress-parlimentarian-social worker Shabana Azmi, actress Sridevi, singe
r Shubha Mudgal, classical instrumentalist-composer Pandit Vishwa Mohan B
hatt(worked with Rahman on Iruvar and Alai Paayuthe) have repeatedly expr
essed their liking for the Rahman brand of music. Says Sir Andrew Lloyd W
ebber, the reknowned composer of musicals, who picked Rahman to score for
his musical Bombay Dreams, the first time an outsider worked on the comp
ositions of an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, " I think he has an incredibl
e tone of voice. I have seen many Bollywood films, but what he manages to
do is quite unique--he keeps it very much Indian. For me as a Westerner,
I can always recognize his music because it has got a rule tone of voice
of its own. It's very definitely Indian, yet it has an appeal which will go right across th
s, if he is led in the right way. He is the most extraordinary' composer who is
still true to his cultural roots, ' and deserves to be heard by an internation
al public"

Choreographer Chinni Prakash throws up his hand in mock frustration and sa


ys, "Its challenging to choreograph Rahman's songs. He does not stick to t
he conventional four-eight-twelve-sixteen beats. He's unpredictable. Somet
imes, he gives you a two and three-quarters beat. What do you do with that
?" Ramgopal Varma , who worked with Rahman on Rangeela and Daud says "Ther
e is a bigness in Rahman's music. Every note reflects the mood of the song
. When I used to hear his music for my film I used to wonder if I was feel
ing my story as deeply as he was". "His music has that international quali
ty which is absolutely stunning," says international director Douchan Ger
si for whose film 'The Return of the Thief of Baghdad', Rahman scored the
music. Says Pune based music critic Jayanth Deshpande, "The unique brand o
f classicism brought into Bollywood music by A.R.Rahman mirrors not only t
he variegated tapestry that is India, but also the global musical culture.
Rahman borrows ever so subtly from American soul or Gospel. He draws gene
rously from rap, disco, folk, reggae, qawaali, Hindustani and Carnatic in
his rhythms. And the vocal ornaments of Carnatic music or ever present. Or
chestral textures and harmonies typical of Western music often grace the b
ackground. His is a truly international music with a distinctly Indian fee
l. He has experimented as perhaps no other Indian composer has before him
or does now. Some may be tempted to call it Indian fusion music of a higho
rder. I've heard his music being used as background in a German TV feature
unrelated to music or India."

Govind Nihalani who was the first Bollywood director to sign Rahman says " I
am a lover of music. Some years ago a friend of mine gave me a cassette of
'Roja'. I was amazed after I listened to the songs. I decided right away tha
t A.R.Rahman will give the music for atleast one of my films. Immediately I
came to Chennai and spoke to him. He is an absolute genius. Very Modern! Hi
s range of imagination is expansive. He doesn't treat his profession as just
composing music for films. He is able to lift a film to a new level with hi
s music. Just as a painter is identified by his artistic style he is identif
ied by his tunes. Even If i say I am satisfied he does not stop. Uncompromis
ing spirit!! I am not saying this just to praise him. A. R. Rahman is the on
ly composer in India upto international standards today. In fact I will go s
o far as to say that he is a composer of the next millennium. He is not a pe
rson who merely makes tunes. He is someone who creates music. He is constan
tly observing the trends and developments in his profession. I believe that
is also a reason for his success. First , he reads the script and takes det
ailed notes of the situations, the mood, and the characterisations. Sitting
before his keyboard in the studio at night he would say, "Give me a word!Giv
e me a phrase." And he would work out a rough tune on the spot. Then he reco
rds it with a singer. But the real magic starts when once he has the song be
fore him on his computer screen. He plays with it, takes a phrase from here
and puts it there. Block by block, verse by verse he builds up his song. YOu
can see the coloured bits forming fascinating patterns." He paid the ultima
te compliment when he said " Its like watching a master sculptor in action."

Ace director Subhash Ghai, with whom he worked on 'Taal' is all praise for
him, "Rahman is the rhythm of 'Taal - The Rhythm'. I wouldn't be able to ma
ke Taal without this remarkable musician, this great soul who was born
to give Hindi music a new life. I am privileged to work with a man who has
been inspired and blessed by God above. I don't mind changing all my nights
into days to work with him. You know this great man only creates fresh tun
es in the night and sleeps during the day. Rare man, rare way of working. T
hat's how all great men are. He creates according to the director's need. H
e is a widely knowledgeable composer, with knowledge of all kinds of music
of the world. He can play Western Symphony with as much ease as Hindustani
or Carnatic classical which is a very rare quality in composers. Rahman has
a strange kind of spirituality within which he lives. He knows technique,
has a rare sense of sound and a great ear. He can make any besura (tuneless
) voice sing well. This is obvious from singers who have sung beautifully f
or his albums but have not done well later. I love him both as a composer a
nd as a friend. He is very sweet to talk to. The only thing is you talk and
he listens. He has a sharp intellect and understands not just the sound of
music and quality of voice but also the market forces and how to move from
post to post. Rahman is undoubtedly a genius. He's divine and simple. " Ra
hman's favourite singer Hariharan says, "His strength is the way he designs
sound. He has revolutionised film music. He is perpetually on a quest to g
et the best out of you and makes you feel at ease which is important. I hav
e sung some of my best songs for him."

Indian-born Canadian director Deepa Mehta with whom Rahman has worked on 3
films - 'Fire', 'Earth' and 'Water' - says, "Brilliant, I think he is th
e most consummate composer that I know of in the world. His music comes fr
om the characters and is an extension of them. I think he is the best.He i
s the most brilliant film composer in India today and is in such demand th
at he has altered his normal working day to begin at six in the evening an
d go through the night, so that he can compose undisturbed by producers' c
alls. A.R.R. is a very young man of prodigious talent with an immense sens
itivity to the film's context and characters. Whatever I say about his gen
ius will be stating the obvious. He finds the sound for every character in
the film. He finds the character's sur. Raag, rhythm, reggae, folk, class
ical, he's got it on his finger tips. He's so cinema literate. He can disc
uss Ingmar Bergman's Autumn Sonata and he can talk about Subhash Ghai's Ta
al, all in one breath." Singer Alka Yagnik opines "He's a one-man-show. On
ce he's taught you the song, he gives you a free hand. He lets you sing it
the way you want to.". Noted Qawwal, The late Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, who
worked with Rahman on 'Vandemataram' said ldquo;The young boy Rahman is th
e only person with humility in this entire industryrdquo;. Up and coming c
omposer Ismail Darbar who pipped Rahman's 'Taal' to the National Award in
2000 with his score in 'Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam' is an ardent admirer of Ra
hman. He says, "His work speaks volumes. There's no one like him. Which is
why I didn't mind when he walked away with all the awards for Taal. He's
just so good. When it comes to making electronic music he's the best. I kn
ow I can't even compete with him there." Says another leading Bollywood co
mposer Anu Malik, "I appreciate A.R's work. He has a penchant for being in
ternational. I think he is talented. A.R. has taught me the value and mean
ing of sound in my recording and thanks to him, today I am my own arranger."

One of his closest associates, long time friend and sound engineer H. Srid
har reveals some little known facts of Rahman,"I had known Rahman many yea
rs before I started working with him on Roja. While he was doing jingles,
we would often meet and compare notes on music trends and synthesisers. Ra
hman's biggest asset is that he treats each song as his first song. He pra
ys before each session. I believe there is some power in his God, faith an
d religion. I can give you countless examples when he became so inspired a
fter his prayers. He is very open-minded about what a song needs and gives
each song a completely individual taste. It is the way he soothes you int
o a song that I call his signature. There is a visual texture in his mind
when he composes music. When you see the song picturised you can immediate
ly connect. Rahman allows musicians to be themselves. He understands their
soul. He also has a fabulous way of getting notes out of a musician witho
ut telling them in so many words. Rahman never ceases to amaze me. He is s
uch a fine musician apart from being a music director; his strength is fus
ion. He is also a techno-junkie. If you give him a set of headphones he wi
ll most probably rip it apart to understand why it works so well! I someti
mes say that we are techno-brats. But Rahman knows that a song shouldn't s
peak the technical language but should have soul. Rahman is humble and ver
y generous with money. He hates to see people suffer. I think his philosop
hy is that people should derive happiness from his music, even if it is a
sad tune. He has this tremendous need to be perfect." Hot shot director of
the bubblegum generation, Karan Johar says "The only music composer from
the current lot who will be remembered for a long time is A.R.Rahman."

Comments British-based international chart star Apache Indian, who worked


with Rahman on a track for the film 'Love Birds', "He's very talented as a
songwriter and singer. I think he can do great things." His mentor and f
avourite director Mani Ratnam says, "I have found that Rahman is a favouri
te because he is new and above all different. He knows the pulse of the au
dience. He has a very good sense of tune. He knows what kind of orchestrat
ion is necessary for a scene and what music suits the mood of the scene.He
has the music in his mind, and uses every musician as an artiste, probabl
y because he has been an instrumentalist himself. He tries to extract some
thing extra from every one of his musicians as well as his playback singer
s. He believes in their additional input. Rahman improvises. I found in hi
m a new and different composer who never compromises on quality. Rahman is
every director’s dream." He has no ego problems and tries to come out wit
h a new number with the same kind of passion with which he did the earlier
one. But he is best summed up, perhaps, in the words of Cinematographer-d
irector Rajeev Menon who worked on many ads and the films 'Minsara Kanavu'
and 'Kandukonden Kandukonden' with him, " Music comes to him instinctivel
y. When you see him play, his skill is such that you really believe God ex
ists in his work."

India's leading newspaper 'The Times of India' carried a feature titled "M
en we regard: Our tribute to the men without whom this world would be quit
e, quite insipid" in which it picked Rahman as one of them and wrote "Musi
c maker A.R.Rahman has given these raucous and raunchy times melody and mo
od. His style is individual to the extent of sounding repetitive sometimes
, but when you hear his work, you feel at last the kind of involvement wit
h the spell of sound that was R.D.Burman's. What is most attractive about
Rahman's music is his ability to link modern rhythms and experiments with
sound with our enormous legacy of classical and folk music."

India's leading newsmagazine 'India Today' paid glowing tributes to him whe
n it published the following lines - "Sometimes a song is just a tune for a
music director, whose rhythm invades you, which you hum in front of a bath
room mirror that has a warranty never to break. Sometimes a song is just an
intricately woven lacing of words that embraces you on a still, lonely nig
ht. Sometimes a song is just a voice for a music director, whose passion ma
kes your hair stand. When A.R. Rahman takes you on a journey-- and to hear
it is to feel you have no choice but to journey with him...... ." India's l
eading women's magazine Femina published a feature in its July 1999 issue l
isting Rahman as one of the 14 "Men we'll still want to see around in 2009"
EARLY DAYS:

A. R. Rahman or Allah Rakha Rahman was born actually A. S. Dileep Kumar o


n the 6th of January in the year 1967, in Madras (now Chennai), to a music
ally affluent Tamil Mudaliar family. The second of four children he had t
hree sisters Kanchana, Bala (now Talat) and Israth, Kanchana being elder a
nd the other two younger. His father R.K. Sekhar was a composer, arranger
and conductor in Malayalam movies and had worked under the likes of Salil
Chowdhary and Devarajan. His mother was Kasthuri (now Kareema Begum). Dile
ep's baptism in music happened early in life. Dileep's earliest memories
of the studio are with his father. On one of those visits, a music directo
r Sudarshanam Master found the four year old playing a tune on the harmoni
um. He covered the keys with a cloth. It made no difference. Dileep replay
ed the tune effortlessly. This impressed the music director who suggested
that he be trained in music. Dileep started learning the piano at the tend
er age of four. He recieved his early training in music from Dhanraj Master.

But he wanted to grow up to be an electronics or computer engineer. He says


today, in reminiscence " I was not crazy after music. I was more interested
in technology". He was first drawn to music strongly when his father bought
a synthesiser, one of the very first in film circles then, from Singapore.
Till then he now says, "As a child, music seemed to be a means of earning br
ead and butter. I had no special fascination for it... it was associated pur
ely with work. Yet I couldn't take my eyes away from the synthesiser, it was
like a forbidden toy." This instrument was an object of much curiosity to t
he young Dileep and caught his fancy. Dileep used to spend hours experimenti
ng with the novel instrument. This instrument was to shape the future of thi
s child. It was perhaps divinely ordained that the synthesiser would become
Dileep's favourite instrument since it was the ideal combination of music an
d technology.

Rahman's early years were one of struggle and hardships. At the age of 9, hi
s father passed away following a mysterious illness with rumours abounding t
hat he was the victim of black magic practised by his rivals. Unfortunately
R. K. Shekhar passed away the very same day his first film as composer was r
eleased. It was at this time that Rahman's belief in God first took a beatin
g. Much of his time was filled with hospital visits, pain and anxieties. It
is an issue that Rahman outrightly refuses to discuss even today. After his
father's death the pressure of supporting his family fell on the young Dilee
p. At first the family subsisted by lending out his father's musical instrum
ents. At the age of 11, he joined Illaiyaraja's troupe as a keyboard player
in order to earn for his family's upkeep. He also learnt to play the guitar.
Thus Rahman formally entered the world of music. He also began to play the
keyboard for programmes on television.

It was his mother Kareema Begum who encouraged him to follow in his fathe
r's footsteps and fully supported him in his vocation. But all this had a
n adverse effect on his formal education. Infrequent attendance and an un
accommodative management forced him to shift schools from the prestigious
Padma Seshadri Bal Bhavan to the Madras Christian College and finally he
dropped out of school altogether when he was doing his 11th grade. He al
so played on the orchestra of M.S.Vishwanathan, Raj-Koti and Ramesh Naidu
and accompanied Zakir Hussain and Kunnakudi Vaidyanathan on world tours.
He also appeared playing the keyboard on a few popular music shows on te
levison like 'Wonder Balloon' on the Madras Doordarshan channel. He also
supposedly composed a few short pieces of music in Ilaiyaraja's films, a
notable one being the theme music in K.Balachander's 'Punnagai Mannan'.

All this experience enabled him to earn a scholarship to the famed Trinity
College of Music at Oxford University from where he obtained a degree in
Western Classical Music. He came back with a dream to bring an internation
al and contemporary world perspective to Indian music. After he returned,
he continued to be a part of various local music troupes. He was also a pa
rt of local rock bands like Roots, Magic and Nemesis Avenue where he perfo
rmed with his future colleagues like Suresh Peters, Ranjit Barot and Sivam
ani Anandan. This, he says, was a very valuable learning experience. Thus
Dileep came to be totally immersed in music. The only source of joy to him
was music, so much so, that friends like guitarist John Anthony would say
, "Who is the Prime Minister of India, do you know? Get out and see beyond
your nose in Kodambakkam". But he was not at all sure he wanted to turn
professional.

Dileep thus firmly established himself this way and worked for nearly 8 to
9 years with various music directors. He also worked as an arranger for Ill
aiyaraja, M.S.Vishwanathan, Ouseappachan and Raj-Koti. He has this to say o
f his stint with Illaiyaraja "Until then I thought you had to drink or take
dope to be a good artist. But Ilayaraja was making such beautiful music an
d leading a pure life!'' " I was under the impression that if its music, w
hoever it is, they must have some bad habit. When I saw them with drinks an
d drugs I thought 'Oh! they are music people. They have to take drinks, smo
ke and cocaine to get their inspiration'. The man who changed these impress
ions altogether was only Ilayaraja. He proved that he can make good music w
ithout any bad habits! Even now he is an inspiration for me being so religi
ous today."

But the young and enthusiastic Dileep felt shackled by just plain arranging
and could barely withstand the monotony of playing in an orchestra all the
time with all his creative urges being suppressed. The kind of sound he li
ked was already there in fusion - in L. Shankar and L. Subramaniam whom he
worked with, and in the then popular 'Shakti' group. He played on the keybo
ard for T. V. Gopalakrishnan and Kadri Gopalnath, with Sivamani on the drum
s. He says, "It gave us some kicks.'' At this time, Vizi Manuel, the lead k
eyboard player in Illaiyaraja's troupe advised him to try other alternative
s for pursuing a musical career, like advertising. This was a suggestion th
at appealed to him and he explored some avenues seriously. The complexes in
creased. "I thought, what if the film world ends? I learnt driving, so that
I could survive as a driver.'' The restlessness pushed him into making jin
gles for ads. Fortunately for Dileep he soon got his first break in adverti
sing when he was asked to compose the jingle to promote Allwyn's new Trendy
range of watches, in 1987. The ads were a success and Dileep's work in the
m was appreciated. Dileep quit playing in orchestras and moved full time in
to advertising as a few more offers came his way. Thus began Dileep's 5-yea
r successful saga in advertising where he went on to not only compose more
than 300 jingles, but would also be the stepping stone to his entry into films.
Working as a jingle composer not only gave him an outlet to his creative u
rges but also gave him the much needed exposure to the music industry. The
people he came in contact with during his work in advertising gave him a
pathway to the film world. During his stint in advertising, he released hi
s first ever complete music album, of Islamic devotional songs, titled 'De
en Isai Malai', in Tamil. This was later followed by 'Set Me Free', an alb
um of English songs which was the launch album of singer Malgudi Subha, by
Magnasound, where Dileep set the songs to tune. Subha had earlier sung fo
r Dileep in many jingles. Both the albums went somewhat unnoticed in the m
arket. He also set to tune the poems of poet-author Randhir Khare.

Around this time, in 1988, one of his sisters fell seriously ill and numero
us attempts to cure her failed. Her condition progressively worsened. The f
amily tried everything from medicine to religious methods like havans and p
rayers in the church. The family had given up all hope when they came in cl
ose contact with a Muslim Pir - Sheik Abdul Qadir Jeelani or Pir Qadri as h
e was popularly known. The family had earlier gone to the Pir when his fath
er had similar troubles, but were too late to save him. With his prayers an
d blessings, Dileep's sister made a miraculous recovery. Rattled by the bad
experiences earlier in the case of his father and now his sister and influ
enced by the teachings of the Pir and the succour that they found in him th
e entire family converted to Islam. Thus A. S. Dileep Kumar became Allah Ra
kha Rahman. Today, Rahman says 'Islam has given me peace. As Dileep I had a
n inferiority complex. As A. R. Rahman I feel like I have been born again.'

Both his father and mother were believers in Astrology. His mother took hi
m along once to a astrologer to get the horoscope of Bala (Talat) done. Sh
e asked the astrologer to suggest an Islamic name for Dilip. The astrologe
r on seeing Dilip immediately told his mother to name him as Abdul Rahman
and shorten it to A. R. Rahman. When his mother asked the astrologer why t
he other initial 'R', the astrologer replied "Give him a name with two ini
tials and mark my words, he will grow up to be a great man". His mother di
d accordingly. But the A and R would later become Allah Rakha on the sugge
stion of reknowned composer Naushad Ali.

In an interview, he was to say about his father, " My father passed away w
hen I was 9 years old. My mother used to narrate many tales about my fathe
r which used to make me very happy. My father was regarded to be highly kn
owledgeable in music by many people. I still listen to many of the old son
gs tuned by him. I think that its his enormous knowledge of music that has
come down to me by the grace of God".

When asked what prompted him to convert to Islam, he says "I remember my fa
ther suffering. He was taken to eight to nine hospitals, including the CMC
hospital in Vellore and the Vijaya hospital in Madras. I saw him suffering
physical pain... I remember the Christian priests who would read from the B
ible beside his hospital bed... I remember the pujas and the yagnas perform
ed by the pundits... by the time, the Muslim pirs came , it was too late. H
e had already left us. After my father passed away, for some years when I w
as a teenager I believed there was no God. But there was a feeling of restl
essness within me. I realised that there can be no life without a force gov
erning us... without one God. And I found what I was looking for in Islam.
I would go with my mother to durgahs. And pirsaab Karim Mullashah Qadri wou
ld advise us. When we shifted to this house, we resolved to stick to the fa
ith."

Rahman became a very religious and devout Muslim. After this period his car
eer graph began to take the upward path. More and more advertising offers c
ame his way. In 1989 Rahman was very intent on having an own studio so that
he would have dedicated recording facilities where he could not only equip
himself with the latest infrastucture but also experiment with music at hi
s convenience. At this time, the Pir came to his house and blessed him sayi
ng that he would attain unparalled success. The very next day the Pir passe
d away. Thus Rahman decided to establish his studio at the very spot where
he had been blessed by the Pir. He called his studio Panchathan Record Inn
and it was attached to his house in Kodambakkam. Even today, the first thi
ng that you notice when you enter his studio is a framed photograph of the
Pir. The studio abounds with Islamic inscriptions. This studio would later
develop into one of India's most well equipped and advanced recording studi
os. In his established state-of-the-art sound and recording studio he began
experimenting in sound engineering, design and production. He also began a
collection of sound samples, creating one of the most comprehensive sonic
libraries in Asia.

Continuing with his stint in the advertising world Rahman did a lot of po
pular ads like those for Parry's, Leo Coffee, Springz Mineral Water, Boos
t featuring Sachin Tendulkar and Kapil Dev, Titan, Remanika Sarees, Premi
er Pressure Cooker, MRF Tyres, Hero Puch, The Hindu Young World and Asian
Paints. He also scored the title music for television channels like JJTV
, Sun TV, and Asianet. He also scored the music for numerous television
and radio commercials, scores for corporate films and documentaries, mult
i-media audio-visual scores national integration programmes, social aware
ness and public campaign programmes and international documentaries in ma
ny languages. These scores range from 10 seconds to a complete hour. The
jingles that he composed for the Leo Coffee ad starring Aravind Swamy and
the Asian Paints ad directed by Rajeev Menon also won him awards and rec
ognition. He also won an award for composing the theme music of the Madra
s Telugu Academy's Spirit of Unity Concerts. Later he would say about his
stint in advertising " Working in ads contributed to the precision in my
music. In jingles, you only have a few seconds to create a mood, or conv
ey a message or emotion. Jingles taught me discipline."

THE YEAR - 1992:

During this period, on one of his trips to Bombay he met the veteran Hindi
music director Naushad Ali who was very impressed by the young Rahman's w
ork and asked him to try his hand at composing for films. Rahman was initi
ally a little hesitant about entering films mainly because of the attitude
of most movie makers towards music, where songs were used as just fillers
and something to give the audience a break during a movie. But in 1991, h
e was given an offer that would change his life. At the awards function wh
ere he received the award for Best Jingle Composer for the Leo Coffee ad,h
e was approached by the man known as the Spielberg of India, Mani Ratnam.
In the course of his interactions with Mani Ratnam, he was offered the res
ponsibility of composing music for the director's forthcoming film. Rahman
, inspite of his reluctance to seriously take up work in films, accepted t
he offer since Mani Ratnam had the reputation of a director with a keen ta
ste for good music and he was sure the director would do justice to his co
mpositions on screen.

Rahman would later say, "I wasn't sure myself why I accepted Roja. I was off
ered Rs.25,000 for it, a sum that I could make in three days composing ad ji
ngles. I think it was the prospect of working with Mani that enticed me. Man
i is no the usual kind of director who uses songs as fillers. He takes great
pains over the music of his films. I love his picturisations, he can elevat
e a routine song by 400 percent; give it a new dimension." All the same, as
a newcomer Rahman was terrified over his film debut. Expectations were high.
What a fall if he failed! "Mani praised everything I did. Later I realised
it was to keep me going. He discarded whatever bore the influence of others
and picked out tunes that had my individual stamp. ''This is you!" he'd say.''

Rahman's D-Day arrived when 'Roja' was released on August 15th, 1992. It w
as awaited with curiosity since it was Mani Ratnam's first film without Il
laiyaraja. Sceptics doubted the ability of a 25-year old debutant. The ent
ire film world and filmgoers were in for a pleasant surprise. Rahman deliv
ered the goods and how. To call the music a superhit would be an understat
ement. Rahman became a household name in Tamil Nadu overnight and the scor
e of 'Roja' was the first step in his changing the face of Indian film mus
ic. 'Roja' not only won the heart of millions with its music it also won e
very conceivable award in music that year. Rahman also got the Rajat Kamal
for best music director at the National Film Awards, the first time ever
by a debutant. He was flooded with offers to do more films. He gradually
cut down on his work in ads and subsequently moved into film music full ti
me. And there was no looking back for A. R. Rahman. With 'Roja', A. R. Rah
man had finally arrived.

Recalling the massive success of his first film, Rahman says, "I was lucky
to set a sound in the first film. And I had the right people like Mani Ratn
am guiding me to achieve it also and by the grace of god it set and the peo
ple know from the moment the song is heard that this is Rahman's." Mani Rat
nam, in response says, "I was not trying to any favours for Rahman. I was
trying to do a film, I wanted good music and I was searching for somebody w
ho would and I heard a demonstration tape of his which he had sent across.
I thought that in the first note of the piece that he had sent me was reall
y brilliant, really outstanding piece. So I went across to his studio and h
e played me some more, lots of things which he had done for jingles and a f
ew other musical pieces he has done for somebody else. They were quite amaz
ing and I had no doubts that he would be right for my film. How much he wou
ld grow, I was not looking at. I was looking at predominately my film at th
at point of time. He was ready to break a lot of conventions that were ther
e in terms of music at that point of time, in terms of recording at that po
int in time. So I was very lucky to find someone who was willing to break a
way and do something different. To that extent it was absolutely perfect. H
e is the perfect bridge between today's technology and Indian music. He has
the soul of Indian music inside and there is a lot of engineering and reco
rding talent in him. He is able to blend the two together. He is a very talented person."

Producers began to queue up at his doorstep. But even at that young age, Ra
hman was very mature and sagacious. He did not let success go to his head a
nd was very choosy about what he accepted. He had his priorities set right
from the beginning. For a person who had struggled throughout his childhood
, he did not let insecurity get the better of him and wisely opted for qual
ity over quantity and refrained from signing films blindly. "Rather than ma
king money, I believe in making people happy; all other things are secondar
y. That is why I am not interested in a lot of movies but only in one at a
time. I like directors whom I can vibe with. Ten years of experience in thi
s field has made me quite frustrated. I have evolved a technique which requ
ires a lot of time. Other music directors record a song in seven or eight h
ours. But I am different. We do a basic sitting and we record it. We record
the voice and I add instrument by instrument to improve the quality." He a
lso began to formally learn Indian classical music, Carnatic from Dakshinam
urthy and N. Gopalakrishnan and Hindustani from Krishnan Nair. He took clas
ses in film music from Nithyanandham and Western Classical from Jacob John.
He also learnt the qawwalli style from Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan".

THE YEAR - 1993:

The following year, 1993, saw a lot of new releases that made him more pop
ular. His second film 'Pudhiya Mugam' with director Suresh Menon was also
a success but was not in the same league as 'Roja'. It was his third film
"Gentleman" with debutante director Shankar that firmly established him as
the new king of Tamil film music. 'Gentleman' became a bigger hit than 'R
oja' especially the song 'Chikku bukku rayile'. Rahman also did a film in
Malayalam called 'Yodha' for the brothers Sangeeth and Santosh Sivan, and
two films in Telugu titled 'Super Police' and 'Gangmaster', all of which w
ere moderate successes. But his Malayalam and Telugu films have remained r
elatively unknown till date, inspite of having the classic Rahman touch in
them. 'Yodha' particularly was offbeat featuring Nepali, Tibetan and Budd
hist music in tune with the film's setting.
His other films in Tamil in that and the subsequent year were 'Uzhavan' wi
th Kadhir, 'Kizhakku Cheemayile' with Bharathiraaja, with both of whom he
would work on many more films in the future, 'Vandicholai Chinnarasu', an
d 'Pudhiya Mannargal'. All the scores were only moderately successful. Bu
t it was his second score for Mani Ratnam in 'Thiruda Thiruda' and for K.B
alachander in 'Duet' that really stood out. Rahman redefined film music
with his score in 'Thiruda Thiruda'. While the film itself did not do too
well, the music became an all time chartbuster and the Tamil songs of 'Thi
ruda Thiruda' appeared on Hindi language countdown shows. It was for the f
irst time that Tamil songs became popular on a national scale. His equally
unconventional score for 'Duet' centering around one instrument - the sax
ophone, played by one of its noted Indian exponents Kadri Gopalnath, was a
lso widely appreciated and is considered to be one of Rahman's best scores.

THE YEAR - 1994:

In late-1994, 'Roja' was dubbed into Hindi. Needless to say, both the movi
e and the music become phenomenal successes. This heralded a new trend whe
re every Rahman film was necessarily a trilingual with the film getting du
bbed into Telugu and Hindi. 'Roja' was also later dubbed into Malayalam, M
arathi and Bengali. At the time of Roja's success in Hindi, Rahman's secon
d film for Shankar, 'Kadhalan' featuring dancing sensation Prabhudeva was
released. It was as if the movie was structured around the brilliant score
that Rahman produced for Kadhalan. While the entire score was a runaway h
it, one song 'Mukkala Muqabla' caught the imagination of the entire nation
, never mind if the song was in Tamil. "Muqabla' became the flavour of the
year. The song was played at every club, disco, restaurant, marriage hall
and street corner across the country and went down in Indian movie histor
y as one of the most popular songs of all time. There was not a soul in th
e country who was neither dancing to it or humming it. With this song Rahm
an became a nationally recognised figure. The song was plagiarised freely
by Bombay's tunesmiths and nearly a dozen versions of the song were churne
d out, a feat that earned 'Muqabla' and Rahman a place in the Limca Book o
f Records, the Indian equivalent of the Guinness Book of Records.

But Rahman was more pleased about the immense popularity of the song 'Enn
avale Adi Ennavale' which won Carnatic vocalist Unnikrishnan, making his
film debut with this song, the National Award, because he felt that it is
easy to compose a dance number like 'Muqabla' which is here today and go
ne tomorrow but is real hard work to produce an everlasting gem like 'Enn
avale'. He said that he had been inspired by a 2000 year old Tamil compos
ition. Overnight most Rahman tunes in Tamil reappeared in Hindi albeit un
der the baton of other music directors. Three other releases of Rahman th
at year were 'Pavithra' , 'Karuthamma' with Bharathiraaja and "May Maatha
m', a film that was originally supposed to be made by Mani Ratnam but was
later made by his cousin Balu. One interesting story about May Maatham w
ent thus. Producer G. Venkateshwaran, incidentally Mani Ratnam's brother,
sold the rights of the music of the film to three companies simultaneous
ly on the strength of Rahman's score. Lahiri, Pyramid and HMV shelled out
huge sums, sure of the score's success but unaware of the producer's sub
terfuge. When the deed was discovered the companies took GV to court. He
finally sold the rights to Pyramid who had offered him the highest sum, m
ollified Lahiri by offering them the rights of his next film with Rahman,
Indira -diretced by Suhasini Maniratnam, and had an out-of-court settlem
ent with HMV. In 1994 Rahman also won the Filmfare Award, Tamil Nadu Stat
e Award and many others for 'Gentleman'. He also won the Filmfare-R. D. B
urman Award for best new musical talent.

Following the unprecedented success of 'Muqabla' Rahman realised the impor


tance of not only having to do original Hindi scores but also ensure that
the dubbed Hindi versions of his Tamil films were released simultaneously,
to prevent the continued blatant lifting of his tunes by Bollywood tunesm
iths. He stepped into the cutthroat world of Bollywood when he signed two
Hindi films, one for director Mahesh Bhatt and one for the Seengals of Com
pact Disc India to be directed by Priyadarshan. While the film with Mahesh
Bhatt was shelved even before a scene was canned the other film was taken
over by R.Mohan('Good Knight' Mohan) of Shogun Films and would appear muc
h later as 'Kabhi Na Kabhi'. But his first original release in Hindi would
actually be the third film that he would sign.

Popular Telugu director Ramgopal Varma was also setting foot into Bollywo
od just then with two films, one a remake of one of his Telugu films 'Gaa
yam' which had a script by Mani Ratnam and the other titled 'Rangeela'. F
ollowing a strong recommendation from friend and colleague Mani Ratnam, V
arma signed on Rahman for 'Rangeela'. Following this, directors from Boll
ywood clamoured to work with the 'whiz-kid' and Rahman also signed Bollyw
ood movie mogul Subhash Ghai's Magnum Opus 'Shikhar' and noted art film d
irector Govind Nihalani's 'Droh-kaal'. But 'Shikhar' was shelved and Rahm
an was forced to opt out of 'Droh-kaal' when he lost all his compositions
for the movie owing to a computer system crash. But later Rahman would w
ork with both directors, with Ghai in 'Taal - The Beat of Passion' and wi
th Nihalani in 'Takshak'. Rahman was very frustrated about not being able
to work in 'Droh-kaal' and rued the loss of his compositions for the mov
ie. He recounted later that it was one of the most unique experiences for him.

THE YEAR - 1995:

In early 1995 'Kadhalan' was dubbed into Hindi as 'Humse Hai Muqabla' and
needless to say, went the same way as the original. In April 1995, Rahma
n's third film with Mani Ratnam, the controversial 'Bombay' was released.
The successful partnership that he had forged with his mentor went to ne
w heights with the music of this film. The music of 'Bombay' was one of t
he most awaited scores and was hailed as a classic. With this film, Rahma
n also formally took to playback singing. Rahman had lent his voice to hi
s compositions earlier too but they had been part of the chorus or bit pi
eces like 'Marhaba' in 'Urvashi' in 'Kadhalan' or background pieces and i
nterludes like 'Yelelo' in 'Chinna Chinna Aasai' in 'Roja'. But 'Hamma Ha
mma' in 'Bombay' was Rahman's first complete song. With 'Humma Humma' Rah
man came to be regarded as much a playback singer as a composer. It becam
e an amusing and common sight at various award functions to see the compe
res trying to cajole Rahman into singing on stage and Rahman coming up wi
th hilarious excuses to avoid the same. 'Bombay' also became the first Ra
hman film to be released in Tamil, Telugu and Hindi simultaneously. 'Humm
a Humma' became an instant chartbuster and went on to become the blockbus
ter of the year.

Rahman composed a haunting and surreal instrumental theme with a long and e
erie flute prelude to capture the sombre mood of the film. The evocative, s
oul-stirring and sensitive theme music, with a remarkably outstanding flute
interlude by his flautist Naveen, of 'Bombay' touched the hearts of many
and was included by popular British-Indian Artiste Talvin Singh as a part o
f his album "Sounds from the Asian Underground' and aroused a great deal of
curiosity in A. R. Rahman's music among international music connoisseurs.
A critic named Kingsley Marshall had this to say of the Bombay Theme - "Est
ablishing itself through soundtracked strings, which sits menacingly in a c
radle of drifting flute rises - epic horns introducing a full orchestral pr
ogression. Although classical music is more than a little unusual in a comp
ilation of dance music, the beauty of the piece warrants its inclusion - in
a class above most of the material I've heard in the last couple of months
with regards both production and arrangement. Simply stunning." The music
of 'Bombay' became the biggest seller in the history of Indian films toppli
ng 'Hum Aapke Hain Koun' from the top. Till date 'Bombay' has sold close to
15 million units in all languages.

Following closely on the heels of 'Humse Hai Muqabla' and 'Bombay', Rahman
's first original score in Hindi, 'Rangeela' was awaited with great expect
ations. Carrying the tremendous burden of the enormous expectations of the
public once again, Rahman did not disappoint. 'Rangeela' became an instan
t runaway success. With 'Rangeela' Rahman had successfully stormed the Bol
lywood bastion. Though Aamir Khan's performance in the film did help in su
staining the film at the box-office, it was Rahman's music that brought th
e crowds in droves to the theatres. Every song in the film became a phenom
enal hit. With the songs 'Rangeela Re' and 'Tanha Tanha' Rahman brought ve
teran singer Asha Bhonsle back into the limelight. Crowds danced to the mu
sic in the theatres and forced the theatres into showing the songs again.
People whistled in the theatres as his name appeared in the credits of the
movie. He hogged equal space with the actors on the publicity material of
the film. For the first time a music director was also considered as one
of the 'stars' of the film. The Tamil Nadu distributor of Rangeela, appreh
ensive about how Rangeela would perform there, since it was a Hindi film a
nd none of the stars were particularly well known in that part of the coun
try, took the advice of his brother-in-law, Ganshyam Hemdev, of Pyramid Mu
sic, and did away with the actors altogether from the posters and replaced
them with a mugshot of Rahman with the catchline "The first original scor
e of A.R.Rahman in Hindi". And sure enough, crowds flocked to watch the mo
vie like crazy and for the first time a Hindi film was a runaway success i
n Tamil Nadu.

Late 1995 saw the release of 'Indira' directed by Suhasini Maniratnam wher
e Rahman came up with a score with a rural touch. The score met with lukew
arm success with a couple of songs 'Thoda Thoda' and 'Nila Kaigiradhu' bec
oming popular. By the end of 1995, Rahman was the No.1 composer in the cou
ntry, all at the age of 28. Hailed by various critics as 'the true success
or to R.D.Burman' and the 'Messiah of Music' he had endeared himself to th
e Bombay film crowd as well but Bollywood music directors were none too ha
ppy about his success. Not only were they now unable to rip off his tunes
without a care but they had to compete with him on their own turf to boot
. Rahman began to reportedly charge over 1 crore rupees (10 million) per f
ilm, more than three times that of his nearest competitor. But most produc
ers were readily willing to shell out even that amount forcing him to furt
her hike his fees as a deterrent and keep the producers at bay. The ones w
ho could not sign up Rahman took someone else and asked him for a 'Rahman
jaisa gaana'(literally - Rahman type song - meaning a song in the style of
Rahman's music). He had become a national idol and cult figure. His style
of music had become the rage of the day.

Rahman's music also began to arouse interest internationally. He was treate


d like a God and crowned with titles like 'Isai Arasan'(Emperor of Music);
'Isai Puyal' (Musical Storm) and 'Melody King'. Adulation that was reserved
for the biggest of film stars was showered on him. Moviegoers cheered wild
ly and threw money at the screen when his name appeared on the credits. Fil
ms that were sold on the strength of the stars in it or its directors now b
egan to sell just on the strength of the name A. R. Rahman attached to it a
nd attract fabulous initial responses when released. The music rights of th
e movie, till then just a nominal source of additional income for the produ
cer, became a separate territory in its own right and commanded prices equi
valent to the distribution rights. Any Rahman sound track used to sell out
within hours of its release. For the first time one could see crowds queuin
g up outside music stores on the morning of the release of any Rahman sound
track. Crowds that used to leave the movie hall for a break during the song
s stayed put firmly in their seats and took in every note of the songs in R
ahman's films. People came in to music stores and asked if there were any n
ew releases by Rahman, instead of the practice of asking for a film by name
or by a that of a starring popular actor. But Rahman had a sound head on h
is shoulders and took none of this overwhelming acclaim to mind. He had his
feet firmly planted to the ground and went about his work with the same de
votion and dedication as before. He did not give a dozen interviews a week
and shoot his mouth off like most others did. In fact he became very elusiv
e and remained as media-shy as ever. He rarely if ever met the media, going
to great lengths to avoid them and would not even say more than a 'Thank Y
ou' at awards nites inspite of rpeated requests for rendering a song on sta
ge. This earned him the nickname 'Artful Dodger'.

In 1995 he yet again won the Filmfare Award and the Tamil Nadu State Awar
d , among many others, for 'Kadhalan'. He was also a very strong contende
r for the National Award. But according to Chetan Anand, the Chairman of
the Jury for the National Awards for that year "Rahman's music in 'Kadhal
an' had a great deal of variety which established the versatility of the
composer and swung most members in the jury to his side, but since 'Kadha
lan' was a typical masala movie, we thought it would send the wrong signa
ls to film makers and decided against giving it the award". End 1995 als
o saw the release of an album of his favourite lyricist, Vairamuthu's dou
ble album of poetry amp;'Thenvandhu Paayudhe' where he scored the backgro
und music for Vairamuthu's recitation. But the album remained very incons
picuous. He consolidated his hold on Bollywood and signed more Hindi film
s with Shekhar Kapoor's 'Tararampampam' (which is yet to be made), Boney
Kapoor's 'Pukaar' to be directed by Raj Kumar Santoshi and Ramgopal Varma
's 'Daud'.
Fresh from the success of his "Bandit Queen", director Shekhar Kapoor plan
ned "Tararampampam" as a mega musical with 10 songs. Rumours that Rahman h
imself would be producing the movie abounded. But Kapoor took for foreign
shores leaving the movie unmade as yet. He also agreed to do a film in Hin
di for his schoolmate turned director Shivendra Singh titled 'Waqia' and l
ater a second film with him titled 'Ittefaq'. Rahman was to work with Gulz
ar on both the movies. Both the films never got made unfortunately. Rahman
's first score for Rajnikanth was released, with 'Muthu', in 1995. The sco
re was awaited with high expectations and one witnessed serpentine queues
outside music stores on the morning of the soundtrack's release and casset
tes were even sold at a premium. Though the music did very well it was cri
ticised for not suiting Rajnikanth's superstar image. The song 'Thillana T
hillana' became a chartbuster. He also did 'Lovebirds' the same year where
he sang a song with the international Bhangra-Rap star Apache Indian.

His music also received international recognition when his tracks were us
ed on the BBC Clothes Show and other international fashion shows. He was
invited to compose the theme music of the 1996 Cricket World Cup that was
to be held in India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Rahman accepted the offer b
ut later backed out for unspecified reasons with some sources saying that
he had quoted lack of sufficient time to do a befitting job. He also sig
ned three films with Hollywood-Indian producer Ashok Amritraj, one film e
ach in Tamil(Jeans), Hindi(Love You Hamesha) and English(Jungle Boy). He
was also offered 'Kamasutra' by the Indian-American director Mira Nair an
d 'Fire' by Indian born Canadian director Deepa Mehta. He accepted only t
he latter. He would go on to do 'Earth' and 'Water' with Deepa Mehta, to
complete her Elements trilogy. He later said in an interview that much as
he wanted to work with Mira Nair he turned down Kamasutra because he did
not want to be known internationally as the 'Kamasutra Boy'.

Reflecting on the runaway success of his rhythm based tunes, he says, " I h
ad some golden rules when I started my first film, 'Roja'. These rules were
- good lyrics, good thought, good melodies, good recording and good presen
tation. But I think Gentleman was to break the rule completely because Shan
kar wanted commercial music for the film to break the monotony of the serio
us subject. So we did it, and gave it full blast to them. Unfortunately the
success of the rhythm-based compositions reached the masses much faster th
an normal 'Roja' type of music and the trend became an epidemic because it
was easy and safe. I was pushed by producers to make similar kind of stuff.
But rhythm-based compositions can be listened to only for a very short tim
e, though we put in too much energy in polishing it. But later, I realised
that the golden rules were going out of my hand. I think we are back to nor
mal."

On the personal front, 1995 proved to be a momentous year for him. That y
ear, on March 12, he got married to Saira Banu, sister-in-law of the Tami
l actor Rahman and the daughter of a Madras based businessman.

THE YEAR - 1996:

Rahman's popularity touched such heights, that other composers began to c


ash in, rather innovatively, on his name rather than his music. Many albu
ms like 'Fantasy' and 'Beauty Palace' which actually had music composed
by someone else but was falsely credited to Rahman were released in the m
arket. Usually such albums had Rahman's photograph splashed across the al
bum cover to draw the attention of buyers. And most people bought such al
bums without question if they saw the name A. R. Rahman on it. So much so
, that the music company Magnasound re-released one of Rahman's first alb
ums 'Set Me Free' under the title 'Shubhaa' without the consent of Rahman
, which led to the souring of relations between the two. In its earlier a
vatar as 'Set Me Free' the focus was on singer Malgudi Shuba and Rahman w
as a mere footnote as Dileep. But this time around, the spotlight was on
Rahman and Shubha was relegated to the background. Magnasound publicised
the release as 'Rahman's first international English album'. Hoardings pu
blicising the album sprung up overnight in major cities. Rahman was livid
. "I'm not ashamed of my old album. Neither am I trying to hide my past,"
explained the music director. But he wanted the public to know that 'Set
Me Free' was a six-year-old album which was done as an experimental vent
ure with singer Shubhaa. Magnasound, he said, was wrong in trying to pass
it off as a brand-new album. Magnasound sold 2 lakh copies in no time, a
n increase of over 10000% in sales since the previous time. But Magnasoun
d's Managing Director Madhav Das was unapologetic about it, "See, we had
the rights to the album. And today A.R.Rahman's name is an instant guaran
tee to success. So, what is wrong in exploiting that?". That summed up th
e brand equity of the name 'A. R. Rahman'.

Relatively, 1996 proved to be a listless year for Rahman, career wise. He


had only four major releases, 'Indian', 'Lovebirds', 'Mr. Romeo', and 'Kad
hal Desam' along with Bharathiraaja's extremely low-profile 'Anthimanthara
i'. Though the music of both the films , Indian and Kadhal Desam did very
well they did not take him to any newer heights on counts of both creativi
ty and success. From 'Indian', starring Kamalhassan, 'Akada', 'Maya Machin
dra' and 'Telephone Mani' became huge hits. In 'Kadhal Desam', his second
film with Kadhir, he went the whole hog and sang 3 of the 6 songs with 'M
usthafa Musthafa' becoming extremely popular. With 'Musthafa Musthafa', Ra
hman arrived as a singer. 'Mr. Romeo' and 'Lovebirds', both starring Prabh
udeva. bombed. His background score for Deepa Mehta's 'Fire', where some e
nchanting new compositions were embellished with snatches from his score f
or 'Bombay', was internationally appreciated. But the soundtrack of 'Fire'
was not released in India and was available only through mail order from
a German company. This denied the score not just public acclaim but also p
revented the masses from listening to one of Rahman's best soundtracks.

That year, he was offered a very prestigious multilingual project, 'Kaalapa


ni' by director Priyadarshan with whom he was already working on 'Kabhi Na K
abhi'. But, reportedly on the request of lyricist-writer Javed Akhtar who ha
d scripted 'Kabhi Na Kabhi' that he concentrate on any one of Priyadarshan's
films he opted out of 'Kaalapani'. Following the failure of his 'Trimurti',
Subhash Ghai decided to put 'Shikhar' on hold and make a relatively low-bud
get film called 'Pardes' and he asked Rahman to handle the score. But Rahman
's response as he recounted later was "At that time I was extremely busy wit
h 7-8 films. I told him that if I had to work with him I had to give him pri
ority and I if I gave him priority I wouldn't be able to do these films. So
I said let me finish these and then we will work together. He said alright a
nd demanded full priority on the next film". And he later went on to do Ghai
's 'Taal - The Beat of passion'.

He also went on his first ever concert tour, to Malaysia, in October 1996
where he was greeted by hysterical crowds. For this concert he specially c
omposed a song 'Bosnia Oh Bosnia' since the concert was in aid of Bosnian
War victims. This song was rendered by a chorus of 40 children accompanied
by Rahman on the piano. The lyrics were in the local Bahasa-Malay languag
e. The concert was a humongous success. It featured all the top singers fr
om India including Hariharan, S. P. Balasubramnaniam and others. For the f
irst time Rahman sang in public when he rendered 'Musthafa Musthafa' at th
is concert. As always, he won numerous awards that year, the notable ones
being two Filmfare Awards for 'Bombay' and 'Rangeela'.

In end-1996, Rahman went on a signing spree in Tamil films. He signed Kadh


ir's next film 'Kadhalar Dhinam'. He then signed his friends R. M. Sait an
d Anwar Ali's "Love Letter'. There was lot of speculation that Rahman was
producing this film along with his friends. But this turned out to be fals
e. 'Love Letter' was later retitled 'En Swasa Katre'. He also signed 'Engi
neer' starring Arvind Swamy and Madhuri Dixit to be directed by Shankar's
assistant Gandhi Krishna. Unfortunately the film has remained unmade till
date owing to a cash crunch. One other film that has remained unmade was "
Mudhal Mudhalaaga' starring Arvind Swamy and Karisma Kapoor directed by Ma
ni Ratnam's assistant Perumal.

One very interesting incident that occurred that year, was at the annual
Screen-Videocon Awards for cinematic excellence in Mumbai. Following the
super success of 'Rangeela', everyone took it for granted that Rahman wou
ld win the award for Best Music. Even the organisers forced him to come a
ll the way from Madras to Mumbai, saying that he had got the award and he
had to receive it personally. On the night of the Awards ceremony, every
one at the event and those watching the show live on T.V. were shocked in
to stunned silence when the award for Best Music Score was given away to
Rajesh Roshan for a fairly popular though largely copied score in 'Karan-
Arjun'. Even the compere of the show Javed Jaffrey was taken aback and im
mediately rushed to Rahman in the audience and asked him for his reaction
. All that Rahman said was 'God is Great!' which immediately won the hear
ts of everybody. Such is the humbleness of this man.

THE MAN BEHIND THE MUSIC:

Gradually, criticism also began to pour in. He was said to be very slow and
was accused of taking his own time in composing, something that reportedly
forced Mani Ratnam to drop a song from 'Bombay' to release the already del
ayed film on time. Rumours were rife that Mani Ratnam had dropped him from
his next project for this reason but they were proved to be unfounded. But
Rahman made no bones about it and said that he was no machine that could ch
urn out scores on an assembly line endlessly and admitted that he did take
his time over his scores. He added that it was essential that he take his t
ime in order to do a quality job and made clear the same to his directors b
efore taking up the assignment. "What is the use of quick delivery if you d
on't get good stuff? I'm not lazy. I need time to get involved so that some
thing undefined comes naturally to help the movie. I can't do it in a week
- all I had for Karuthamma.''

The above problem threw up another quirk in Rahman's scores. Due to the la
ck of time in completing scores Rahman began to serve up his lesser known
earlier compositions in new avatars. This happened for the first time when
he used the 'Raakozhi Rendu' song from 'Uzhavan' as 'Aa Siggueggulenta Va
raku' in the Telugu film 'Super Police'. He followed this up by using the
song 'Baboo Love Cheyyara' from 'Gangmaster' as 'Yaaron Sun Lo Zara' in 'R
angeela' . Then 'Anjali Anjali' from 'Duet' reappeared as 'Milgaye Woh Man
zilen' in 'Kabhi Na Kabhi' . This dubious practice earned Rahman a lot of
criticism but he didn't seem to care. This feature would become a hallmark
in many of his future scores. He would reuse 'Porale Ponnuthayi' from 'Ka
ruthamma' as 'Gurus of Peace' in 'Vandemataram', 'Ottagathai Kattiko' from
'Gentleman' as 'Musafir' in 'Vandemataram', 'Maanpoove' from 'Yodha' as '
Chevaanam' in 'Pavithra', and 'Jumbalakka' from 'En Swasa Katre' as 'Jumba
lika' in 'Thakshak'. But he would top himself when he would go on to reuse
not one but two songs for 'Pukar'. 'Oh Bosnia' would reappear as 'Ek Tu H
i Bharosa' and 'Nayagara' from 'En Swasa Katre' as 'Kay Sera Sera'.

Another charge against him was that his music was getting repetitive. Initia
lly Rahman countered it saying that it was his individualistic brand of musi
c and therefore might sound that way but later he brushed away the oft-repea
ted allegation saying "hellip; the accusation is getting repetitive. You cal
l it predictable, I term it as my style. They are ways of looking at it. If
you call my style predictable, that means you have understood Rahman has bee
n dealing with a particular brand of music alone. Once you hear the music, y
ou know it is has been composed by Rahman. That is what I am all about. That
is my identity; that is the identity of my music. ". " If I stick to my wha
t you call my trademark sound, I am accused of sounding the same, and if I t
ry to do something different , people complain that it doesn't sound like Ra
hman's music. Its a no-win situation for me. Left to myself I would like to
be adventurous and try out styles I haven't tried before."

Rahman takes both acclaim and criticism in his stride. When told that that m
any are of the opinion that he has given a new dimension to music he respond
s by saying that many also feel that he is lousy. He adds further that ' I a
ccept I am lousy at times. It depends on the inspiration I get. One can't be
on the same creative plane always'.

Many of his colleagues in Madras and Bombay, unable to compete with him too
k the route of slander and took digs at him calling him 'only a jingle comp
oser' and saying that he would fizzle out in a couple of films. The same 'c
omposers' who copied him left, right and centre made grandiloquent statemen
ts like "Let us see if he is around after two years, Rahman's type of music
is just a temporary passing fad which will wear out once the crowd gets us
ed to his music, he will not be able to sustain himself". Always one to shy
away from controversies, Rahman refused to be drawn in to a war of words a
nd responded characteristically with a very curt "Music speaks, statements
don't.". And as expected he replied with his music which blew all the other
composers out of the scene.

When asked about the influences in his music he says "Nobody can be completel
y original ... because the notes are already there... from the notes we form
a raag and from the raag a tune... it is a process. As far as possible, to my
conscience, I try to be original. The rest is up to Allah." Explaining his a
pproach to composing he says, "Once I complete a composition, a week later, I
listen to it and after two weeks, I take it up again. In the process my musi
c grows. Sometimes even after a shoot, I listen to the music find its allwron
g and get down to re-working. Sometimes it gets all done just before themusic
is mixed. For most, once the shooting is done, its all over but I don'twork
like that." Music is like a medicine that cures. Just like a medicine, it tas
tes sour at the beginning but as time passes it starts to work. If you take s
weets for example, they taste great at the beginning but they vanish without
a trace immediately. Songs are also like that. You like some songs immediatel
y on hearing but you forget them in the same speed. And there are songs that
you hated the first time you heard it, but as time goes on you get a real sat
isfied feeling hearing it. So, as far as music is concerned you can't decide
anything immediately. "

Other filmmakers, whose offers he turned down spread rumours about him. When
asked why he turns down so many offers even when he is offered stacks of te
mpting money, Rahman, as philosophicaly as always, says, "I would say that I
'm fighting as hard as I can to be exclusive. I don't have the capacity to h
andle more than 4-5 films at a time. And once I accept a project it is my re
sponsibility to give my fullest to it. When I refuse offers, I do feel terri
ble. Some could feel disappointed by my refusal. I say no mainly because I k
now I won't be able to do adequate justice to their projects. At times, they
look as if I've broken their hearts. Sad... its just that I can't please ev
eryone. And as far as the money goes, Money can't buy you happiness. The big
gest offers I get are for 'live' shows. The amount I'm offered for one conce
rt is much more than what I would earn after slogging on 10 films! But I'm a
fraid you can't buy creativity... Everyone comes with the same offer- 'state
your price, we'll give you what you want...'. Rather than huge fees, I'd ap
preciate interaction on a film's score. In reality, the best music emerges f
rom any composer when there's an exchange of ideas... when there are storie
s that inspire you. Then the project keeps moving... when you're not into th
e spirit of things, you can get stuck. And then delays in delivering the sco
re become unavoidable. So I'd rather not get into projects which don't excit
e me from the very outset. I don't want anyone to feel that I've let them do
wn later .. honestly that's how I've been brought up. Don't get into somethi
ng you'll regret later."

One other criticism levelled at him was that his hip-hop tunes had no scope
for good lyrics. This allegation was also disproved when lyricist Vairamut
hu won National Awards repeatedly for songs set to tune by Rahman, namely f
or 'Roja', 'Pavithra', 'Kadhalan' and 'Minsara Kanavu'. Rahman himself insi
sts on good poetry for his songs, "Lyrics lend immortality to a melody. The
eternal, evergreen hit songs are always the ones with profound lyrics ndas
h; lyrics that remain true and meaningful even after years."

To the criticism about the use of technology in his music he says " We are
heading towards the millenium. We have to keep abreast of times. Do they ex
pect me to continue living in the 19th century? What is wrong in resorting
to modern technology? You have to keep pace with the world around. A comput
er I bought six months ago had three minutes' waiting time to get started,
but today's computers take just three seconds to start. I can now record my
music on a hard disk and carry it around, and synthesise it with any kind
of ethnic music anywhere in the world. If we are to compete globally, we ha
ve to be in step with the times. But you have to hold yourself back from go
ing overboard. Technology is like a monster which has to be tamed. You must
know how to handle it. I spent three years to bring the music software I u
se entirely under my control."

Rahman is probably the foremost user of technology in music in India toda


y. He can probably be described as the man who pioneered the use of techn
ology in Indian music. India's leading Information Technology journal , E
xpress Computer, profiled the use of technology by Rahman. He avoids maki
ng music on tape, and prefers to carry his music on his portable computer
. Also, he composes most of his music in-flight and his favorite platform
is the Macintosh. Rahman, the progenitor of tunes the nation dances to,
is a power user of technology. A proud owner of 12 PowerMacs and two Powe
rBook portables (now 15, with the addition of the first iBook in India),
he swears by technology. "I cannot live without my computers today. Most
of my music is made on them - so much so that I carry my music on my port
able even when I am travelling," he says.

"I prefer my computers to traditional tape, as I can rerecord on the machine


, which is not possible on tape. Also, it gives me the additional flexibilit
y of editing a song up to one lakh times, which I can do only once on tape.
Also, minor flaws within a musical sequence can be rectified on the computer
, which is otherwise not possible," he says. But why the Apple Macintosh? "I
t is perhaps the easiest and best platform to use, especially in the areas o
f music and creative arts. I have experimented with other technologies too,
but the Mac is something that is very close to me now. It is a machine with
an attitude," he says. Moreover, a majority of music professionals across th
e world work on the Macintosh for their music.
Rahman is currently running his set-up on Apple's G3 processors, but plans
to upgrade to G4 very soon. "I use PowerMacs to formulate various types of
music and musical patterns. The computers in my studio are not networked, s
o each performs a different function. Everything is integrated into the fin
al score at the end, which is further refined a number of times before you
finally get to hear the end result. More than just the basic composition, t
he post-production work is made much easier by the Macintosh," says Rahman.

Another strange criticism levelled at Rahman was that he made excessive use
of singers without the knowledge of the nuances of a particular language,
like he made Udit Narayan sing in Tamil and also the use of untrained singe
rs. To the first allegation Rahman replied that it was quite true and said
that he had reduced the use of Hindi singers in Tamil. To the second, Rahma
n's reaction was " Why should any actor or actress sound like S. P. Balasub
ramaniam, P. Susheela or Chitra? Why can't a new singer sing in his own raw
voice? It's the done thing in jingles and non-film music. Only in films, t
hey insist on an established voice. I ventured to break the convention and
the public has accepted it."

On why he uses so many different voices in a film, irespective of whether t


hey suit the character or not, he says " I do it for varieity. Otherwise th
ings would get monotonous. There was a time when the album of a film would
have only two voices. Today different singers sing for the same character.
The times have changed. The attention span of the average listener has decr
eased and his geographical purview has broadened. The listeners no longer t
hink in terms of peprfect or imperfect. They want different voices, standar
ds be damned."

Yet another criticism that was levelled at Rahman in the initial stages of
his career was that he was at home only with Western rhythms and would neve
r be able to give typical Indian tunes. But Rahman quickly disproved that a
llegation and demonstrated that he was equally at ease with Indian Classica
l and Folk rhythms and melodies with his scores in 'Indira', 'Kizhakku Chee
mayile', 'Karuthamma', 'Iruvar', 'Uzhavan', 'Taj Mahal' etc.

One other allegation was that Rahman ahd become very arrogant and treated f
ilmmakers very badly and made them wait endlessly. Says Rahman "In Chennai
, I hsve a small studio where all the music happens. I can do only thing at
a time there. Even when a track is being transferred, all other work comes
to a standstill, because I like to supervise everything myself. I don't be
lieve in handing over a job to someone else and wait for the results. This
leads to people waiting for me sometimes. But its not deliberate."
Initially Rahman had to encounter a great deal of opposition in Bollywood. P
eople were waiting for him to falter. But as one Bollywood composer acknowle
dged "He just does not fail. He knows the pulse of the public better than an
y other composer in India today. He is not only in touch with the Zeitgeist,
He is the Zeitgeist.(Zeitgeist - The taste and outlook that is characterist
ic of a period or generation)."

By the end of 1996, the relative non-success of scores like 'Mr.Romeo' and
'Lovebirds' prompted the know-alls in the industry to comment that Rahman
was facing a burn out. Also the failure of dubbed Tamil scores like 'Tu H
i Mera Dil' made the critics carp that he was running out of steam and was
recycling his own tunes and had exhausted his limited repertoire. They al
so remarked that the public was now tired of the 'Rahman sound'.

One other very notable thing that Rahman can be credited with is the fact t
hat he has consistently introduced a whole host of new talented singers, th
e notable names being Suresh Peters, Shahul Hameed, Aslam Mustafa, Unnikris
hnan, Sreenivas, Mahalaxmi, Harini, Minmini, Sujatha Mohan, Nithyashree etc
. He even got his secretary Noell James to sing in films. Once, in 1995, Ra
hman was invited by Padma Seshadri Bal Bhavan, his former school, to be the
judge in a singing competition. Rahman promised that he would give the win
ner of the contest a break in cinema. True to his word, he introduced the w
inner of the contest, Harini, with the song 'Nila Kaigiradhu' in 'Indira' a
nd then gave her 'Telephone Mani' in 'Indian'. This song was a big success.
She then went on to sing many more songs for Rahman. He has also given a f
resh lease of life to the careers of fading and failing singers like Asha B
honsle with 'Rangeela', Hema Sardesai with 'Sapnay' and Sukhvinder Singh wi
th 'Dil Se..' . He also brought to the mainstream Sreenivas and let him pro
ve his worth after being a chorus singer for a long time. Rahman says, "Tha
t is because I know the difficulty of not being given a chance to prove yo
urself when you are talented. When God has made me a successful music direc
tor today, then why not use it to the best by introducing new talent? I wi
ll be sinning if I don't provide an opportunity to talented people."

Also a very important reflection of Rahman's humility, fairness, honesty and


sense of equality is reflected in the fact that he is the only composer who
ensures that his entire team ranging from the rhythm programmers to the ins
trumentalists and chorus singers are credited on the inlay card of the album
. If, today, Noell James, Febi, Feji, Sivamani are household names the credi
t goes to Rahman's sense of fair play. Sivamani has repeatedly thanked Rahma
n for bringing him into the limelight. An interesting characteristic of him
is that he never watches the movies he has composed for. He has only watched
two till date, 'Roja' and 'Rangeela'. "The songs are rarely picturised the
way they were narrated to me. I don't want to feel disappointed at not havi
ng composed to the feel of the picturisation."

Rahman is also known for some strange personality quirks. Like his inclina
tion to work during the nights and sleep during the day. When asked how he
developed this unexpected and unusual habit of sitting up all night and w
orking and making others work with the same passion, the same perseverance
, the same precision to come up with nothing but the best, the best that w
ill satisfy him and satisfy a filmmaker like the filmmaker who is madly in
love with his music. He says he used to work the whole day when he worke
d as a jingles man, working on all kinds of ad films. He started working
on the few films that came his way after 6 pm. Soon he was working from 6
am to 6 p.m. and then from 6 p.m. to 2 am and then it went on from 6 am t
o 6 p.m. the next day. The unusual man's unusual schedule now starts at 6
p.m. or 7 p.m. and then goes on till 6 am.

"For a creative job, there are no working hours. When something doesn't work
out, I usually continue working. Initially I used to work in the day, but M
y work used to get extended into the night and slept at 2''O clock and then
it got later and later and I used to miss my morning prayers. So I thought w
hy not work in the nights and sleep in the day." "It started when I was work
ing on films and jingles simultaneously. It used to be nine to nine in a stu
dio, ten to five on jingles, three hours of sleep, and back to the studio. T
hen I realised that I actually liked working in the night - it was quiet and
serene. There was another reason too. When I used to work till three or lat
er and hen fall asleep, I missed out on my prayers, so I decided to stay awa
ke for a few more hours and complete praying. By then it would be six. So, n
ow I sleep from nine to three." Speaking about how he relaxes, he says."Afte
r I finish a film, I mostly take my family to the Dargah where we pay our re
spects to the Aulia. Otherwise I meditate and sometimes Internet. I like to
see what people talk about me and what they are bitching (sic) about me."

Commenting on his responsibilities towards his listeners he says, "Once music


listeners trust you, you've got to live up to their faith. You can't tell peop
le there wasn't enough time to do justice to the music or that the director ga
ve me the wrong brief. All listeners care about is the quality of the work. So
I better do my best. Since buyers spend their hard earned money on music I th
ink its our responsibility not to betray their trust. If you lose their trust
you've had it."
THE YEAR - 1997:

Early 1997 saw the release of his fourth film with Mani Ratnam, 'Iruvar'
and the legendary Madras movie house, AVM's 50th anniversary film 'Minsar
a Kanavu'. 'Iruvar' was an offbeat film and had a topical score with a co
uple of brilliant jazz and classical numbers in addition to two nostalgic
numbers from the MGR era, among others. Though the music was appreciated
by the critics, it did not win much favour with the public at large, pro
bably because the music sounded dated keeping in sync with the period the
movie was set in. In the case of 'Minsara Kanavu', when AVM wanted to ma
ke a movie to commemorate its 50th anniversary, it was not sure of what k
ind of movie it would be or who would make it. All it was sure of was tha
t it wanted A. R. Rahman to score the music. First thing, Rahman was sign
ed up by the studio and he was asked who he wanted the director to be. Ra
hman suggested the name of cinematographer and friend from college, Rajee
v Menon. Rahman had composed jingles for many ad films directed by Rajeev
Menon and also worked with him in 'Bombay' which was cinematographed by
Menon. The music of 'Minsara Kanavu' was a major success and also fetche
d him his second National Award. The songs 'Ooh La La La' and 'Poo Pookum
Osai' (Awara bhanwre in Hindi) became major hits. His second original Hi
ndi film 'Daud' for Ramgopal Varma was released in the same year. Though
it was in typical Rahman style, it did not live up to his high standards.
One highly unusual composition 'Zahareela Zahareela pyar' caught the fan
cy of many but was too unconventional to became a huge success.

Five years of working in the same kind of movies made Rahman yearn for som
ething different and get out of the rut. In 1996, when Rahman had gone to
Bombay to attend the Screen Awards ceremony, he met his childhood friend G
. Bharat. During this meeting both had discussed a proposal for an album t
o commemorate 50 years of Indian Independence in 1997. In 1997, the Intern
ational music giant, Sony Music, whose portfolio included the likes of Mic
hael Jackson and Celine Dion, entered the Indian market in a big way. They
were looking to promote Indian artistes internationally. And the first pe
rson to be signed up by Sony Music from the Indian sub-continent was, who
else but, A.R.Rahman, on a 3-album contract. The financial details of the
contract were not disclosed but Industry experts believe it to be the larg
est of its kind in India. Rahman suggested the idea that he had discussed
with Bharat to Sony Music India and was immediately accepted.

Called 'Vandemataram', it was a tribute to the motherland and featured son


gs to mark the 3 colours of the Indian Flag . Sony asked him to choose fro
m any of its international stars to work with and supposedly even suggeste
d the name of Celine Dion. But Rahman settled, very appropriately, for the
Pakistani Sufi music star Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Dominic Miller. Rahma
n had decided that he would definitely work with Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan aft
er he attended his performance in Delhi. Explaining his choice, "I don't w
ant to collaborate with just a name. I must feel something for the person
and relate with his work. I've seen several famous names collaborating on
songs and albums , but they remain just two names. There's no chemistry. I
t's like oil and water. They can' t come together." Rahman worked overtime
on it to come up with a memorable album. He devoted so much time to this
prestigious project that his film assignments went behind schedule. He wen
t all the way to Pakistan to record the 'Gurus of Peace' number with Khan
Saheb. Rahman composed, arranged and sang all the songs on the album.

Recounting the time when he hit upon the tune for 'Maa Tujhe Salaam' - "In
late January, on the 27th day of Ramzan, an auspicious time when legend ha
s it that angels open the gates of heaven and all prayers are answered, I d
escended on my studio. It was 2 a.m. and my sound engineer had disappeared.
And so I called Bala and when he arrived I told him you're the sound engin
eer. And then I sang for the first time, a few verses for just the two of u
s. "It was magical," says Bala. "He laughed, then he cried," says Rahman.

Two months hence, in March 1997, amidst Sony Music executives in Mumbai, c
ame a sort of penultimate test. Shridar Subramaniam, director, marketing,
Sony Music India tells the story best. "Everybody was really nervous. It's
an exhausting song and Martin (Davis, head of Sony Music Asia) doesn't sp
eak a word of Hindi, but in 40 seconds we knew. It was fresh, new." It got
better. In May, at a Sony conference in Manila, where the bigger the name
you can drop means the more attention you get, they got 20 minutes. When
the songs from the album was played, pre-release, at the Sony Music confer
ence in Manila, Sony Music executives representing various Sony Music sub-
labels reportedly went berserk and clamoured for the international rights
of the album. They played the song; pandemonium reigned. The head of Colum
bia records ( a Sony label) said, "It's unbelievable, I want it." The head
of Epic records (another Sony label) said, "I don't care, I want it." Say
s Subramaniam: "It was the hit of the conference."

Rahman became the first Indian artiste of popular music to go internationa


l when 'Vandemataram' was released simultaneously in 28 countries across t
he world under the prestigious Columbia Label of Sony Music on August 15th
, 1997. Rahman himself performed live at Vijay Chowk in New Delhi on the e
ve of the Golden Jubilee of Indian Independence to a packed audience that
comprised the Prime Minister of India, Mr. Inder Kumar Gujral. The album
was a mega success and sold over 1.5 million copies in India(a remarkable
figure for non-film music in India) and did extemely well internationally
too becoming the largest selling Indian non-film album internationally. Th
e song 'Maa Tujhe Salaam' got repeated airplay in the world music category
on radio and television channels across the world. With 'Vandemataram' Ra
hman left all his contemporaries far far behind and moved into a new dimen
sion altogether. His full-throated rendition of the title song "Maa Tujhe
Salaam", loaded with raw emotion touched the hearts of many a music lover.

Interestingly the Indian release had only 7 songs while the International r
elease had two additional songs 'Masoom' and "Musafir'. Later 'Masoom' was
released in India in the album 'Gurus of Peace' and 'Musafir' in the album
'MTV Total Mix'.

The album was lapped up eagerly by both the masses and the classes and was
described variously as 'brilliant', 'the ultimate expression of freedom', '
a mantra that instills a sense of pride and belonging', 'a classic' and 'ev
ocative'. India's leading news magazine 'India Today' in its year end issue
picked Rahman as one of the faces that made a difference in the year 1997
"hellip;because Vandemataram is the national song once again" and wrote " F
orget Roja, forget Bombay, forget everything. Even if he had never composed
a successful piece of film music in his life, he would have gone down in h
istory for one unforgettable night: August 14th 1997. That was the night A.
R. Rahman gave his country its most rapturous 50th birthday present - Vand
emataram - Maa Tujhe Salaam. It was as if the very soul of India had found
its voice once more hellip;".

One of the many glowing reviews for the album went "Good music has persona
lity. It is a lot like a short story that has embedded messages which the
reader must uncover. Unlike a short story, however, good music has many mo
re suggestive qualities. On the one hand it must quickly grab the listener
s attention and on the other hand it must be so richly woven that the list
ener keeps wanting to come back for more. Vande Mataram is an example of m
usic with personality. What separates this collection from the others is t
he provocative music and lyrics. What makes this collection enchanting is
the raw unbridled emotion that AR Rehman projects through his musical scor
e. What makes the collection timeless is that a thousand years of musical
influence, from Khusro to contemporary, is cleverly woven into the composition."

Speaking about the intent behind the album, Rahman said, "The primary objec
tive of the album is to inspire a feeling for the country. And the sentimen
ts so aroused go beyond caste, creed and colour. The feelings which inspire
d the album come from the heart, and can solve a lot of problems. If people
look beyond religion and caste barriers, and think only of the country, th
at's enough. I personally think Vande Mataram is an ongoing movement, and p
eople will feel good about it for the next 50 years."

Rahman himself underwent a physical transformation in order to feature in t


he music videos of the album and grew long hair, much to his dislike initia
lly. In his dedication in the album he says, " All perfect praises belong t
o the Almighty alone. I dedicate this album to the future generations of In
dia. I wish that this album inspires them to grow up with the wealth of Hum
an values and ethics that this country is made of. I wish that the youth of
today would wipe out phrases like 'Chaltha Hai' from their vocabularies an
d find themselves motivated Human beings". 'Vandemataram' touched the heigh
ts of fame, appreciation and recognition when it made it to the final round
s of the prestigious Cannes Film Festival and was in line for an award but
lost out ultimately since the event co-incided with the Indian nuclear blas
ts. He was asked by people at the festival "Here he was singing his heart o
ut about peace and his country and his country was terrorising the world wi
th its nuclear blasts! Which was the true India?". Vande Mataram was one of
the video film clips that was in the competition for the top prize. But as
luck would have it, the film was shown the week that India conducted its n
uclear blasts. ''On the one hand, we were singing in praise of our mother e
arth and on the other, we were blasting it away. People kept asking us, wha
t the hell do you think you all are doing," says Bharatbala. But even so, t
heir song made it to the finals. From being the No.1 music director, Rahma
n also became a top pop star, though he didn't appreciate 'Vandemataram' be
ing branded as a pop album.

1997 brought him further personal joy and happiness when he became a fath
er. He named his daughter Kathija. Other movies that were released in 199
7 were 'Rakshakan' and 'Vishwa Vidhaata' in Hindi which had the same musi
c as 'Pudhiya Mugam'. Rahman was very upset with the producer of 'Pudhiya
Mugam', Suresh Menon for having sold the dubbing rights of the music to
the makers of 'Vishwa Vidhaata' without his consent. Both the movies did
not do well, though the music of 'Rakshakan' did fairly well. He bagged t
he Filmfare Award yet again, for 'Kadhal Desam'. He signed Mansoor Khan's
'Josh' but again opted out owing to time constraints. Aamir Khan, impres
sed by the music that Rahman gave for his 'Rangeela' pursued him doggedly
to do his next film 'Mela' for director Dharmesh Darshan, but once again
time constraints prevented Rahman from accepting the offer. Noted painte
r M. F. Hussain offered him his much talked about film with Madhuri Dixit
- 'Gaj Gamini' which also Rahman was forced to turned down due to paucit
y of time. He was also asked to compose a song for the revised version of
India's first 3-D movie 'Chota Chetan'. Again Rahman was forced to decli
ne the offer. He took up one interesting offer from Director Suresh Krish
na and Producer 'Pyramid' Natarajan. The film, 'Sangamam', was a low-bud
get venture with a musical subject and would feature out and out classica
l and folk songs. He also signed Director Vasanth's new film for the same
producer. The title for the film, 'Rhythm' was suggested by Rahman himself.

Post-Vandemataram, some changes in Rahman's personality could also be seen


. The earlier elusive and evasive Rahman became more accessible and gave m
ore interviews and appeared to have become media-savvy. No longer reticent
and shy he opened up a bit. He explains the change thus "Earlier things w
orked on a level of mysticism. I was this mystic from the down South who m
ade music. But you can't hide from people all the time. I need to relate t
o people. I have also realised that if I stayed away from people, they wou
ld get frustrated and start misunderstanding me. But, there are times when
I go back into my shell, it helps me make better music. Because, then , I
'm involved in nearly every part of music."

THE YEAR - 1998:

1998 began on a good note when the music of 'Jeans', his fourth film with S
hankar did very well. In fact, initially the movie took a bad opening and l
ater picked up and became a big hit on the strength of Rahman's music. One
of the first Hindi movies that he signed, 'Kabhi Na Kabhi' was also finally
released. One song 'Mera dil ka woh shehzaada' became very popular but the
rest of the score did not catch on. He signed his fourth film for Producer
'Pyramid' Natarajan - 'Udaya' to be directed by Maniratnam's former assist
ant Azhagan Perumal. But 1998 would musically belong to one film. The Rahma
n-Ratnam combination touched greater heights with the release of their fift
h film together, 'Dil Se..', which became a rip-roaring success and also an
all-time crowd favourite. The song 'Chaiyya Chaiyya ' became a humongous s
uccess. The entire score came in for wide spread appreciation and was haile
d as 'Rahman's most versatile score till date'. For the first time, the 'Ni
ghtingale of India' Lata Mangeshkar sang a song for Rahman, the song being
'Jiya Jale' which also hit the top spot. Rahman later revealed why he does
n't work with Lata mangeshkar very often, "Most of my songs are so freaky t
hat I feel embarassed to approach her. I feel they won't do justice to her
reputation."

In the same year, Bharatbala approached him to do a sequel to the super s


uccessful 'Vandemataram', titled 'Vandemataram 2'. But Rahman did not tak
e up the project for reasons he would later describe as 'This whole idea
of doing the first album came up so suddenly and was so interesting that
I had mercilessly pushed all my producers behind schedule. There were too
many projects hanging fire. I'd promised to complete the pending films a
s soon as I was through with the album. I was supposed to do a couple of
songs for the second album but after a song like Vandemataram I knew I wo
uld have to do something really exceptional to match the previous effort.
So, I just decided to take a break and then start work on it again". He
won numerous awards for the music of 'Minsara Kanavu', including the pres
tigious National Award, Filmfare Tamil Award for the sixth time in a row
and the Screen Award for 'Vandemataram'. In October, he performed at the
70th Birthday celebrations of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Karunanidhi. In N
ovember he won the Viewer's Choice Channel [V] Award for Vandemataram, af
ter being chosen by over 4.4 million fans. 'Dil Se..' swept the film musi
c awards categories at the Channel [V] awards winning awards for Best Sco
re, Best Song and Best Male and Female singers. Later he won the Channel
[V]-IMI Award for Best Producer for 'Vandemataram' along with Bala and Kanika.

His second film with Priyadarshan 'Doli Sajake Rakhna' was also released in
November and the music was a fair success but paled in comparison to Dil S
e.. . He signed an English-Hindi bilingual for director Ketan Mehta titled
'The Rising' which was to be based on the 1857 First War of Indian Independ
ence. His second film for Deepa Mehta, 'Earth', where he came up with a tot
ally new score was released at the Toronto Film Festival in September and t
he music came in for all round appreciation. He also signed his second film
for Rajnikanth, reportedly rather reluctantly, titled 'Padayappa', to be
directed by K. S. Ravikumar. He reportedly took up the film after the super
star himself made a personal reuqest to Rahman to score music for the film.

In the first week of December he went on a concert tour to Dubai where th


e Al-Shabab stadium was packed with crowds in excess of 50,000. He perfor
med with the choicest of singers like S.P.Balasubramaniam, Hariharan, Udi
t Narayan, Chitra, Kavita Krishnamurthy, Sadhana Sargam, Shubha, Anupama
and his entire orchestra consisting of drummer Sivamani Anandan, guitaris
t Kabuli and flautist Naveen. At this concert Rahman demonstrated the fal
seness of the claim that he used only electronic instruments in his music
. He introduced his entire 50-piece orchestra to the audience and told th
e crowd that it was the hard work of all those people that made good musi
c and not electronic gadgets alone. The crowd was treated to renditions o
f more than 30 splendid songs from Rahman's ever increasing repertoire. I
n December, he was invited by 'Mukti' a social service organisation to pe
rform in a concert to promote AIDS awareness. He composed a song speciall
y for the occasion. Titled 'Zindagi Se Pyar Karo', the song was a reflect
ion of the theme of the AIDS awareness campaign 'Love life, prevent AIDS'
. He performed the song to packed crowds of over 60,000 at the concert on
the 24th of December at the Andheri Sports Complex in Mumbai.

He signed his first Kannada film 'Ram' in addition to his fifth film wit
h one of his favourite directors Shankar, titled 'Mudhalvan'. While his fi
rst film with Rajkumar Santoshi, 'Pukar' is very eagerly awaited he went a
head and signed another film 'Rashq' with the same director starring, Aish
warya Rai, Aamir Khan and Shahrukh Khan. Late in 1998 a second daughter wa
s born to Rahman. She was named Rafia.

All this success has not been without its fallouts for Rahman. Some mischi
evous elements of society spread canards in early 1998 that Rahman was fun
ding Muslim fundamentalists in Tamil Nadu, something that was totally unfo
unded and caused him a great deal of grief. Later in the year he began rec
eiving threatening calls from Fundamentalist groups for singing Vandematar
am and was accorded armed protection by the Government. What was amusing t
hat he received threats from both Hindu and Muslim Fundamentalists, from t
he Hindu Fundamentalists for 'defiling a Hindu song' and from the Muslim f
undamentalists for 'singing an anti-Islam song'. Rahman dismisses all thes
e controversies saying that while his religion is very important to him, h
is patriotism for his country is in no way inferior. Rahman feels that all
this security is extremely cumbersome and hampers his work but has no cho
ice in view of the perceived threat to his life. Expressing his views on r
eligion, "God and religion are very personal. Now it has become politics.
I think religion should be left to a person. The mosque or temple should b
e within oneself. That is the best thing."

"I don't know what all this hullabaloo is about. I am not scared of death.
My life and death are in Allah's hands. I will live only till he wants me t
o live. I will die only when he wants me to die. I can't understand all the
se policemen following me wherever I go. It hurts in so many ways. It hurts
my feelings in so many different ways. It makes me lose faith in man. But
what can I do? I have to follow the crazy system created by a crazy world.
But I am not scare of dying anytime", Rahman says. He remarked in an inter
view, "It is better that I clear everything up. About the rumour that I hel
ped fundamentalists, how can it be that I provide funds for them, when I ha
ve received death threats from the extremists and the state government has
posted police personnels to guard my residence? Another rumour concerned my
giving away money as charity to such organisations. Charity is done to sat
isfy my urge to do more for the poor. And anyway I have to tell you, I don'
t give charity only to Muslim charities, I donate to Hindu and Christian or
ganisations too. The money I give as charity is limited as I have to improv
e my instruments. I have invested heavily in technology and there is not mu
ch left to indulge in mass charity. The amount I give is definitely not eno
ugh to help the extremists to buy arms with my money!"

His shy demeanour hides a soft and generous heart. His close associates recou
nt his stopping at a busy Mumbai intersection to give alms to beggars lining
the street. "He just thrust his hand into his pockets and gave them all the
money," said one. Another time in Chennai he got out of his car to help a cyc
list who lay in an epileptic seizure.

He encountered controversies on the personal front too when he was charged


with throwing out his father's close associates and converting people. Al
l the charges turned out to be totally unfounded and baseless. Rahman defe
nded himself saying, "A rumour has been going around that a beggar I picke
d up at a Dargah has become an absolute tyrant and has become the reason f
or sending out M K Arjunan. M. K. Arjunan was a very close associate of m
y father and my adviser. He helped our family in the time of our need by l
etting me play the keyboard in his orchestra. The truth is Arjunan's son
wanted to set up a recording studio in Kerala. I gave him some of my instr
uments. And M. K. Arjunan went back to Kerala to help his son set up his r
ecording studio there. Therefore there was no question of an outsider maki
ng him leave,was there? And while on this point, I did not pick up any beg
gar on the streets. Another rumour which is spreading is that I convert pe
ople close to me. What nonsense. If I had converted people, Noel, Shivakum
ar, Shridhar etc. would have changed religion! When I am not perfect mysel
f,how can I convert others? I follow my religion, let others follow their
own. The whole thing was cooked up by a freelance journalist called Bismi,
who married my sister and later divorced her. He met her when she was doi
ng some stage shows and we sort of forced her into marriage with him. But
unfortunately we came to know that he was only after my money. He used to
be very upset with my giving to charity. Anyway as soon as my sister came
to know that he was only after the money she separated. But during the tim
e when he was around he learnt a lot of the family's inner issues and now
he is spreading rumours to upset me."

THE YEAR - 1999:

In January 1999, he performed at the Screen Videocon Awards in Mumbai on t


he 16th where he unjustly lost the Best Music Award, where he had been nom
inated for 'Dil Se..' to some very ordinary music in 'Kuch Kuch Hota Hai'.
In his performance he presented, for the first time, songs from '1947-Ear
th' - 'Raat Ki Daldal Mein', 'Piano Theme' and 'Rut Aagayi Re'. February s
aw the release of 'En Swasa Katre'. He bagged the Filmfare Award for a rec
ord ninth time for 'Dil Se..' in the same month. The director of 'Ratchaga
n', Praveen Gandhi asked him to score the music for his next venture, star
ring Prashanth, titled 'Jodi'. But Rahman begged off owing to his busy sch
edule. But Gandhi went ahead and reused the music of 'Doli Sajake Rakhna'
for Jodi. In an interesting move the Producer, Murali Manohar released the
music at the Muhurat of the movie in February. He signed Rajeev Menon's n
ext film 'Kandukonden Kandukonden'. Continuing with his award winning spre
e he picked up the Dinakaran Cine Award for Best Music for 'Jeans'. 'Doli
Sajake Rakhna' was dubbed into Tamil as 'Oonjal'.

In late March the music of Rajnikanth's 'Padayappa' was released after a


long delay. The expectations were immense and most considered the music t
o be disappointing. But the sales told a different story as 1.2 million m
usic cassettes were sold out in just two days. A new record in the Indian
music industry. In 'Padayappa' Rahman tried to compose a score that wou
ld be apt for Rajnikanth and came up with a nice blend of the 'Rahmanesqu
e' and the 'Rajnikanthish'. Some bizarre rumours that some fans of Rajnik
anth gave death threats to Rahman for his score in 'Padayappa' were also
floated. But they were unfounded and Padayappa was a resounding hit. In e
nd March Rahman bagged the Dinakaran Cine Award for his music in 'Jeans'.
This was quickly followed by his 10th Filmfare Award also for 'Jeans' in
early April. April also saw the release of Kadhir's much delayed 'Kadhal
ar Dhinam'. This was Rahman's third film with Kadhir who became his broth
er-in-law the same year when he married one of his sisters. The music was
an instant success and was a huge crowd favourite. He signed Aamir Khan'
s home production 'Lagaan' and the third of Deepa Mehta's Elements trilog
y 'Water', a bilingual. He was also slated to work with the legendary com
poser Andrew Lloyd Webber on Shekhar Kapoor's next film which was to be a
movie version of Lloyd Webber's much acclaimed musical 'The Phantom of t
he Opera'. Following the lukewarm response to the reused score of 'Jodi',
Rahman consented to compose two new songs for the movie. He also began w
orking on Maniratnam's next film 'Alai Paayuthe', this being the sixth fi
lm of this now legendary combination.

Rahman appeared on a Television show previewing 'Sangamam' and described


its music as 'a milestone in Tamil cinema'. A new record was set when TIP
S Cassettes and Records Industries acquired the music rights of Subhash G
hai's eagerly awaited 'Taal' for Rs. 5 Crores (Rs. 50 million). The music
was released in the second week of June with TIPS struggling to meet the
overwhelming initial order of 20 lakh(2 million) CDs and cassettes. The
song 'Ishq Bina' made it to the top of the charts even before the release
of the music attracting descriptions like 'When A R Rahman meets showman
Subhash Ghai, the result can be nothing short of an extravaganza.' Produ
cer-Director Subhash Ghai gushing about 'Taal' said "My moments with A. R
. Rahman at his music studio are embedded in my memory. The voices of Ash
aji, Kavita, Alka and Sukhwinder echoing the poetry of Anand Bakshi, had
me visualising my characters Mansi, Manav and Vikrant going through the e
motional highs and lows of life even before the actual picturisation. Tha
t's the charisma of 'Taal' music. 'Taal' will always be dear to my heart,
and to me it is definitely my most favourite work too date. The credit g
oes to A.R.Rahman and Anand Bakshi without whom 'Taal' would not have hap
pened." Early June saw the release of 'Sangamam'. After a long time, Rahm
an was working in a low-budget film; centered around a village dancer. Th
e score was totally folk music and classical music based. He made use of
traditional instruments extensively. The tunes were appreciated widely. A
nanda Vikatan magazine called him the 'real hero of Sangamam'.

June 12th 1999. A momentous day for Rahman. The music launch of Subhash Gha
i's 'Taal", Rahman's first truly Bollywood film, his earlier ones 'Rangeela
', 'Daud', 'Kabhi Na Kabhi', 'Doli Sajake Rakhna' and "Dil Se..' being with
South Indian directors like Ramgopal Varma, Priyadarshan and Mani Ratnam.
The launch was a gala event. Held at New Delhi's 'Siri Fort Auditorium' it
featured live perfomances of the songs which was webcast live on 'Rediff-on
-the-net'. The music was praised to the heavens. At the press conference th
at followed, Ghai remarked, "I credit the name of the movie to composer A R
Rahman. This movie is a romance and I could have called it any thing -- D
il, Pyaar, Hum Bhaag Gaye, but it was A. R. Rahman's presence in the movie
that gave me the confidence to call it 'Taal'. 'Taal' means music and music
means 'Taal'. The whole credit goes to A R Rahman and Anand Bakshi. Rahman
kept me awake many nights, but after listening to the songs, I felt it was
worth all the trouble." The lead actress Aishwarya Rai commented, "It's so
ul-stirring. I'm sure you are going to enjoy the music as much as we did. T
he music is the easily the best I have heard and it's definitely going to o
utlive the release period and it's divine, soul stirring and straight from
the heart." "The music of 'Taal' is a trip which you can never forget. You
have to experience it. I feel it is the best music from Mukta Arts till da
te", said Anil Kapoor. 'Taal' was a resounding initial success when it sold
10 lakh cassettes in two days.

Rahman's composition 'Ekam Satyam' which he recorded in London in May wa


s picked by Michael Jackson for a charity concert in Munich in June 1999
whose proceeds were to be donated to the underprivileged children of th
e world. On June 19th Rahman travelled to Singapore to attend a concert
to honour the composers of yesteryears Vishwanathan - Ramamurthy. At the
concert heaps of praise was showered on him. Singer S.P.Balasubramaniam
called Rahman his son and said that Rahman was a great human being beca
use he respected elders and was very humble. Vairamuthu revealed that Ra
hman came even as the producers of 'Rhythm' and' Sangamam' were after hi
m to complete the music and background score of their films. He also rev
ealed that Rahman was busy with the music of Maniratnam's latest, 'Alai
Paayuthe'. Rahman acknowledged all this in his typical unassuming shy st
yle. M. S. Viswanathan went to the extent of hugging Rahman on stage and
referred to him as his son. Rahman made a short speech wherein he revea
led how as a small child he saw M. S. Viswanathan's car pass by. He said
a few more words in praise of M. S. Viswanathan in his typical Madras T
amil and ended by saying that if he spoke more he would do "olaral" (tal
k rubbish). A number of Rahman compositions were performed - Padayappa b
y S.P.Balasubramaniam, Nenjinile by S.Janaki, Jumbalaka by Rafi, Un Patt
u Selai Madippula by Maharajan - to thunderous ovation from the near cap
acity Singapore crowd.

On June 27 he rendered the song 'Ekam Satyam' alongwith International pop


star Michael Jackson at a concert for underprivileged children in The Ol
ympic Stadium in Munich, Germany. He performed along with a troupe compri
sing dancers Shobana and Prabhudeva. The song was sung together by Rahman
and Michael Jackson. The concert was part of the 'Michael Jackson Friend
s' series. The song was penned by Kanika Bharat. The song, written in Eng
lish and Sanskrit, was recorded by Rahman in London within a week. Accord
ing to Bharat, the song has a lot of attitude, reflecting the energy, pas
sion and dynamism of India. Jackson heard the song in Paris and immediate
ly wanted Rahman for his show. He reserved the best slot of the concert,
the final slot, for Rahman. The other performers in the show were Luciano
Pavarotti, Stevie Wonder, Alan Parsons, Vanessa Mae and Boyzone. Jackson
rendered the English lyrics while the rest of the song was rendered by R
ahman. Jackson rendered the English portions of the song while Rahman san
g the Sanskrit portions of the number. The crowd was a huge 60,000. This
was Rahman's second collaboration with a famed international ariste, afte
r Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. During his visit to Paris he also met French com
poser Jean Michel Jarre who invited him to work with him on an album.

In July, he signed noted Indian director Shyam Benegal's next venture 'Zub
eida', scripted by noted film critic and the editor of Filmfare magazine,
Khalid Mohammed.On the 11th of July, Rahman participated in a Kargil Bene
fit Evening at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in New Delhi the proceeds of w
hich were donated to the Central Defence Welfare Fund. He rendered the Van
demataram song 'Maa Tujhe Salaam' with the lyrics changed to 'Hey Jawan Tu
jhe Salaam'. In July he became part of an unique international project, "L
isten" whose aim was to raise $99 million for the downtrodden children of
the third millenium. ldquo;Being the only representative from India, it is
my responsibility to deliver the composition according to international s
tandards. Having started to work at the age of 11 after losing my father a
t 9, I understand the plight of kids who have to work for their survival,r
dquo; said Rahman. For the ldquo;Listenrdquo; project, Rahman was to compo
se a modified version of one of Beethoven's symphonies. In India, two NGOs
mdash; Save the Children, and Consortium for Street Children mdash; were
expected to benefit from the proceeds of the project. The ldquo;Listenrdqu
o; campaign included two one-hour international TV specials, two albums, t
wo videos and a spectacular three-hour international television concert fr
om India. "Listenrdquo; has the support of 99 creative artists. They inclu
de film stars Brooke Shields, Liam Neeson, Vanessa Redgrave, Goldie Hawn,
Jeff Bridges, Jamie Lee Curtis and Susan Sarandon; musicians Peter Gabriel
, John Lee Hooker, Sting and Rahman; visual artists Jeff Koons, Sheela Gow
da and Robert Wilson, and songwriters Diane Warren and Lamont Dozier. With
this Rahman well and truly made an impact on the International music scen
e, closely following on the heels of the concert performance with Michael
Jackson in Munich. The album was expected to be released the next autumn.

In mid-July he participated in a fund-raising event in Chennai and donated


Rs 5 lakh to the Kargil Relief Fund. End-July saw the release of the musi
c of '1947', the Hindi version of Deepa Mehta's 'Earth'. On the 30th of Ju
ly he won the Cinema Express Award for Best Music in 'Jeans'. The music o
f 'Jodi' was re-released with the two additional songs composed by Rahman.
'Jodi' was dubbed into Telugu under the same name and 'En Swasa Katre' fo
llowed suit as 'Premante Pranamistha'. 'Taal' was dubbed into Tamil as 'T
aalam'. Rahman teamed up with Bharatbala and Kanika once again to give a n
ew sound to India's National Anthem. He was part of a concert with 30 of I
ndia's greatest musicians in 'Desh Ka Salaam'. 'Taal' was released in mid-
July and Rahman's music was hailed as the true hero of the movie. India To
day magazine described it thus "A. R. Rahman's glorious music fills every
frame , becoming almost a fourth character in the triangle".

Rahman's new project 'Desh ka Salaam' with Bala and Kanika which involved
the musical reinterpretation of the Indian National Anthem 'Jana Gana Ma
na' and was meant to be a tribute of the entire nation to the martyrs of
the last 50 years was unveiled simultaneously on all television channels
, all radio channels broadcasting in India and the Internet at 8 P.M. IS
T on the 15th of August 1999, in the process creating media history. The
project involved two musical pieces and videos featuring some of India
's best musical talents. The first video featured the instrumental versio
n composed by Rahman and was played by the best instrumentalists in Indi
a and was shot at Ladakh with Pandit Shivkumar Sharma and his son Rahul S
harma on the Santoor, Pandit Vishwa Mohan Bhatt on the Mohan Veena, Karti
ck Kumar, Niladri Kumar, Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia on the flute, Ustad
Amjad Ali Khan on the sarod and also his sons Amaan Ali and Ayaan Ali bo
th on the Sarod, E. Gaayathri on the veena, Vikku Vinayakram and sons Um
a Shankar and Selvaganesh on the Ghatam, Ustad Sultan Khan on the Sarang
i, Ravi Kiran, Kadri Gopalnath on the Saxophone, Ganesh and Kumaresh on
the violin and A. R. Rahman himself on the Synthesiser.

The vocal version featured a rendition of Rahman's version of the song by


Lata Mangeshkar, Pandit Bhimsen Joshi, Pandit Jasraj, Asha Bhonsle, Har
iharan, Dr. Balamurali Krishna, Pandit Ajay Chakravarty, Kaushiki Chakrav
arty, S P Balasubramaniam, Jagjit Singh, Shobha Gurtu, Parveen Sultana,
Dr. Bhupen Hazarika, Dr. D K Pattamal, UnniKrishnan, Rashid Khan, Sudha R
aghunathan, Kavita Krishnamurthy, Nityashree, Saddiq Khan, Ustad Ghulam
Mustafa, Ajay Chakraborty and A. R. Rahman himself. Rahman retained the
basic tune of the national anthem and developed a new tempo and instrumen
tation for both the versions. The entire project was musically produced,
composed and arranged by A. R. Rahman. The videos were directed by Bala
and Kanika. After his highly successful and acclaimed musical reinterpret
ation of India's National Song 'Vandemataram' in 1997 this was Rahman's u
nique attempt at the musical reinterpretation of India's National Anthem
'Jana Gana Mana'. "Its our way of paying a musical tribute to all the poe
ple who have been martyrs for the cause of the nation", said Rahman.

In mid-August Rahman signed another English film, 'The Return of The Thi
ef of Baghdad' directed by noted anthropologist Douchan Gersi and starri
ng Chiranjeevi, Charlotte Ayanna and Omar Shariff. The film was to be si
multaneously remade in Indian languages by director Suresh Krissna. He a
lso signed Govind Nihalani's next film. He also returned to work with Ra
mgopal Varma when he signed his forthcoming film starring Jaya Bachchan,
Amitabh Bachchan, Abhishek Bachchan and Urmila Matondkar. In early Sept
ember he won the International Viewers' Choice Award at the MTV Video Mu
sic Awards for 'Dil Se..' . The award was presented to him by the Managi
ng Director of MTV India, Alex Kuruvilla at a special ceremony in New Yo
rk City on September 9. The music of Govind Nihalani's 'Thakshak' was re
leased on September 15. He agreed to work on Filmfare editor-scriptwrite
r Khalid Mohammed's directorial debut, tentatively titled, 'Fizaa'.

In September, on the occasion of her 70th birthday legendary Indian singer


Lata Mangeshkar compiled a list of the ten best songs sung her which includ
ed the Rahman composition 'Jiya Jale' from Dil Se.. . Calling it her favour
ite composition of the 90s she said, "A.R. Rahman's style is amazing. No do
ubt his style is Indian. But there's heavy Arabic influence. I don't think
that man thinks of anything except his music. At first I didn't think all
that much of the tune. But when I heard the recorded song I was floored. I
got to sing an outstanding number after quite a while," Rahman carried forw
ard his ascent on the international music scene when he tied up with Sir An
drew Lloyd Webber to work on a dance musical entitled 'Bombay Dream'. He al
so performed with Sir Webber at a concert in Dublin in October 1999.

Speaking on 'Bombay Dream', Rahman said "It is the increasing popularity o


f Indian film music in the overseas market which has forced the west to si
t up and take note of the `richness' and `diversity' of Indian notes. Ther
e is a whole new movement of Indian music happening all over the world tod
ay. Madonna is singing our songs, Michael Jackson is crooning Ekam Satyam.
Even Stanley Kubrick incorporated Indian notes in Eyes Wide Shut. The fac
t that Taal entered the Top 20 of the UK audio charts has encouraged peopl
e like Webber to explore more and experiment with Indian music too. I was
lucky to be able to meet him. I know it's not going to be easy, but both o
f us are determined to give it a shot."

Mid October saw the release of 'Taj Mahal', Rahman's fourth film with Bha
ratiraaja. A rural love story Rahman came up with a brilliant music score
to match the flavour of the film. The music became fairly popular but th
e movie bombed. This was followed by the release of 'Kadhalar Dhinam' in
Hindi as 'Dil Hi Dil Mein'. Late October saw the release of 'Shankar's 'M
udhalvan'. This was Rahman's fifth film with Shankar. Both the movie and
the music became blockbusters. 'Mudhalvan' was a native score that remind
ed one of his 'Gentleman' score for the same director. 'Mudhalvan' was du
bbed into Telugu as 'Oke Okkadu'. Interestingly Rahman appeared in promos
of the movie 'Thakshak' wearing the movie's promotional T-Shirt, with "T
hakshak' and 'Jumbalakka' written on it, and playing the keyboard for the
song 'Jumbalakka'. Visuals of Rahman from the 'Vandemataram' video were
used by an Indian company Bharati Telecom in an ad promoting National Int
egration. He was also reported to be working with French composer Jean Mi
chel-Jarre on a private album.
Early November saw the release of Rajkumar Santoshi's much awaited 'Pukar
'. In 'Pukar', Rahman took his propensity to recycle his own tunes to new
heights when he reused two of his earlier songs, the 'Nayagara' song fro
m 'En Swasa Katre' and his non-film 'Oh Bosnia' number, which was origina
ly presented in his 1996 Malaysia concert. 'Nayagara' reappeared in 'Puka
r' as 'Kay Sera Sera' and was a huge hit. 'Oh Bosnia' became 'Ek Tu Hi Bh
arosa' and this was Lata Mangeshkar's second song with Rahman. TIPS Recor
ds released a special collection of Rahman songs in November 1999 entitle
d 'The A. R. Rahman Signature Collection'. This was specially autographed
by Rahman himself. In its 21 November issue India's leading newsmagazine
'India Today' declared Rahman as one of the 'Faces of the New Millenium'
saying 'Only Rahman can replace Rahman'. Rahman signed his fourth Telugu
film with veteran telugu director Kranti Kumar. The movie was titled 'To
mmidi Nelalu'. But later it turned out that he was not doing the movie.

As the year and the millenium came to a close encomiums were heaped on Ra
hman. The Times of India, India's leading newspaper hailed Rahman as one
of the 100 greatest Indians of this century and placed him in the Enterta
iners and Artists category. Rahman achieved another milestone when he bec
ame the first Indian to own the much sought after Apple iBook laptop comp
uter. Outlook magazine, in its December issue assessed Rahman to be the t
hird highest earning Indian entertainer just behind Sooraj Barjatya and S
ubhash Ghai and ahead of other icons like Sachin Tendulkar and Shahrukh K
han. He reportedly earned a whopping 25 crore rupees. On December 12th he
won the Zee Sangeet Award for the music of Dil Se.. . In its year end is
sue, India's leading newsmagazine 'India Today' carried a feature titled
'The Nineties' Decade-The people who made a difference' in which it selec
ted Rahman along with Shubha Mudgal in the music category and hailed him
as 'The man who single-handedly reinvented Indian film music.' Unconfirme
d reports in the media said that Rahman would feature in Micheal Jackson'
s next release scheduled for early 2000. In the year end countdown shows
on Tamil television, 7 out of the Top 10 songs were composed by Rahman.

1999 was in many ways a momentous year for Rahman. 1999 was the year in wh
ich Rahman extended his horizons as a composer. A major highlight of his H
indi soundtracks released that year was his effective use of Hindustani cl
assical music and north Indian folk music. After Dil Se.. found mass accep
tance across the nation, in 1999 it seemed that Rahman had finally won ove
r the north with his scores in 'Taal', 'Thakshak', '1947' and 'Pukar'. Thi
s left people in Bollywood with no more ammunition to attack him with. His
scores that year had a breathtaking range and extended from North Indian
folk and fusion in 'Taal' to Hindustani and Western Classical and period m
usic in '1947' and 'Taal', South Indian folk and Carnatic classical in 'Sa
ngamam' and 'Taj Mahal' and contemporary pop and techno music in 'Kadhalar
Dhinam' and 'En Swasa Katre'. It was also observed in 1999 that Rahman wa
s increasingly moving away from what has been traditionally acknowledged a
s the 'Rahman sound'. 1999 encountered a more explorative and experimentat
ive Rahman. All in all, nationally he became the only music director who's
music most people bought without batting an eyelid or reading a review or
listening to a teaser.

1999 was the year in which Rahman increased his presence on the internation
al music scene. This ranged from interactions with Jean-Michel Jarre to col
laborations with Andrew Lloyd Webber, David Bryne and concerts with Micheal
Jackson. He also got to work with artists across the entire spectrum of In
dian classical music, both Hindustani and Carnatic and instrumentalists and
vocalists, when he composed 'Desh Ka Salaam'. In the midst of all this Rah
man had the busiest year in movies. He had all of eleven releases, the most
for any music director this year and the most for Rahman in his entire car
eer, something very unusual for Rahman who normally has 3-4 releases a year
. He had 'En Swasa Katre', 'Padayappa', 'Kadhalar Dhinam', 'Sangamam', 'Jod
i', 'Taj Mahal' and 'Mudhalvan' in Tamil and 'Taal', '1947', 'Thakshak' and
'Pukar'(music release only) in Hindi. 'Taal' was the biggest hit of the ye
ar and at the end of the year had sold over 75 lakh cassettes and 5 lakh CD
s and was continuing to figure on top of the sales charts.

The decade began with Rahman entering the Tamil music scene with 'Roja'
and it ended with Rahman making a global impact albeit in a small way. I
n the course of the decade Rahman changed many things in music. And as t
he decade and the millenium drew to a close Rahman was widely and ungrud
gingly acknowledged as the man who brought about a revolution in the sou
nd of Indian music and was hailed as the man responsible for popularisin
g Tamil film music in India and Indian film music globally.

THE YEAR - 2000:

The new millenium, that is the year 2000, began with the release of the vi
deo of the 'Vandemataram' song 'Masoom' featuring Rahman. The video was te
lecast by India's National Television Network, Doordarshan at the stroke o
f midnight between 31st December 1999 and 1st January 2000. At the Milleni
um Concert held in Cairo, Egypt with the pyramids as a background, on New
Year's Eve, Jean-Michel Jarre played the 'Bombay Theme' to a spellbound in
ternational audience. In the first week of January he received as many as
four nominations for the Screen Awards 1999. He was nominated in the Best
Music Director category for 'Taal', in the Best Male Playback Singer cate
gory for 'Ishq Bina' from 'Taal' and twice in the Best Background Music ca
tegory for 'Taal' and '1947-Earth'. After a long hiatus he signed his fir
st Tamil film in a year, for director Praveenkanth. The film titled 'Star'
had Prashanth, Simran and Aishwarya Rai in lead roles and was Rahman's th
ird film with the director. In an interview to India's leading English new
smagazine, India Today, during a short visit to India, leading world music
group 'Deep Forest' said that they were talking to Rahman about working i
n collaboration.

He won the first award of the new millenium when he bagged the award for B
est Music Director for 'Taal' at the Stardust Cine Honours on the 7th of J
anuary. In January Rahman went on an unprecedented award winning spree .
He followed up the Stardust Cine Honours by winning the Filmgoers Award fo
r Best Music Director for 'Taal' and then on January 23rd he bagged the Sc
reen Award for the music of 'Taal'. The same day he was declared the winne
r of the Dinakaran Cine Award for Best Composer for the music of 'Kadhalar
Dhinam' and 'Mudhalvan'. But the crowning glory was when, on January 26th
2000, on the occasion of the 50th Anniversary of the Indian Republic, the
Government of India bestowed the prestigious title of 'Padmashri' on Rahm
an, for his outstanding contribution to music. The 'Padmashri' is India's
fourth highest civilian honour and is conferred on only a select few. Reac
ting to his receiving the award Rahman said "I am extremely happy and surp
rised at receiving this award. I hope I can justify my receiving this awar
d. Till now I have been receiving mainly film awards. This is the first ti
me that I have received such an award. I thank God, my mother, all the peo
ple and the Govt for this award."

On January 26th, 2000, the Golden Jubilee of the Indian nation becoming a
republic, 'Desh Ka Salaam' was finally released as 'Jana Gana Mana'. Bille
d as a tribute to those who struggled to establish the Indian republic the
music was arranged and produced by Rahman and featured vocal and instrume
ntal reinterpretations of India's National Anthem, 'Jana Gana Mana'. It co
ntained exclusive renditions of the national anthem, both vocal and instru
mental, by more than 65 musical maestros from all over the country.The pie
ces were performed by numerous luminaries of Indian music from playback si
ngers to classical vocalists and instrumentalists. The original compositio
n by Rabindranath Tagore was recreated into magnificent arrangement and pr
oduction by A. R. Rahman. From classical to the contemporary, artists cro
ssing generations, harmonised into a powerful and soulful rendition of the
National Anthem.
The vocalists on 'Jana Gana Mana' were D.K Pattamal,Pt. Bhimsen Joshi,L
ata Mangeshkar, Pt. Jasraj, Dr. Balamuralikrishna, Jagjit Singh , Pt. A
jay Chakravarty , Smt Shobha Gurtu, Begum Parveena Sultana, Dr. Bhupen
Hazarika, Ustad Rashid Khan, Ustad Ghulam Mustafa Khan, Smt Shruti Sado
likar, Dr. S P Balasubramanium, Sudha Raghunathan, Asha Bhosle, Harihar
an, Kavitha Krishnamurthy, P.Unnikrishnan, Nityashree, Sadiq Khan, Kaus
hiki Chakravarty and A. R. Rahman. The instrumentalists were Pt. Hari P
rasad Chaurasia, Ustad Amjad Ali Khan, Amaan Ali Bangash, Ayaan Ali Ban
gash, Pt. Shiv Kumar Sharma, Rahul Sharma, Vikku Vinayakram, Uma Shanka
r, Pt. Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, Kadri Gopalnath, Ravikiran, E. Gayathri, Ust
ad Sultan Khan, Pt. Kartick Kumar, Niladri Kumar, Kumaresh, Ganesh and
A. R. Rahman.

The album "Jana Gana Mana' was formally released at a formal function on t
he morning of January 27th in the hallowed Central Hall of the Indian Parl
iament House in New Delhi by none other than the Indian President Mr. K. R
. Narayanan and the Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee in the pres
ence of a very distinguished audience. Mr Narayanan expressed happiness th
at so many artistes had come together on the project. This particular trys
t with nationalism for Rahman began during the Golden Jubilee celebrations
of India's Independence in 1997 with 'Vandemataram' and came a full circl
e in the Golden Jubilee Year of the Indian Republic in 2000 with 'Jana Gan
a Mana'. This was the result of an endeavour that began three years ago to
give India back to the Indians through music and films that touch the emo
tions of all Indians. "Jana Gana Mana' was an extension of 'Desh ka Salaam
' that was broadcast the previous year.

Said Pandit Jasraj of the venture, "Bharat, Kanika and Rahman have done a g
reat job. We all know how difficult it is to get even two artistes to do a
duet and they have managed to bring together 65 of us. They are really and
truly the three musketeers." Said rahman of the venture "Though it was diff
icult to bring together artistes from varying streams to work together, the
spirit of nationalism in every heart made it very easy. Rejecting the defi
nition of this album and 'Vandemataram' as 'pop-patriotism' Rahman said 'We
have made more people listen to the National Song and Anthem more often. I
wish to take patriotic music to the poeple. That is why I lent music to Va
ndemataram and aroused the emotions of the people. Likewise I felt I should
do it with Jana Gana Mana also. I feel people sing the national anthem out
of a sense of duty and not out of a sense of joy. I want them to sing it w
ith emotion. That's why I have taken up this project. Because we were worki
ng with the National Anthem we could not change the tune. All we have done
is make it a bit slower and give it more rhythm and soul."
"The album is an attempt to bring out the inherent soul in both the vocal
and instrumental renditions of the national anthem. The music is totally u
nlike Vande Mataram which had been adapted to modern beats. While Vande Ma
taram was a popular album, this one is a completely non-commercial venture
. After all, it is our national anthem and we didn't change its music or t
ry to give it a modern touch. Its rendition was made slower, though, purel
y to give it soul. And it is meant for the people, as the album is not my
property. The idea behind Jana Gana Mana and Vande Mataram, was to direc
t latent nationalism towards the mainstream. ", added Rahman.

In the evening of January 27th , Rahman participated in a special cultura


l show titled 'Bharat Gaurav Gyan' in commemoration of the Golden Jubilee
of the Indian Republic, in New Delhi. In front of of an audience compris
ing of the Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee Rahman sang 'Maa Tu
jhe Salaam' and 'Jana Gana Mana'. In late January, Rahman was nominated f
or the Best Music Director Award for 'Taal' in the Filmfare Awards 1999 a
nd the Best Music Director Award for 'Taal' and Best Male Playback Singer
for 'Ishq Bina' from 'Taal' in the Zee Cine Awards 1999. In early Februa
ry rumours abounded about Rahman turning down all new offers for films an
d concerts as he was shifting base to London where he was to score the mu
sic for Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber's play 'Bombay Dreams'. On 13th February
he won the Filmfare Award for Best Music for 'Taal'. This was his 11th Fi
lmfare Award and his fourth for Hindi films. Rahman signed up Bharatiraaj
a's next film 'Alli Arjuna' to be directed by Saran. On February 22nd, th
e music of the much awaited Mani Ratnam movie 'Alai Payuthey' was release
d along with its Telugu version 'Sakhi'. The music was of a subdued natur
e but nevertheless like always sold in huge numbers. This was Rahman's si
xth film with his mentor. One of India's leading film magazines "Stardust
', in its annual ranking of the 50 most powerful people in Bollywood, pub
lished in its March 2000 issue placed him at number 38 , eight notches ab
ove the previous year's. Rahman turned down an offer from Subhash Ghai to
work on his next film 'Yaadein' as he wanted to concentrate on 'Bombay Dreams'.

In early March Sony Music released the concert recordings of Rahman's 199
8 Dubai concert in a 3 cassette pack. On 7th march, Sir Andrew Lloyd Webb
er flew down to Mumbai to formally launch 'Bombay Dreams'. A musical to f
eature Asian performers and to be staged worldwide he musical was to be i
n English and the characters to be based on the city of Mumbai. It was to
be produced jointly by Shekhar kapoor and Really Useful Group, Webber's
production company. Speaking at the launch Shekhar Kapur said "A.R. Rahma
n's a genius. When Cate Blanchett visited India last year, she took back
several Indian sounds, and since then, she's been badgering me to get Rah
man to score music for Hollywood films." Webber heard A R Rahman's score
for Mani Ratnam's Dil Se. So impressed was he with Chaiyya chaiyya -- the
song, the choreography, the visualisation -- for the composer, it was l
ove at first sound. The sound of Rahman's music. that Sir Webber asked Ka
pur to introduce him to Rahman.

Rahman is the first composer to be invited by Webber to work in a musical.


Bombay Dreams will have Webber as the producer and Kapur as the collabora
tor. Said Sir Andrew at the launch, "Four or five years ago, people didn't
have the same access to Hindi film or Indian music as they have today. I
became incredibly impressed by Rahman's music. I asked him if he would com
e to London, and he did. I also asked him if he would be interested in doi
ng a stage show. At that point when he said "Maybe", I thought I better co
me here and ask him. I am very happy to say that he has just said yes. I s
aw a very exciting Hindi film dance sequence on Channel 4 and asked Shekha
r to give me more such music. And that's how I met the amazing Rahman. He
is the most extraordinary melodic composer who is still true to his cultur
al roots, and deserves to be heard by an international public. I am not wr
iting the music for Bombay Dreams. It will be entirely by the maestro here
. Dil Se's music was great and amazingly contemporary. This is for the fi
rst time that I have invited another composer to write a musical for the s
tage. I am very excited to be able to explore this possibility with A R Ra
hman. My production company has produced several plays by writers other th
an myself, but this is for the first time I will be working with another c
omposer. I regard A R Rahman as one of the most exciting young composers o
f our time. I am grateful to Kapoor for bringing us together. This man is
a fabulous composer, one of the most exciting today. he is simply brillian
t. What you might possibly call the best. His work is very different, very
unusual and he himself is such a simple and humble guy that it would be a
pleasure for us to work with him. He will bring a different kind of flavo
ur to a musical production in the West." He decided to hear more of Rahma
n, from Bombay and Roja to Taal and Rangeela. ldquo;Without being told who
the composer was, I would identify that it was Rahman," he says. Waxing e
loquent about Rahman's work Webber said "The time has come in the West (I believe
and Indian music is going to be at the centre of this new movement. For it
is strong on both melody and percussions. Someone like Rahman could provid
e the leadership. Yes, I feel very strongly about his music."

Rahman said that though he was heavily pre-occupied with music assignments
in India, he would devote considerable time for the new project, which woul
d not only be an extension of his career but also showcase Indian culture t
o the West. In turn he said, "I am happy to be associated with my friend Sh
ekhar Kapur and the legend Andrew Lloyd Webber,God willing, it will be succ
essful, an extension of my career and Indian culture abroad. I am a great f
an of the legendary musical theatre composer. I loved some of his songs lik
e Don't cry for me, Argentina. It is indeed flaterring to realise that that
my talent has been spotted amidst so many talented artistes. That certain
aspect of insecurity of whether I will be able to live upto people's expect
ations is also there." He also added that he would be shuttling between Lon
don, Chennai and Mumbai for the project.

Rahman signed up for director Rajkumar Santoshi's next film 'Lajja' which
was to be made ahead of his other film 'Rashq' which was also to have musi
c by Rahman. Not surprisingly rahman opted out of 'Lajja' when Santoshi de
cided to make it a quickie. On March 11th Rahman completed a clean sweep o
f the year's major awards by bagging the Zee Cine Award for Best Music Dir
ector for 'Taal'. It looked like Bollywood had finally accepted that Rahma
n was here to stay. On 15th March the music of Rajeev Menon's 'Kandukonden
Kandukonden' was released along with its Telugu version 'Priyaralu Pilich
indi'. The music was a stunner. All the songs had a classical base and was
an instant chartbuster. Encomiums were heaped on Rahman at the release fu
nction. Speakers like Kamalhaasan said "'All these people go on and on ab
out his music look at him, he's as cool as ever, I think he's composing so
me tune even now in his mind that he's least bothered about all these prai
ses! Be like this Rahman, its a great new high!' But an innocuous remark b
y lyricist Vairamuthu, "I agree wholeheartedly that Rahman is a great comp
oser. But I do wish his music would not totally swamp my lyrics to the ext
ent that nobody can make them out", sparked off a whale of controversy. Ru
mours of a rift between the two took flight. But Vairamuthu hastily clarif
ied that all was well between them and it was just a friendly advice. But
stories persisted that Rahman had totally broken off with Vairamuthu and h
ad begun to promote an upcoming lyricist IlayaKamban.

On March 23, Kamalhaasan's next film 'Tenaali', a full length comedy to b


e directed by K.S.Ravikumar was launched. This was K.S.Ravikumar's third
film with Rahman after 'Muthu' and 'Padayappa' and was his first home pro
duction. Rahman returned, after 'Indian', to work for Kamalhaasan with t
his film scotching persistent rumours of bad blood between the two. This
would be the first time that Rahman would be working in a film of this ge
nre. On March 30th, Rahman was conferred the Padmashri by the President o
f India, K. R. Narayanan in the Durbar hall of the Rashtrapati Bhavan in
New Delhi. On the 14th of April the Filmfare South Awards for 2000 were a
nnounced. Rahman bagged the Best Music Director Award for 'Mudhalvan'. Th
is was the 8th year in succession that he was winning the Filmfare Awards
for Tamil and it was his twelfth Filmfare award overall. He was also nom
inated under the Best Music Director Category for 'Taal' in the Zee Gold
Bollywood International Awards 2000, awarded for popularity of Hindi film
s in the USA.

Following his nod to movies like Star and Alli Arjuna which would feature R
ahman's earlier tracks from another language, a wave of criticism was unlea
shed against him. Rahman justified his move thus - 'It is the question of t
ime. Since I am going off abroad people don't want to lose the frequncy of
my releases. I can't do everyhting at the same time. So I pick up the best
tracks and give them those. Its not my fault. They ask for it. If I am not
in a position to do a film for them they ask me to atleast let them reuse m
y tracks from other movies." When asked if he Bombay Dreams would be a chan
nel to Hollywood, "I am not interested in Hollywood. There is more fun in w
hat I am into already. Right now what I need to do is learn a lot of things
and spend time to create music rather than shuttling between here and ther
e." On being told that his chances to latch on to the international pop sce
ne were bright "I don't think I'll fit into that scene becasue I am more of
a composer than a pop performer. That needs a different kind of energy whi
ch I don't think I have. You need to be more of an extrovert for that." He
also at this time explained his move towards more offbeat films like 'Lagaa
n','Zubeida',' Fizaa',' Water' thus "When you take up a big movie people ex
pect big things and want to hear big things. If you are doing a non-commerc
ial film with an international spectrum but a small budget like 'Earth' the
songs are of a different genre. I did not want to get typecasted as a comm
ercial music director. This is why I am doing more alternative films." The
website indiainfo.com rated Rahman as one of the 10 most powerful people in Bollyw

Rahman made his first movie appearance, albeit in a clipping, when he was
shown receiving a Filmfare Award from K. Balachander for the film 'Minsa
ra Kanavu' in the film 'Kandukondain Kandukondain'. In May he was nominat
ed in the Best Music Director category at the India International Film Aw
ards. On May 27th he bagged the Zee Gold Bollywood International Award fo
r Best Composer for "Taal' making its his sixth straight award for 'Taal'
. On this visit he was honoured by the United Tamil Foundation of New Yor
k for his outstanding contribution to music. Meanwhile director Sanjay Gu
pta was in hot pursuit of Rahman trying to get him to compose for his nex
t film 'Kaante'. HMV re-released the soundtrack of Alai Payuthey with 3 n
ew songs, 'Endrendrum Punnagai', 'Mangalyam' and the Sultan Khan version
of 'Snehidhane'. Sony Music released 'Jana Gana Mana' on cassette and CD
in retail shops finally but intriguingly enough there was not a shred of
publicity regarding the release. Rahman took his award winning spree to n
ewer heights when he bagged the award for Best Composer for 'Taal' at the
International India Film Awards in London on June 24th. This was his sev
enth award for 'Taal'. The rumours regarding the split between Vairamuthu
and Rahman and Vairamuthu having lured away Rahman's keyboardist gained
more credence when his long time keyboardist, Harris Jayaraj signed up as
composer for two movies, 'Minnaley' and 'Majnu' with Vairamuthu as lyric
ist. After making a clean sweep of all the other awards Rahman lost the N
ational Award for Best Music Director which went to Ismail Darbar for 'Hu
m Dil De Chuke Sanam'. It was announced that Rahman would hold two concer
ts in North America, in New York City on September 23rd and at the Skydom
e in Toronto on September 30th.

For a shy and reticent person who always shied away from controversies, pe
ople seemed keen to drag him into more and more of them. After the earlier
instances when he was a victim of bizarre and baseless accusations rangin
g from converting his associates to funding terrorists, he came in for mor
e of a similar nature in July 2000. First, on a milder note, people seemed
to be in a hurry to label him copycat and were unearthing the original so
ngs, from which Rahman had supposedly copied, at an incredible pace. But m
ost of the allegations were either totally false or there were only some c
oincidental or passing resemblances. But to be fair there were a couple of
songs composed by Rahman with striking resemblances to other numbers. Aft
er this he was accused of delaying the release of 'Rhythm'. The story was
that Pyramid Natarajan, producer of 'Sangamam', 'Rhythm' and 'Udaya' had n
ot paid Rahman for 'Sangamam'. And therefore he was dragging his feet on c
ompleting the work for 'Rhythm'. The producer suposedly toyed with the ide
a of replacing Rahman with another music director in both 'Rhythm' and 'Ud
aya' but ran out of money to even complete the shooting of 'Rhythm'. Then
the producer supposedly approached Rahman and begged him to complete work
on the music of 'Rhythm' so that he could make money from music sales and
complete the movie. But the most serious allegation was from the internet
portal indiainfo.com which alleged that Rahman was a religious fanatic. It
reported that Rahman's mother was stalling the telecast of the second par
t of an interview to Sun T.V. because the producer refused to delete Rahma
n's reference to the song 'Sankara nadasareerapara' from the movie 'Shanka
rabharanam' as one of his favourite songs composed by another music direct
or. Rahman's mother reportedly wanted it removed because she did not want
her Muslim son to refer to a Hindu song as his favourite!!! The article de
scribed Rahman as a religious fanatic and condemned him for tolerating his
family's religious fanticism. It questioned how
a composer who had tuned Vandemataram and Jana Gana Mana could do such a
thing. Indiainfo.com stood by its article and claimed that it had thourou
ghly investigated the whole issue before publishing the piece and the jou
rnalist in question was one Kalyan Kumar, formerly with the Tamil edition
of India Today.

Added to the above was the continued stories about Rahman's split with Vai
ramuthu. If some magazines were to be believed the whole thing started whe
n director of 'Udaya' Azhagu Perumal introduced upcoming lyricist Ilayakam
ban to Rahman. Pleased with his work Rahman asked him to do a song for 'Ud
aya'. This apparently miffed Vairamuthu who till then was sole lyricist to
Rahman. Presently a whole host of lyricists like Piraisudai, Arivumudhan,
Ilayakamban, Pazhani Bharathi and Vaali are slated to work with Rahman. I
n July Rahman signed Shankar's next film 'Nayak' starring Anil Kapoor, a r
emake of 'Mudhalvan'. In addition to reusing some songs from the Tamil ori
ginal Rahman would compose three new songs for the film. This would be Rah
man's sixth film with Shankar. On July 14th Rahman deposed as a prosecutio
n witness in the bevy of corruption cases against former Tamil Nadu Chief
Minister Jayalalitha. Deposing before judge A C Arumugaperumal Adityan, Re
hman said that in July 1995 Jayalalitha's secretary Jawahar Babu had calle
d him up saying that she wanted to see him. Rahman and his mother went to
see the then chief minister at the secretariat. Jayalalitha requested him
to perform at the wedding of her foster son, Sudhakaran, whom she has sinc
e disowned. Sudhakaran, a co-accused in a corruption case against Jayalali
tha, is one of the three nephews of Sasikala Natarajan, Jayalalitha's clos
e friend. Rahman said that 10 days before the function, Bhaskaran (Sasikal
a's nephew) and his wife came to his house to invite him to the wedding on
behalf of the groom. As is the custom in Tamil Nadu, they invited him wit
h the card placed on a silver plate holding a 'kumkum' (vermilion) contain
er and two silk saris. It is common practice at Hindu weddings to present
vermilion and clothing to friends and relatives on behalf of the bride and
groom. From the bride's side, legendary actor Sivaji Ganesan's son Prabhu
invited him. A reception was held on September 6, 1995, a day before the
marriage, and Rahman and his troupe performed for an hour. The ace music director t
charge.

In early August the music of Khaled Mohammed's 'Fiza' was released. For th
e first time Rahman took on the mantle of Guest Composer and scored his fi
rst full length qawwalli song 'Piya Haji Ali' for this film. The song was
greatly appreciated by critics and received reviews like 'the best song of
the year' putting to shade the equally appreciable score of Anu Malik for
the film. Rahman finally said yes to Sanjay Gupta's 'Kaante', work on whi
ch would start only in late-2001. Around this time some rounds of the popu
lar quiz show Mastermind was shot in Chennai. Among the participants were
the actress Kasthuri who had chosen 'The music of A. R. Rahman' as her are
a of specialisation for the quiz. On August 10th the much delayed and much
awaited score of 'Rhythm' finally made it to the stores. Though the score
was above average even by Rahman's standards it did not live up to the ma
ssive expectations from it. But the score sold more than 3 lakh cassettes
and CDs in just 2 days. On August 14th Rahman appeared at the Planet M sto
re in Mumbai to promote Jana Gana Mana and followed it up with a visit to
Music World in Chennai. At both places he was mobbed by huge crowds. Amids
t all this came the news that Maniratnam had signed up an upcoming compose
r by name Dina to score the music for his next two productions , one to be
directed by himself and one by his assistant Azhagam Perumal. There were
contradictory reports that Dina would only be doing the Perumal film while
Mani himself had put off his next film so that Rahman would become a litt
le free and also try to bring about a patch up between him and Vairamuthu.
All the reports appeared to be speculation and nothing was concrete. Arou
nd this time Rahman also trimmed his hair and returned to his pre-Vandemat
aram days look.

A further two concerts were added to his North American tour - one in Los
Angeles on October 6th and another in San Franscisco on October 8th to m
ake it the first ever concert tour for Rahman and a mammoth one at that.
Rahman appeared in ads on Indian channels in the US endorsing the Raaga m
usic megastore chains and encouraging people to avoid buying pirated good
s. Though all the shooting was completed for 'Tenaali' the movie was on h
old since Rahman was yet to compose 3 songs for the movie and director K.
S.Ravikumar opted to put off the release of the movie to October from Aug
ust than settling for below par compositions from Rahman. Rahman had reac
hed such a position that getting his 'dates' for a movie were proving to
be more difficult than that of top-of-the-league actors like Kamalhassan.
In early September 'Rhythm' was released in Telugu as well. Rahman signe
d yet another movie with director Rajkumar Santoshi. Titled, 'The Legend
of Bhagat Singh', it was to be a Hindi-English bilingual featuring Indian
and International performers. One of India's leading newsmagazines, 'The
Week' published a survey it had conducted to determine the most admired
Indians. Rahman was placed at No. 12 just behind Kamalhaasan and ahead of
the likes of Shahrukh Khan and Pandit Ravishankar. Further signifying hi
s shift to Bollywood, Rahman signed a movie for the Amitabh Bachchan prom
oted AB Corp(formerly ABCL) to be directed by ad-man turned director Rake
sh Mehra, starring Abhishek Bachchan. Rahman followed this up by giving t
he nod to Shankar for his next mega film, 'Robot', starring Kamalhassan
and Priety Zinta. The movie, a science fiction film was to be produced by
Media Dreams the new production house floated by Pentafour and would be
Rahman's seventh film with Shankar. In September the media carried report
s that Rahman had been signed by the UK based Shakespeare Foundation to s
core the music for a new play on Shakespeare's life. He was supposedly of
fered an astounding Rs 300 crores for it.

In a reader poll conducted by Stardust Magazine for the year 1999-2000 Ra


hman was adjudged Best Composer for 'Taal' by an overwhelming 48% of the
respondents. On September 23rd, the first of the four concerts of Rahman'
s North American tour was held at the New York Colloseum in New York City
. Rahman previewed a song from 'Bombay Dreams'(sung by new singer Karen)
and one from 'Zubeida' to a massive audience of 20,000 which was treated
to an array of songs, mostly restricted to the very recent films, by sin
gers like S.P.Balasubramaniam, Hariharan, Udit Narayan, Kavitha Krishnamu
rthy, Sukhvinder Singh etc. Rahman came armed with a 82-member strong tro
upe. Academy award winning British lyricist Don Black, best known for wri
ting the songs for James Bond movies, said as a special guest at the even
t that Rahman's genius was in his originality and skillful improvisation,
the "richness and diversity" he could bring to Indian notes. Black, who
was working with Rahman on Andrew Lloyd Webber's dance musical 'Bombay Dr
eams' received a special award for promoting world music. The audience wa
s treated to another surprise by the introduction of percussionist Vikku
Vinayagam on the Ghattam. This was quickly followed by an equally success
ful one in the Toronto Skydome on September 30th which was graced by Hol
lywood superstar Steven Seagal who was reportedly interested in hiring th
e services of Rahman for one of his forthcoming films. Here the audience
strength was at 40,000. Responding prehaps to widespead criticism over hi
s use of pre-recorded pieces in the New York concert Rahman emphasised th
at the entire Toronto concert was being performed completely live and no
recorded CD music was being used. The third concert was staged in Los Ang
eles on October 6th and the final one on October 8th in San Francisco. Th
e most jarring feature of the concerts was the open expression of displea
sure at the choice of songs by the public at the conert. It appeared that
Rahman had misread the composition of the crowd and played tamil songs where the
certs were a resounding success.

In an uncharacteristic interview to Junior Vikatan magazine Rahman alleged


that some vested interests had tried to sabotage his US concert tour by i
nfluencing the American Consulate to deny visas to key members of his trou
pe. He said that they had to run from pillar to post to get the visas and
many of them landed in New York only on the day of the concert and since t
hey had no time for rehearsals they ended up using lot of recorded music i
n the concert. In early-October the music of Tenaali was released in Tami
l and Telugu. In mid-October trailors of 'Zubeidaa' broke on air riding on
Rahman's name with the line 'A.R.Rahman is back scoring music for the sto
ry of a princess'. The music released on 16th of October . It was an uncon
ventional album for Rahman, featuring mellow songs. 'Muthu' was taken up f
or dubbing in Hindi. The grapevine reported that Kamal Haasan was trying t
o persuade Shankar to drop Rahman from their next project 'Robot'. In an i
nterview to Ananda Vikatan magazine Rahman clarified a whole host of rumou
rs, firstly that nothing was wrong between Vairamuthu and him and they wou
ld certainly work together in the future. He also confirmed that he was do
ing Shankar's 'Robot' and denied that he was doing any musical in associat
ion with the Shakespeare Foundation.

On November 1st he presented himself in the Chennai High Court once again
to testify that he had not received any gifts from Jayalalitha for her f
oster son's wedding and had only performed out of respect for the bride's
grandfather Sivaji Ganesan. The grapevine reported that Rahman would per
form with Jennifer Lopez at a football tournament scheduled in India in 2
001. It seemed like Rahman would never stop winning awards in 2000. On No
vember 12th he added two Bollywood Music Awards, for Best Composer and Be
st Song to his ever-burgeoning kitty. Rahman returned to work with mentor
and veteran Tamil director K.Balachandar with 'Paarthale Paravasam'. The
film to be launched in early January 2001 would star Madhavan and would
be completed in five months. In November the Birmingham Film Fest paid tr
ibute to Rahman by organising a showcase of movies with his music titled
'Sound on the Screen:A.R.Rahman'. Rahman also appeared at the festival. I
n an interview to India Abroad News Service director Deepa Mehta said tha
t she had more or less shelved 'Water' in view of the protests against th
e movie. The news was a big disappointment for Rahman fans since since Ra
hman had himself rated his music for the film as 10 on 10. The ABCL film
was tentatively titled 'Awaaz'. In early December Rahman signed up for on
e of Indian cinema's most ambitious project. The project was 'Taj Mahal-T
he Great Indian Experience', India's first film on IMAX that was to be ma
de by none other than Bharatbala. In the last week of December the state
govt. of Tamil Nadu bestowed his sixth Best Composer State Award for 'San
gamam'. He received two nominations for the IMI-Zee Sangeet Awards for Th
akshak but didn't win any.

The year 2000 proved to be a very subdued year for Rahman in terms of out
put but was unparalleled for the awards and honours that he received and
his public performances. He had only 6 releases viz. Alai Payuthey, Kandu
kondain Kandukondain, Rhythm, Thenali, Zubeidaa and Jana Gana Mana. Apart
from this he donned the role of Guest Composer for the first time in 'Fi
za'. While Jana Gana Mana was a milestone in terms of the acclaimed names
he worked with, 2000 did not see him break any new ground with regard to
creative output. Alai Payuthey will probably rank at the bottom among hi
s six movies with Mani Ratnam. Kandukondain Kandukondain saw him go more
classical than usual but failed to be pathbreaking. Rhythm disappointed
while Tenali was as lacklustre as a Rahman score could get. The saving gr
ace was Zubeidaa where he managed to a great extent in recreating a perio
d score that was mellow. It appeared that Rahman seemed to have hit a pla
teau. The most significant development was his teaming up with Sir Andrew
Lloyd Webber and Shekar Kapoor for 'Bombay Dreams'. 2000 was most fruitf
ul in terms of the recognition he received. Except for the National Award
he pocketed every other award that was given. In all he bagged he clos
e to two dozen awards. The crowning glory was the bestowing of the Padma
Shri by the Goverment of India.

THE YEAR - 2001:

2001's first music release was a Rahman score. The much awaited soundtrac
k of One 2 Ka 4 released on 3rd January. With the trailor breaking on TV
in the first week it appeared that Love You Hamesha would finally see the
light of the day. Rahman also signed three new films, one in Tamil, S.A.
Rajkannu's 'Prashanth' and two films in Hindi, one for choreographer turn
ed director Ahmed Khan and one for producer Vashu Bhagnani. The film by V
ashu Bhagnani was meant to be a remake of the Tamil film 'Minnale'. Follo
wing this he also signed his fourth film for intimate friend and director
Kadhir titled, 'Kadhal Virus'. On January 12th he personally received hi
s sixth Tamil Nadu State Film Award for Best Composer for the film 'Sanga
mam' from Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M.Karunanidhi. He also grew his hair
back to his Vandemataram look. To add to the ever growing list, he also g
ave his nod to Priyadarshan's international venture in English on the lif
e on freedom fighter Chandrasekhar Azad titled 'The Last Revolutionary'.
The stories and newsreports regarding his performance with Jennifer Lopez
at the finals of the Sahara Millenium Football Cup in Calcutta on Januar
y 25th multiplied though there was no official word from any quarters. Ra
hman appeared at a ceremony in Hyderabad where the Chief Minister of Andh
ra Pradesh Nara Chandrababu Naidu honoured the team behind Mudhalvan on t
he mega-success of its Telugu version 'Oke Okkadu'. Late January saw the
release of the music of Love You Hamesha finally. Love You Hamesha was pa
nned by the critics. As January 25th passed, it turned out that the much
talked about performance with Jennifer Lopez at the football tournament w
ere totally unfounded.

Rahman made a suprise appearance at the launch of producer K.T.Kunjumon's


'Swasam'. What set the tongues wagging was Rahman's appearance inspite o
f the fact that he was not scoring the music for the film. The same day R
ahman also appeared at the launch of Kadhir's 'Kadhal Virus' were Manirat
nam and Bharatiraaja were present. In February Rahman composed the theme
track and background music for a special short film on the Indian Navy to
coincide with the International Fleet Review that was held in Mumbai fro
m February 17th for a week. The filmwas titled 'Jaya He' and was directed
by Bharatbala and Kanika with Amitabh Bachchan doing the voice over. The
event was held in India for the first time. This intended to build bridg
es of friendship across the oceans and bring men-of-war together in a ges
ture of peace. The major countries that participated included United Stat
es, United Kingdom, Russia, France, Japan, Australia and South Africa fea
turing 25 foreign ships from as many as 19 foreign countries. The gossip
rags put out another story about how Rahman kept Aamir Khan's wife and ex
ecutive producer of Lagaan, Reena Khan, waiting at his residence when she
had gone there to give him his remuneration for the film. The stories sp
oke about how she waited for an entire day and therefore missed her fligh
t back to Mumbai.

Rahman, extended his support to the composer of yesteryears, Naushad in the


setting up of a school for music titled 'Naushad Academy of Hindustani San
geet'. Sony Music released another recording of the Dubai concert in a bid
to cash in on the public's expectancy of the release of the US concerts. Me
anwhile there was talk that Rahman would perform in a concert in March in D
elhi , organised by former US President Bill Clinton to raise money for the
victims of the devastating Gujarat earthquake. After it changed hands from
Sushilkumar Agrawal, HMV released the music of the Hindi version of Muthu,
'Muthu Maharaja' in early March. Rahman was spending a lot of time in this
period in London on Bombay Dreams. Around 50% of the work was completed. I
n an interview, when he was asked what he felt about his own growth as a co
mposer since the Roja days, he replied 'Roja was an effort to do music that
crosses mainstream yet be alternative-and not remain just film music. My e
ffort primarily has been to give more and more to the film industry as this
is the only form of recreation for millions in this country.' Countering c
easeless and baseless criticism on he being repetitive and gizmo-oriented,
he said 'There was a repetitive phase four or five years ago, but I think I
've got over that. In those days, many directors associated me with Prabhud
eva, and wanted me to only do dance songs. But when you do dance music, you
tend to use the same beat. That wasn't what I consciously wanted to do. So
I began incorporating other sounds. In Taal and Thakshak, I used north Ind
ian influences, unlike my earlier films, where my music was south-oriented.
Today, my music is more rounded, more balanced. To satisfy the director, I
create three or four variations of each song. Then we all decide which tun
e will work best, and thus avoid repetition. Each film requires a different
attitude, and the use of technology depends on the film's subject. In toda
y's times, technology is an extra attribute. It makes things easier. But I
don't depend solely on technology. About 90 per cent of Zubeidaa has been recorded w
instruments.'

The barrage of allegations continued when website tehelka.com, known for i


ts sensationalisation of news carried an article that accused Rahman of gr
owing too big for his boots and spoke of the Tamil film industry turning i
ts back on him. Among the many things that the article related was that di
rectors like Bharatiraaja, Mani Ratnam and Rajeev Menon had given up on hi
m and that Kamal Hassan was trying to force him out of Shankar's 'Robot'.
It also alleged that Rahman had refused Rajnikanth's next and had insulted
him resulting in the superstar being furious with him. According to the p
iece, both Rajnikanth and Kamal Hassan were under the impression that Rahm
an's accusation that someone big in the industry had tried to sabotage his
US concerts was directed at them. In mid-March The Hindu reported that Ra
hman had signed actor-dancer Javed Jaffrey's directorial debut that would
be co-directed by Sangeeth Sivan with whom Rahman had earlier worked on 'Y
oddha'.

In one of his best interviews ever, Rahman spoke in depth about various issu
es to the magazine AV Max. Revealing his outlook to compising he remarked 'I
believe that only when you have fun can other people have fun too. If you f
eel tortured, people listening to you will also feel tortured. So I make it
as less torturous for people as I can. Describing his mental state before he
singed 'Roja' he said, "During 'Roja', I couldn't foresee what was to come,
in that sense it is very special. Before I signed 'Roja', I was very satisf
ied with what I had. I had producers asking me to compose for commercials an
d whatever ambitions I had had long been subjugated. Just before 'Roja' happ
ened to me, I went into a state of spiritual vacuum, and temporal ambitions
took a secondary place. In such a state, every moment was surprise. I tended
to take what came as it came rather than hope and foresee too many things a
nd have too many ambitions. Yeah, the success of 'Roja' surprised all of us,
but I tended, and still tend to look at it philosophically. I think it work
ed out better this way because it is no use having too many ambitions and ge
tting frustrated in the process." Commenting on public opinion he said, "It
can be a little confusing at times. It is an odd fact of my career that when
ever the music of a film I have composed for is released, the first reaction
is one of non-acceptance. The reaction is that Rahman is burnt out, he is g
etting repetitive, he has no future. Four months down the line, after the fi
lm releases, the same people say that the music is very good. When I tried a
nd worked on a new sound, and I felt that at least now they would stop sayin
g I was repetitive. But they complained that the musc was too radical. Give
them something that they can predict and they don't like it. Give them somet
hing completely new and they don't like that either." On criticism he opine
d, "Initially, it used to hurt, but then I tried to analyse that they were t
rying to say. One criticism is that all my tunes sound alike. Now that is not true, but it
ute in a couple of songs and since they sounded alike, it is assumed that the
tune was being repeated. So I switched to a bamboo flute for some time. I have
switched back to a pan flute it takes time for people to realise that it is n
ot the tunes but the instruments that are being repeated and how the instrumen
ts are used is a signature style of the composer, it takes time to establish t
hat it is the feel of the instruments that is the same and not the tune."

On the much spoken of 'Rahman sound' he conceded that there was such a thin
g 'It is like a personal signature. Take Mohammed Rafi, for example. He mig
ht sing in different raga, but no matter what he sings, you know that this
is a Rafi song. It is also like a RD Burman track. No matter what he compos
es, you know this is a RD Burman composition by the way it sounds, by the w
ay the instruments are arranged, and by the way the song flows. It is possi
ble that every musical composition is imbued with a bit of the personality
of the composer. When I compose, I am not conscious of a particular style,
but yes, people do say that there is something called a Rahman sound." Spea
king about his inspiration he stated, "Personally, I would say that a sense
of spirituality helps a great deal. And it is important that you study lif
e as well. Both these things will make a better human being, and therefore,
a better composer out of you. Life teaches you what real pain and happines
s are, and these things help in creating better compositions. It works like
this: if the film demands happy music the composer only has to tap into th
e wellspring of happy experiences from his own life to create the right amb
ience for that tune. I think this is more improtant than learning all the t
echnical gymnastics of music." Explaining his reasons for staying away from
the limelight, he stated "I always wanted my music to be famous, not me. B
ut I accept that people relate the music to the person. I have tried to sta
y away from becoming a commodity. I have tried to stay away from becoming a
face on a soft drink commercial or something like that, and it has worked
fine so far. The advantage with this is that the day these people drop me,
nobody will get the impression that I am over and done with, musically."

On March 23 Rahman won his 13th Filmfare Award for his music in the film
Alai Payuthey at the south Filmfare Awards. Sony Music unleashed the pre-
release publicity for the music of Lagaan revealing that it would be rele
ased on April 6th. The anticipation of the music heightened among the pub
lic. After a long series of collaboration in Bharatbala's 'India Pride' s
eries like Vandemataram, Desh Ka Salaam, Jana Gana Mana and Jaya He, Rahm
an teamed up with him once again to score the background music for a shor
t film called 'India on IMAX'. The film directed by Bharatbala was shot i
n IMAX and was meant to showcase the diversity of India using the power o
f the IMAX technology. The short film was screened for the first time at
the inauguration of India's first IMAX theatre, set up in Mumbai by the A
dlabs group, on the 25th of March. The film would later be screened at IM
AX theatres across the world. Rahman was also present at the launch of th
is IMAX theatre. After opting out of his first film 'Gaja Gamini', Rahman
agreed to compose for reknowned painter M.F.Hussain's second film 'Do Ka
dam Chal Ke Dekho'. The movie 'Kaante' was officially launched and the mo
vie was a multi-composer filmwhich would involve other composers like Vij
u Shah, Lucky Ali, Adnan Sami and Salim and Suleiman Merchant. Rahman was
no longer involved in the movie.

On March 31 Rahman participated in a charity music show in Chennai titled


'Netru Indru Naalai' to raise funds for the organisation 'The Banyan' in
volved in caring for disabled children. The concert which was centered ar
ound children had Rahman conducting the music for two songs, 'Achcham Ill
ai' from Indira and 'Chanda Suraj' from Vandemataram. He later made a pub
lic donation for the organisation. It was speculated that Rahman would sc
ore the music for Kamalhassan's next film 'Pammal Sambandham'. But it tur
ned out that Deva was doing the music. He lost the national award to Anu
Malik's Refugee for which he was in contention with scores like Kandukond
ain Kandukondain, Alai Payuthey and Zubeidaa. The Times of India caused a
furore by reporting that Shankar had replaced Rahman with Harris Jeyaraj
in Robot. But it turned out that it was false news. There was also news
that Shankar was launching another movie titled 'Power' starring Aishwary
a Rai, Lara Dutta and Prashanth. But there was no confirmation if Rahman
would score the music for the film.

Bharatbala revealed more information on India's first IMAX film, Taj Maha
l. The film would be released in August 2002 and would be exhibited all ov
er the world. To be produced by Scott Swofford of Vineyard Productions the
film received financing from India Lotus Inc, a consortium of Indian tech
enterpreneurs like Kanwal Rekhi, K B Chandrasekhar, B V Jagdeesh and Guru
raj Deshpande, and the IMAX Corporation. Rahman seemed to be on an unchara
cteristic signing spree and the latest film in his kitty was 'Dil Ne Jise
Apna Kaha' starring Salman Khan, Aishwarya Rai, Sohail Khan and directed b
y debutant director Atul Agnihotri. Rahman, participated in a special feat
ure in the Tamil children's magazine Chutti Vikatan wherein he replied to
queries from children. A special show on the music of 'Lagaan' was aired o
n DD Metro on April 1 and had everyone in raptures about the music. 'Lagaa
n' which was scheduled to be released on April 6 was premiered on Doordars
han on April 1 and was actually available in overseas markets on April 3.
The score was also released on the internet before the official release. T
hye music was outstanding and was fully in consonance with the period and
story of the film. The soundtrack sold out within hours of release. Rahman
appeared at the soundtrack release in Planet M, New Delhi to promote the
soundtrack of Lagaan. Rahman also put in appearances at Planet M in Mumbai
to promote the music of Lagaan. On April 8 he recieved his 13th Filmfare
Award, for 'Alai Payuthey' at the Filmfare Awards ceremony in Hyderabad. H
e accepted an offer to compose for actor-director Parthiban's film 'Yelelo
'.

On April 14th Rahman was present at the launch of 'Yelelo' along with sta
lwarts like Mani Ratnam, Shankar and Kamal Hassan. At the ceremony Rahman
revealed that he had accepted the film because of its rural subject and
would try to blend Irish folk music with Tamil folk music in the film. Su
dha Raghunathan, the acclaimed Carnatic classical singer rendered the tit
le song of the movie at the launch function. He won over another serious
filmmaker when veteran director M.S.Sathyu signed him up for his next fil
m, 'Neecha Aasmaan'. On April 30, Rahman was awarded the Awadh Samman, a
honour conferred on outstanding artistes by the Government of Uttar Prade
sh. Rahman received the same from Vishnu Hari Shastri, the Governor of Ut
tar Pradesh. Speaking to a newspaper, Andrew Llyod Webber commented on th
e upcoming 'Bombay Dreams' thus, "I haven't heard a musical in the last 2
0 years which has got such good tunes. Rahman is fantastic. His music is
so beautiful, and I believe what he is writing is so far ahead of the gam
e that we could be talking about the future of musicals for a very long t
ime. I really look on Rahman as someone I can pass the mantle on to." The
M.S.Sathyu film was titled 'Neechcha Aasmaan'. The pre-release promotion
s for Lagaan spoke of Rahman visiting Bhuj thrice with all his accompanim
ents to get the right feel for the score.
The music of 'Star' released in May. There were five songs, one original,
one resued from Earth and three reused from 'Thakshak'. The album was way
below the mark. All the songs dubbed from the Hindi originals were infinte
ly better in their inital avatar. The new song was no great shakes either.
Coming a full 7 months after his last Tamil release , 'Tenali', 'Star' di
d precious little to regain the ground Rahman had lost to composers like H
arris Jayaraj(Minnale) and Karthik Raja(Dumm Dumm Dumm) in 2001. Some new
films for Rahman were producer Tahir Hussain's 'Ada' in Hindi. Kamal Hassa
n revealed in Filmfare in June that Rahman had been signed to do the music
of his forthcoming film to be directed by K.S.Ravikumar, post-Pammal Samb
andham. Rahman also gave the nod to Mani Ratnam's next, their seventh toge
ther, tentatively titled 'Kannathil Muthammittal'. In an interview to Minn
ambalam ezine Illaiyaraja clarified about a controversy that erupted thre
e years ago in 1998 regarding a ring. In a musical function arranged to fe
licitate musical greats Illayaraja and M S Vishwanathan, a ring was presen
ted to each of them. A R Rahman had presented the rings and put them on th
eir fingers. Raja immediately removed the ring and presented it back to Ra
hman. Explaining what had transpired that day, Raja clarified that he does
not wear gold ornaments and also disliked jewellery. When the ring was pu
t on his finger he was caught unawares. The first thing that he did was pu
t it back on Rahman's finger. He had refused rings even from MGR on stage
once. The press had blown it out of proportion and written negatively abou
t his relation with Rahman. He didn't do it to insult anyone, he explained
. In June, noted cricket expert Harsha Bhogle revealed when writing in The
Week magazine that the New Zealand born coach of the Indian cricket team,
John Wright, had along with the Star Sports channel, used videos set to t
he music of Rahman's Maa Tujhe Salaam to motivate the Indian cricket team
during a tough series against Australia earlier in the year.

Co-inciding with the summit between Indian Prime Mnister Atal Behari Vajp
ayee and Pakistan President Parvez Musharaff, there were reports that Rah
man would perform in two concerts in Pakistan later in the year as a part
of the effort to increase the people-to-people contact between the two c
ountries. On July 5th the music of 'Nayak'was released to a characteristi
cally disappointed response. Five of the songs were carried over from the
original, Mudhalvan while there were two new songs which sounded like a
half-hearted effort from Rahman. Rahman made a donation of Rs. 5 lakhs fo
r earthquake relief in Gujarat. Rahman was awarded the Best Music Directo
r Award for his work in 2000 by Film Today, a Tamil film magazine. Rahman
accepted Producer K Prabhakaran's Ashoka starring Arjun and directed by
Shaji Kailas. Rahman had early done a movie called Love Story for the sam
e producer but that movie never saw the light of the day. The Rahman comp
osition Bombay Theme was used in ad for a Mineral water in France starrin
g the famous French footballer Zenadine Zidane. Erstwhile Rahman flunkey
Harris Jayaraj's second release Majnu, wholly reminiscent of his first Mi
nnale took the charts by storm.

Rahman's almost year long absence from the Tamil scene save for the reus
ed 'Star' which bombed, was taking a toll on his stature in the Tamil fi
lm industry. Rahman was likely to score the music for Rajnikanth's forth
coming film. Rahman received a double nomination in the Zee Gold Bollywo
od Music Awards scheduled to be held in New York on the 10th of November
. He was nominated for 'Zubeidaa' and 'Lagaan'. Rahman's 'Bombay Theme'
was featured in two other international albums, 'Paradisiac' and 'Flying
Carpet'. Further 'Kehna Hi Kya' was included in the music curriculum in
Ontario in Canada. On August 15th 2001, Rahman completed 9 years in the
Indian Film Industry. Director Rakesh Mehra stated that Rahman was doin
g the music for his next film 'Samjhauta Express', earlier titled 'Awaaz
'. In an interview to MTV, Rahman revealed that he was working on Tanvee
r Ahmed's 'Ada', Shyam Benegal's next 'Ganga' and Khalid Mohammed's "Teh
zeeb' starring Shabana Azmi and Tabu.

On August 25th, Rahman was felicitated by the Al-Ameen Foundation in Ban


galore and was awarded the Al-Ameen Community Award. Shaad Ali, assistan
t to Mani Ratnam sounded out Rahman to work on his Hindi remake of Alai
Payuthey which was being produced by Yash Chopra. For the Tanveer Ahmed
film, Ada, produced by Jhamu Sughand and starring Dilip Kumar and Amitab
h Bachchan, Rahman completed recording six songs. Rahman was nominated t
wice, for Lagaan and Zubeidaa, at the International Bollywood Music Awar
ds to be held in New York on Novermber 10th. In early October, Malaysian
information minister Khalil Yaakob, who was on a visit to India to stud
y the Indian film industry led a delegation on a vist of Rahman's hi-tec
h Panchathan Record Inn as well. Rahman came in for another round of sev
ere criticism for his slow pace of work. It was more than a year since h
e had had an original release in Tamil. Films like 'Udhaya', 'Alli Arjun
a' and 'Paarthale Paravasam' were said to be delayed because of his fail
ure to record the songs on time. In October Rahman gave the nod to Tamil
actor Nasser's directorial venture, 'Dheem Tharakita Thom', starring M
ohanlal in the lead.

Going back to one of the very first languages he worked in, Rahman agreed
to compose for director Priyadarshan's dream project on the weavers of K
ancheepuram to be made in Malayalam on a shoestring budget. An American c
ompany called Mondo released an album of Rahman's Hindi and Tamil songs a
long with one song each of R D Burman and Vishal, called Mondo India to p
romote his music in the western world and it drew rave reviews wherein Ra
hman was described as "possibly the greatest of the modern filmi composer
s, and a man who can seamlessly marry Indian and Western melodies, instru
ments, and techniques in a way no one has managed before. He is to the Bo
llywood scene what Ennio Morricone or Nino Rota have been to European cin
ema: people who transcend the idea of score and soundtrack to bring forth
pieces like "Dheeme Dheeme" that can stand alone as pieces of music." Th
e music of Paarthale Paravasam which was due to be released in late Octob
er was delayed amidst reports of several music labels fighting over the r
ights to the soundtrack. 'Bombay Theme' was featured in yet another Inter
national compilation 'Cafe Del Mar Vol 5 ' in what was the fifth occasion
after 'Anokha', 'Chakra', Paradisiac' and 'Flying Carpet'.

The Bombay Theme was featured in yet another French compilation titled 'F
ly' and was also used in the ad for a French brand of mineral water title
d 'Volvic' featuring footballer Zinedine Zidane. Paarthale Paravasam fina
lly released amidst a mjor controversy over the rights between HMV, Chall
enge Music and Hit Music. K. Balachander sold the rights of Paarthale Par
avasam to both Challenge Music, a Pondicherry based company and HMV. When
HMV learnt of it they questioned KB who offered to buy back the rights f
rom Challenge music. Challenge Music, for whom Paarthale Paravasam was th
e first major release, refused and went ahead with the production of the
cassettes. HMV went to court and obtained a stay order from the Madras Hi
gh Court restraining Challenge Music from producing or selling cassettes
of Paarthale Paravasam. Defying the stay order, Challenge Music wente ahe
ad and distributed the cassettes saying that it had already manufactured
3.5 lakh cassettes and would be ruined if it was not allowed to sell them
. Armed with the stay order HMV organised police raids to seize cassettes
released by Challenge Music. Finally the music released on all the label
s though HMV's was claimed to be the genuine one. The music was very expe
rimental and unlike Rahman and received a overwhelmingly positive respons
e from fans but was received very badly by listeners by and large. K.Bala
chander and Rahman-The Duet duo-failed to love up to the massive expectat
ions and both music and film met a sorry fate.

Rahman gave the nod to a new film, 'Naran' starring Kamal Haasan and Ami
tabh Bachchan to be directed by K S Ravikumar which said to be man and b
east story. While the movie was a Tamil-Hindi bilingual Rahman suggested
that the movie be made in Hindi as well. Rahman was also signed up for
the Hindi remake of Alai Payuthey , 'Saathiya' to be directed by Shaad A
li, Mani Ratnam's assistant. The film would feature music from Alai Payu
they along with new compositions. Rahman took up a Telugu assignment aft
er nearly 7 years when he accepted producer A.M.Rathnam's film that was
launching his son Jyothi Krishna as director. In an interview to the Tam
il magazine Anandha Vikatan cricketing legend Sachin Tendulkar revealed
that he was a great fan of Rahman's music. At a delayed ceremony, Rahman
was awarded the prestigious V Shantaram Award for Best Composer for 'Ta
al'. There were reports that Rahman had opted out of Nasser's 'Dheem Tha
rakita Thom' which was retitled 'Popcorn' with Yuvan Shankar Raja as com
poser. Even Parthiban who launched 'Yelelo' with much fanfare seemed to
have abandoned the project and moved on to other things.

Mani Ratnam held a press conference to announce the completion of 'Kannat


hil Muthamittal' with the music expected to be released in late December.
Director Vasanth said in an interview to The Hindu that he was working o
n making a 'different' love story titled '9-30 to 10-00' that would have
music by Rahman. Shankar too put his mega-project 'Robot' on the backburn
er and commenced work on a small budget movie called 'Boys' with Rahman's
music. There was no word yet on Rajinikanth's next movie. Rahman meanwhi
le started work on Raj Kumar Santoshi's ambitious 'The Legend of Bhagat S
ingh'. The song that he recorded was described by the producer Kumar Taur
ani of TIPS Films as "It is a unique song which, besides giving the perio
dic feel, has a fresh feel about it." The newspaper Dinmani reported that
a 9-th standard schoolgirl called Vidya had sung for Rahman in 'Kannathi
l Muthamittal'. Rahman had chosen the girl from his alma mater Padma Shes
hadri Bala Bhavan. Sify.com carried a story that Paarthale Paravasam had
flopped because of the delay in the release of the music and added that r
ecord companies were demanding that Rahman scores be released atleast 45
days prior to the release of the movie and TIPS was sore about Rahman not
delivering the music of Kannathil Muthamittal on time.

Meera Syal, the writer who was writing the script for 'Bombay Dreams' said
in an interview to Savvy Magazine that it was Rahman's involvement that f
inally made her accept and that his music was fabulous and as a person he
was intense yet unassuming. Rahman's sister Rehana, in an interview to Ku
ngumam magazine spoke in depth about her relationship with him, 'He's a bo
rn genius', we kept fighting with each other while we were kids, the whole
family lives for Rahman by doing everything we can to support him, Rahman
is also interested in photography but doesnt get adequate time to explore
it further." The music of Alli Arjuna finally released on 19 December. Th
e music was a rehash of songs from multiple movies , '1947', 'Pukar' and '
One 2 Ka 4' and took Rahman to a new low. Meanwhile the music if Kannathil
Muthamittal and its Telugu avatar 'Amrutha' was eagerly awaited. Particip
ating in a seminar organised by the Indian Performing Rights Society in Ch
ennai on December 22, Rahman spoke about the importance of valuing Intelle
ctual Property Rights and was also felicitated by the IPRS on the occasion
. Rahman received his felicitation from Naushad.

2001 was every bit unlike what we have seen from Rahman thus far. He had j
ust one original release in Tamil, Paarthale Paravasam which was a massive
non-success. His other two releases Star and Alli Arjuna were irresponsib
le rehashes of his earlier work. Coupled with the massive success of other
composers like Harris Jeyraj, Karthik Raja and Yuvan Shankar , Rahman's s
tock in the Tamil industry probably touched its lowest level ever. People
were questioning his commitment to the Tamil industry. His forays in Bolly
wood were not particularly memorable either. Though no one can accuse him
of being lackadaisical in his score for One 2 Ka 4 , which was probably th
e best conventional Bollywood score from Rahman so far, the fact that the
movie was terrible took the music down with it, calling into question Rahm
an's choice of films and filmmakers. His score in Nayak, partly reused fro
m Mudhalvan, was also torn to shreds. Zubeidaa, the music of which release
d in 2001, received much critical acclaim but did not attract attention in
dependent of the film itself which was aimed at a niche audience. The savi
ng grace for Rahman in an abysmal 2001 was Lagaan. A film with massive exp
ectations and lot of hype that could have proved counter-productive. But R
ahman delivered. And the music became a massive hit. But the appeal of the
music was largely in context of the film itself. By way of awards Rahman
picked up the usual bunch of Filmfare and assorted other awards. But witho
ut question 2001 was the most subdued and lacklustre year in Rahman's 10 y
ear long career, making one hope that all the attention Rahman was paying
towards Bombay Dreams would pay off in the subsequent year.

THE YEAR - 2002

2002 began with everyone hoping that Rahman would firmly put a dismal 200
1 behind him. The first significant event of the year was Rahman receivi
ng a double nomination for Lagaan at the annual Screen Awards. Rahman was
nominated for both Best background Score and Best Score categories for '
Lagaan'. In reaction Rahman said, "My effort was to combine classical and
folk to create period music. I think what has worked about the music of
Lagaan is that all the departments—lyrics, background score and vocals—co
nnected. Everyone gave their best. While composing, the involvement with
the script, cast and director makes a lot of difference. And in Lagaan I
was involved in every aspect of the film. People like Aamir Khan and dire
ctor Ashutosh Gowarikar are the kind of people who live a film. You look
at the script through their eyes and you know what to do, and what not to
do. " Director Pravinkanth took out a huge ad in the newspapers on Rahma
n's 35th birthday on January and used the opportunity to announce his nex
t film 'Thullal' supposedly with music by Rahman making one seriously que
stion Rahman's wisdom in continuing his association with the director. So
me newer reports spoke of Rahman actually doing Nasser's Popcorn which wa
s supposedly based on the life of Illayaraja.

Even as Parthiban put off 'Yelelo' came in the news that Karunanidhi was
writing a song with the Pongal festival as its theme for the film. Januar
y 11th saw Rahman taking the Zee Cine Awards for Best Composer for 'Lagaa
n', the first awards of the year. January 12th marked the first release o
f the year for Rahman, the much awaited Kannathil Muthamittal, his sevent
h outing with Mani Ratnam. Much was expected from the combination and in
keeping with the demands of the film Rahman turned out an appropriate sco
re that went down well with his fans but not so much with the masses at l
arge. Rahman was nominated for the music of Lagaan at the 48th Filmfare A
wards on January 17th. In a strange incident the quirky Bal Thackeray ann
ounced that he was declaring a ban on synthesisers since it was spoiling
Indian culture and music and vented his ire on Rahman describing his musi
c as the sound of washing vessels. On January 18th, Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy ba
gged the Screen Award for their peppy score in Dil Chahta Hai beating Rah
man who was nominated for Lagaan.

Several tamil newsmagazines reported that Rahman had signed K.Balachander


's next to be directed by his assistant Selva inspite of the debacle of P
aarthale Paravasam. The Times of India also reported that Pakistani Sufi
singer Abida Parveen was supposed to record a song for 'Saathiya' but was
unable to make it to Chennai for the recording because of the prevailing
political climate between India and Pakistan. Kamal Hassan also announce
d plans for his next film with K.S.Ravikumar now titled 'Panchatantram'.
There were reports that he was planning to approach Rahman to score for t
he movie. Outlook magazine published a snippet that the Delhi based healt
h products company Morepen Labs was in the final stages of negotiations w
ith Rahman to compose a 'Health Anthem' for their upcoming ad campaign. D
inmani newspaper reported that Rahman had asked for gists of a few import
ant prose/ poetry from classical tamil literature. Lyricist Ilayakamban h
ad given such a collection to Rahman. Rahman planned to use them in subse
quent movies. Rahman dashed to London to be present at the official laun
ch of Bombay Dreams on February 7th. The glittering function was attended
by several dignitaries and several encomiums were showered on Rahman. Re
marked Webber, " In Rahman I met someone who I believe could carry the to
rch of musical theatre into a new dimension". IN a question by the BBC on
what the he felt the difference was in composing in India and London, Ra
hman remarked that back in India he got Mom's food while in London he had
to live on tinned food. The musical would premiere in London's Apollo Vi
ctoria theatre on May 31 and have regular shows from June 19.

Rahman apparently met director S.J.Surya on a flight from Mumbai to Chen


nai and gave the nod to compose for his next film 'New'. Meanwhile Kamal
Hassan put his project with Rahman, Naran, on hold and went ahead with
'Panchatantram' for which he signed Deva. Rahman gave the green signal t
o the makers of a T.V. serial based on noted Tamil literateur Kalki's ep
ic Ponniyin Selvan. To be produced by a Singapore based company Hebron I
mage Makers the serial was to be directed by T.V.Raja starring M.N.Nambi
ar, Vijayakumar and K.R.Vijaya among others. The serial was to be screen
ed on Sun T.V. Vairamuthu is to pen the lyrics. Meanwhile it was also cl
arified that Kannathil Muthamittal was held up only because of censor is
sues and not any delay on the part of Rahman. Several critics praised Ka
nnathil Muthamittal's music as reflecting a 'new found maturity' in his
music. Rahman's films for Vashu Bhagnani and Ahmed Khan converged with V
ashu Bhagnani launching his next production starring Kareena Kapoor, Tus
shar Kapoor and Abhishek Bachchan directed by Ahmed Khan. Rahman hit bac
k by bagging his 14th Filmfare Award for 'Lagaan' which he received at a
glittering ceremony in Mumbai on February 16th. Women's magazine Femina
once again named Rahman in a list of men women like - "The small, humbl
e man for his soul-stirring music and for making us sing ‘Vande Mataram’ again.

On February 12th Lagaan became only the third Indian film to be nominated
to the Oscars thus providing Rahman another platform to deliver his musi
c from. Sony made plans to promote the music of the film as well. Says Sh
reedhar Subramanium, managing director, Sony Music: “Internationally the
album is being released as a mainstream album. We’ve modified the product
, included the song book and made it multilingual. We’re also tying up wi
th Columbia Tristar and selling the music at the venue, retailing at thea
tres.” Being a period film, the music has been marketed differently. The
background score has also been added to the album. Though the main target
is the Indian community, the hype spills over to the international media
." Kannathil Muthamittal finally released on February 15th and was unanim
ously acclaimed as Mani Ratnam's best movie to date. Mani had consciously
diluted the importance of the songs in the movie. There was some critici
sm about Rahman's background music being inadequate. The movie featured a
sequence where Amudha, the lead character carries a purse with her that
always contains the photograph of Rahman. Producer A.M.Rathnam widely pub
licised 'Enakku 20 Unakku 18', the Tamil dubbed version of his Telugu fil
m 'Nee Manasu Naaku Telusu'.

After a prolonged wait of three years Rajnikanth finally announced a new f


ilm titled 'Baba' scripted by himself. Rahman gave the nod to compose the
music of the film. On March 12th Rahman was nominated twice in the Best Mu
sic category for 'Zubeidaa' and 'Lagaan' at the 3rd International Indian F
ilm Academy Awards to be held in Malaysia on April 6th. The Arjun starrer
'Ashoka' was revived as 'Chanakya' and the film directed by Shaji Kailas w
ent on the floors again. Rajnikanth's 'Baba' too went on the floors on 24t
h March in a low profile launch. Sony Music released a new double cassette
of Lagaan with the dialogues and a new song Zin Kinak Zin which was not p
icturised in the film on the same day. 'Lagaan' failed in its quest for an
Oscar when it was pipped to the post by Bosnian film 'No Man's Land' but
Rahman had his moment under the Hollywood sun when O Re Chhori was played
during the listing of nominated films at the awards ceremony. Rahman made
a tour of Landmark and Music World stores in Spencer Plaza, Chennai to int
eract with listeners, in March. In its April 2002 edition, Filmfare magazi
ne wrote about Rahman thus, "A.R.Rahman was his usual humble self. After r
eceiving his award he quietly sat with the Times of India employees in the
wings so that the latecomers could get front seats. Rahman tujhe salaam!"

In a resounding testimony of Rahman's growing stature as a global artiste


, London based music group the Bollywood Brass Band announced that they w
ere coming out with an album titled, 'Rahmania', a tribute to Rahman cont
aining 16 of Rahman's tracks mixed and played by the band. The album is t
o release in June. Said Mark Allen, manager of the group "A.R. Rahman is
a wonderful composer, and has also led a revolution in production quality
using modern digital techniques. Musically he brings in a lot of South I
ndian vocal and drum styles, but he seems to listen to everything from ev
erywhere, so you could say he is a world music artist". On the 6th of Apr
il, Rahman was awarded the IIFA for Best Music for 'Lagaan' at the 3rd In
ternational Indian Film Academy Awards in Malaysia. On the 7th The Guardi
an newspaper of England carried an interview with Andrew Lloyd Webber in
which Webber described Rahman as being in the league of Paul McCartney. I
n keeping with the attention that Bombay Dreams was generating, this was
followed up by an article on Rahman in the London tabloid THe News of the
World. The article spoke of him having sold more records than Madonna an
d Britney Spears put together.
For the umpteenth time reports spoke of the long-stalled 'Engineer' being
revived. But there appeared no concrete moves on the same. Rajinikanth r
oped in former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Karunanidhi to write a song for
his 'Baba' thus making it the second time Rahman was composing a song pen
ned by the Kalaignar, the first time being in 'Yelelo'. The Bollywood Bra
ss Band's Rahmania released on April 15. On April 25, Rahman appeared at
the launch of ImagineAsia, an eight month long festival in London meant t
o showcase cinema from the Indian sub-continent. Bollywood was showcased
at the Selfridges store in London with Rahman music playing in the store
throughout the festival. Speaking to the Press Trust of India, Rahman rev
ealed that he had been offered two Hollywood projects by Sony's Columbia
Pictures but refused to divulge any more details. Director S.J.Surya conf
irmed that Rahman would be scoring the music for his forthcoming film 'Ne
w' expected to go on the floors in the latter half of the year. Rahman wa
s nominated in the Best Music category for 'Lagaan' at the 3rd Annual Zee
Gold Bollywood Awards. Rahman was also invited to be part of the Indian
delegation at the prestigious Cannes' Film Featival to be held in late-Ma
y. With the impending release of Bombay Dreams, the publicity for the mus
ical was touching a feverish pitch with every mainstream publication and
newspaper according extraordinary coverage to the musical. It was suppose
d to have 70% new compositions and the rest were reworked from Rahman's e
arlier compositions.

Meanwhile an article in Dhina Bhoomi newspaper spoke of Rahman setting one


of A.B.Vajpayee's poems to tune for a compilation album planned by Direct
or Priyadarshan. The music of 'The Legend of Bhagat Singh' released in ear
ly May and perhaps for the first time , a composer shared as much space on
the inlay card as the lead artiste when Rahman's mug shot got the entire
bottom half of the inlay card of the film's CDs and cassettes. A report in
the Dinamani newspaper said that Rahman would compose the music for a sho
rt film to be made by Director Priyadarshan for this year's Independence D
ay and would star child artiste Keerthana and the Indian Prime Minister At
al Behari Vajpayee. A report in the Economic Times on the highest tax paye
rs in the past year from the entertainment industry listed Rahman at No. 2
7, the highest tax paying composer/musician in the country. Rahman apparen
tly paid taxes to the tune of Rs. 60 lakhs in 2001-2002.

The publicity for Bombay Dreams touched a feverish pitch with Webber mana
ging to get nearly every publication of note to do a feature on Bombay Dr
eams. The first preview held on May 31 also received a favourable respons
e. 'Shakalaka Baby' which was released as a single also became an instant
chartbuster. The British press hailed Rahman as the 'Asia Mozart'. Amids
t all these glowing reports came in news that Rajanikanth's baba was gett
ing delayed because of Rahman. The Legend of Bhagat Singh was released on
June 7th and Rahman was hailed for his music and background score while
the movie itself was described as 'close to a masterpiece'. The songs pic
ked up with the release of the film. Sony Music announced that it had pic
ked up the rights for the Bombay Dreams soundtrack and a forthcoming Inst
rumental album of Rahman. In an interview to The Hindu veteran Malayalam
composer Isaac Thomas Kottukapally revealed that he had a long standing a
ssociation with Rahman and Rahman's first ever independent music composit
ion was a jingle for an ad film made by Mr. Isaac in Cochin in 1987.

The much awaited musical Bombay Dreams has its soundtrack released on the 1
7th of June and two days later the show itself was premiered at the Apollo
Victoria Theatre in London. Speaking about Rahman the show's producer, Sir
Andrew Lloyd Webber said "ARR is the best composer I've heard in my lifetim
e." Lyric writer Don Black said, "Rahman is a genius. It has proved a weird
, if uplifting, experience. You can't compare Rahman to any other composer
- for a start he is very religious. He sits down and improvises for about a
n hour and I say 'I love that' and he develops those bits. In a way, I'm a
song detective." There are other benefits. Normally when you write with a c
omposer it is hard work. But with Rahman being a spiritual person, it is ve
ry much 'it will happen when it happens'. If you are in the middle of a son
g and it gets difficult he is quite happy to leave it. The other thing is h
e has a wholly different attitude to deadlines in the creative process from
the Western one, which I'm obviously used to. His approach is the song wil
l come when it comes, which is a bit nerve-wracking to start with, but — al
ong with a bit of prompting from me regarding deadlines — it eventually see
med to work."

Director Steve Plimlott says, "Rahman is a melodic genius, and I don't us


e the word 'genius' very often. In India, people say he's their Mozart, a
nd it's sort of true." The star studded premiere show was attended by Sir
Andrew Lloyd Webber, his wife Madeliene Webber, socialite Ivana Trump, d
irector Shekhar Kapoor, pop star Bob Geldof, actor Sir Michael Caine, TV
personality Sir David Frost, Shahrukh Khan, Juhi Chawla, Naseeruddin Shah
, Subhash Ghai from Bollywood, musicians Talvin Singh and Nitin Sawhney,
Industrialist Laxmi Mittal, former Miss World Diana Hayden among others a
nd ended with a standing ovation being accorded to Rahman and Webber.The
critics, fans and the press were almost unanimous in their praise of Rahm
an's music in Bombay Dreams. The CD rose to No. 6 on Amazon's sales chart
s.
Said a fan, "This album encapsulates the essence of Bollywood, from the fi
rst sweeping strings to the breath taking dance numbers. I was not a fan o
f asian music, but this album has certainly made me change my mind. A R Ra
hman's ground breaking music fuses ethnic indian with western beats. The s
ongs are simply stunning and lyrical. IN a review in Mid-day, South Asian
film expert Naman R S wrote, "Rahman can now take his rightful place as on
e of the greatest living composers on the planet. From tender ballads to r
ambunctious foot-stompers to a satisfyingly percussive background score, h
e pulls out all the musical stops and creates a work that showcases his un
ique talent." The BBC wrote " It was inevitable with any 19 track album to
have a mixed bag of hit and miss songs, some were amazing others forgetta
ble, but all in all a remarkable achievement." Times Online opined "it's i
ncredibly catchy, full of soaring ballads and — when the drums stop poundi
ng — gilded with beguiling instrumental colour."

But there were a couple of dissenting opinions as well. The Independent wro
te, "A R Rahman has written a few pleasant tunes, but the overall sound is
more background than foreground, and a lot of the music is routine "orienta
l" stuff, the sort of thing one would hear in an old movie." And This is Lo
ndon mag said, "The music by the famous Indian composer, AR Rahman, played
by a tiny, 10-strong orchestra, falls blandly between two worlds. Far too o
ften it sounds more western than Indian. The mix is dull. So the chance of
hearing a fresh score scarcely materialises."

The show itself received a mixed response with descriptions that ranged fr
om "disappointing" to "refreshing". Reuters summed up the reaction of the
British Press as,"British critics gave theatre impresario Andrew Lloyd Web
ber's latest musical adventure, an extravagant version of Bollywood love s
tory Bombay Dreams, a qualified thumbs up on Thursday after its London pre
mier." The Daily Mail said "Once you enter the spirit, the show, cannily p
roduced by Andrew Lloyd Webber, is a delight.And it brings to a mainstream
audience the astounding musical talent of AR Rahman, the 36-year-old "Asi
an Mozart" from Madras who has sold more records than Madonna and Britney
Spears combined." The Daily Express wrote "Great fun, great costumes, and
a refreshing change from every other West End show." But the Independent w
as very critical, " It's a shame that this potentially thrilling subject i
s crippled by formula and mediocrity. Bombay Dreams may have the right ing
redients, but the whole samosa is less than the sum of its parts." Back in
India The Hindu said that Bombay Dreams opened to a disappointing respons
e but added, "The only winner, according to critics, is A.R.Rahman's music
and even if Bombay Dreams fails to take off, as seems likely, his own pop
ularity would only soar."
On June 29th Rahman appeared at the annual Bollywood Movie Awards in New
York to receive the Best Composer Award for 'Lagaan'. Daxco Digital, a le
ading acoustics firm announced that it had been selected by Rahman to equ
ip a new state-of-the-art studio that he was building in Chennai. To be s
pread over a area of more than 5000 sq. ft. area Rahman's famed Panchatha
n Record Inn would move here on completion. Slated to be completed by end
-2002 it will house a recording studio as well as a film mix stage . The
studios will not only house a full-blown Recording Suite but also a Film
Mix Stage where final mix-downs will take place. The Acoustic Design & Ar
chitectural plans for the studios were made by Studio 440 , acoustic arch
itects from CA, USA who have designed studios for Interscope/ Universal M
usic Group , Warner Brothers , Burbank , California and Saban Entertainme
nt , just to name a few. The studio is expected to be one of the best in Asia.

Bombay Dreams, which had a slow start, went on to become a major hit thro
ugh word-of-mouth publicity and its run was extended by more than year. A
relieved Andrew Lloyd Webber announced plans to take Bombay D reams to B
roadway in 2003-2004. Bombay Dreams ended up becoming the biggest West En
d hit of the year. The music of Bombay Dreams was released to wide spread
publicity in India in mid-july with Rahman making an appearance at Plane
t M in Mumbai and Music World in Chennai to release the music. The Britis
h press crowned him with the title 'Mozart of the East'. In India too, th
e Bombay Dreams score turned into a chart-topper, hitting the number one
spot for five continuous weeks on MTV India World Chart Express the list
includes top albums from the US and Australia. And Sony Music, which had
the rights to the music, said it had a hit on its hands and had already s
old 150,000 copies despite the fact that it was priced at a premium like
other international numbers and was in English. Webber summed up, "In Rah
man, I met someone who I believe could carry the torch of musical theatre
into a new dimension."

Recounting his experience of working with Rahman on Bombay Dreams, lyricist


Don Black said, "Rahman is a genius, but as he comes from such a different
culture, working with him took a bit of time getting used to! You'd be cha
tting about a song, and suddenly he's get up and leave the room. Before I g
ot to know him well I thought, 'Has he gone to the loo? Is it something I s
aid?' but what he actually does is just get up, go out, and pray. He's a ve
ry spiritual man. he has a wholly different attitude to deadlines in the cr
eative process from the Western one, which I'm obviously used to. His appro
ach is the song will come when it comes, which is a bit nerve-wracking to s
tart with, but along with a bit of prompting from me regarding deadlines it
eventually seemed to work."

July 27th marked a momentous day in the history of contemporary Indian mu


sic. It was ten years to the day that the music of Roja was released. In
the 10 years that followed this occasion Rahman had brought about a sea c
hange in Indian music and taken it international. And it was only rhe beg
inning. The icing of the cake was the announcement of the award of the Na
tional Film Awards for the year with Rahman bagging the Best Composer awa
rd for Lagaan, this being his third national award, a feat unmatched by a
ny of his contemporaries. The much awaited music of Baba released in earl
y August to a tepid response. The music did not have the mark of Rahman i
n it and was greeted by disappointment by both Rahman and Rajni fans. The
music was widely proclaimed to be the worst of the Rahman-Rajni partners
hips. With the movie also flopping, Baba added to Rahman's recent streaks
of flops in Tamil cinema. Rahman signed debutant director Ranjith's 'Swa
mi' which was the Tamil version of the bilingual film titled 'Nandanam' i
n Malayalam. Rahman also signed director S.J.Suryah's 'New'. The movie wa
s launched at a gala ceremony on August 15th with Rahman being prominentl
y featured in all the publicity material. 'New' was to be remade in Telug
u with Mahesh Babu as 'Naani'. In an interview to Gulf News Rahman said t
hat he was exploring the possibility of a concert in Dubai in 2003. Augus
t 15th marked the 1oth anniversary of the release of Roja, a day that her
alded a metamorphosis of Indian film music. Rahman announced plans for a
concert tour of the USA and Canada in early 2003.

In its edition dated August 18th, India's leading business magazine, Busi
ness Today carried feature on India's most Global corporate brands. one o
f which was Rahman. 16% of all people surveyed across the globe said that
they had heard of Rahman. "The numbers tell the story of Alla Rakha Rahm
an's standing in India: 107 million albums sold. International recognitio
n has been nudging him for some time. With Andrew Lloyd Webber's Bombay D
reams, though, Rahman may have arrived. Miramax is taking the show to New
York, and the buzz in Chennai (Rahman's base) is that he has signed on f
or a couple of Broadway musicals. The man himself is busy working on one
of the five films he does every year", wrote the magazine.

On August 16, it was announced that India's leading telecom services compan
y Bharti Teleservices had signed up Rahman as Brand Ambassador for its wire
less service Airtel. The news was significant as it market the return of Ra
hman to where he started his career - advertisements. Rahman would not only
compose the jingle for a series of ads, he would actually star in the ads
promoting the Airtel brand. In addition Rahman would also compose five excl
usive ringtones for Airtel customers. Of the five ring tones, two will be f
rom the ad film itself, for which Rahman has composed the music, another tw
o will be youth oriented while the third one will be akin to a lullaby. "We
will spend Rs 100 crore as part of our marketing initiative on AirTel bran
d in the fiscal 2002-03 and are planning to involve Rahman in our corporate
campaign for 'Bharti' as a mother brand," Bharti Enterprises joint managin
g director Ranjan Bharti Mittal said.

He said the new brand campaign delivered AirTel's new positioning 'Live E
very Moment' in a simple yet real fashion. On association of the renowned
music composer with the brand, Mittal said the new AirTel TV campaign ce
lebrates a person's inherent need to communicate simultaneously and grab
that moment to live it completely. "Rahman reinforces the leader-innovato
r and Indian cum international dimensions of AirTel," he said. This marke
d a new career move for Rahman. Rahman was reportedly paid a whopping Rs.
20 million, according to industry sources. This was the first time that
Rahman has associated himself with any brand anywhere in the world althou
gh he had endorsed Filmfare in a print campaign earlier.

Said Rahman, "Just like AirTel, the concept of bridging emotions, distances
and cultures is a concept that I often try to reflect through my music as
well. I am pleased to feature in the AirTel ad campaign. In fact, I began m
y career by doing ad jingles so its like going back to my roots. The adfilm
is directed by my friend Rajiv Menon and is shot both in Chennai and Londo
n. Let’s hope people like this commercial, God willing. However, I am not s
ure whether I will endorse other brands in the future." "The Airtel ad actu
ally was a true account of what once happened while I was recording I chanc
ed upon a tune and had it played back to my studio on the mobile. So when B
harti approached me with the creative I was quite surprised. I was apprehen
sive about how I would look before the camera, but I think the reactions an
d response show that I haven’t been too bad after all."

The ad directed by long time Rahman friend and reknowned ad-film maker and
director Rajeev Menon for ad agency Rediffusion debuted on August 30th ac
ross major Television channels and became an instant success. The ad featu
red Rahman arriving at the airport to see a sobbing child. Rahman pulls ou
t his harmonica and composes a tune to placate the child. He calls up his
studio over the Airtel mobile phone and plays the tune for them to record.
Enroute to a concert performance Rahman ropes in assorted musicians from
the street and records the complete song over the mobile phone and makes i
t just in time for the concert. The jingle was a major hit and was heard r
inging from every mobile phone in town for several weeks. If the figures a
re to be believed, the ad had a sledgehammer-like impact. The company’s br
and tracking research shows that top of the mind recall for the Airtel bra
nd has gone up from 73 per cent of customers interviewed to 78 per cent.

On 17th September Mani Ratnam and the producers of Roja announced that Ro
ja would be relaunched for an international release. Rahman appeared at t
he press conference. An article in Ananda Vikatan spoke of Rahman composi
ng for director Bharatiraaja's new venture, 'Kangalal Kaidhu Sei'. Rumour
s that Subhash Ghai was wooing Rahman to compose for his next directorial
venture were floating around in the press. Rahman recorded a song for Ah
med Khan's directorial venture with girl band Viva. The Arjun starrer Cha
nakya was renamed yet again, as 'Parasuram'. Rahman released the debut ti
tle of Mandolin Srinivas' brother Anil Srinivasan, 'Into the Light'. Repo
rts spoke of Rahman having broken away from the traditional one-time paym
ent system of Indian music composers to a royalty based fee system.

Business Standard, a leading Indian business newspaper carried an article


on Rahman going international. The article spoke of Bombay Dreams' success
and Rahman being the only bankable star in the film industry. Amit Khanna
, chairman, Reliance Entertainment and also a lyric writer: "He’s not imit
ative, he spaces himself out unlike other directors who sign up whatever t
hey can get and are looking at quantity rather than quality. As a result,
in 60 per cent to 70 per cent of the cases he delivers." Harish Dayani, ex
ecutive director of Saregama HMV, which released Sapney: "He is the most b
ankable star of all and I wouldn’t hesitate to pay a premium of as much as
50 per cent to him compared to other music directors."The article sang gl
owing praises of Rahman. "The music maestro has also cleverly marketed him
self as a recognisable brand. Rahman has also played his financial cards w
ith reasonable skill. He is one music director who prefers to be paid roya
lty rather than a one-off lumpsum amount.Rahman’s popularity is undoubtedl
y incredible especially at a time when the music market is facing hard times. "

Rahman was repeatedly asked in numerous interviews if he was quitting the


Indian film industry and moving to London, following the success of Bombay
Dreams. Rahman said that he had turned down offers to compose for five ne
w musicals. He said that making music for the Indian film industry continu
es to be his passion. "These are the songs that made me important. I will
never leave the industry for better opportunities". In 10 years Rahman had
made a successful transformation from a shy studio composer to a suave an
d savvy public figure. In an interview Rahman remarked, Making music today
, believes Rahman, is now more challenging. "I think there is more pressur
e now, the audience taste is much more elevated and they are more demandin
g. But it's good for us. They are much more open to new things. I am scare
d of meeting people, because I can't say no to them. I usually end up sayi
ng yes even when I want to refuse."

The music of the delayed Kadhal Virus was finally released on October 12
. The music was released by Sony Music which was venturing into regional
music for the first time. The music saw some amazing new compositions f
rom Rahman and met with a good response. The Amir Khusro Sangeet Academy
conferred the title of 'Sangeet Nawaz' on Rahman and received the award
from Ustad Bismillah Khan, the shehnai exponent at a ceremony in Chenna
i. Rahman signed Shyam Benegal's ambitious bio-pic on Subhash Chandra Bo
se, 'Netaji - The Last Hero' which was to be a international project.. O
n October 21, Rahman recorded the first song for Subhash Ghai's new vent
ure and the film was formally announced on October 24. The film would be
launched on December 24th. Rahman released 'Ashtaruchi' an album of Car
natic classical music produced by Bharat Kalachar.

On October 25th, Airtel released the five exclusive ringtones composed by


Rahman. The five ringtones were ‘Dream’ - the ability to dream, the confid
ence to achieve; ‘Desire’ - the passion & spontaneity of the moment; ‘Budd
y’ - the spirit of friendship; ‘Sizzle’ - the togetherness of fun & frolic
; ‘Little One’ - the joy of the moment with your child. With the release o
f these ringtones Airtel's network was jammed for hours with customer's ru
shing to download them. In an interview to India Today, Shekhar Kapur reve
aled that Rahman would score the music for his next film 'Pani' a story on
water wars in India in future. The music of 'Saathiya' the remake of Alai
Payuthey was released on October 29th. 7 songs were reused from the origi
nal while two songs were new compositions. On October 31, Queen Elizabeth
II graced a special Red Cross charity show of Bombay Dreams and commended
Rahman. On November 3rd it was reported that Rahman could possibly perform
at an international conference for NRIs to be organised by the Government
of India on January 9, 2003.

His forthcoming films include 'New', 'Ashoka/Chanakya/Parasuram', 'Enginee


r', 'Mudhal Mudhalaaga' , 'Udaya', 'Theekul Viralai Vaithal', 'Prashanth'
, 'Yelelo' , 'Robot', 'Boys', '9-30 to 10-00', 'Thullal', 'Swami', 'Kangala
l Kaidhu Sei' and Selva's untitled next in Tamil and 'Rashq', 'Ittefaq', 'W
aqia', 'Neecha Aasmaan', 'Do Kadam Chal Ke Dekho', 'Dil Ne Jise Apna Kah
a', Ada', 'Ganga', 'Tehzeeb' , 'Awaaz/Samjhauta Express', 'Netaji The Last
Hero', Shekhar Kapoor's 'Pani' and Subhash Ghai, Ahmed Khan, Javed Jaffre
y's untitled ventures in Hindi, A.M.Rathnam's 'Nee Manasu Naaku Telusu' in
Telugu and Priyadarshan's 'Kancheepuram' in Malayalam, and 'Taj Mahal-The
Great Indian Experience', 'The Rising', 'The Return of the Thief of Baghda
d', 'The Last Revolutionary' and 'Water' in English and the non-film 'Ekam
Satyam', 'Listen'. Besides this he also has the serial 'Ponniyin Selvan' a
nd Instrumental album of his hits for Sony. He is also,reportedly, currentl
y working on his next non-film project, where he is tuning the poems of the
famous Tamil poet and freedom fighter Subramania Bharati alias 'Bharatiyar
'. His future plans include a private album with singer Asha Bhonsle.

EPILOGUE:

The man behind the music is still much of an enigma. "If a music artiste want
s to blossom into a full-pledged person, it's not enough if he knows only cla
ssical music; nor it's enough if he's well-versed only in raagaas and techniq
ues. Instead, he should be a knowledgeable person interested in life and phil
osophy. In his personal life there should be, atleast in some corner of his h
eart, a tinge of lingering sorrow," he says.

When asked if turning religious helped his work, he says "After a point, it
is energy which comes from above and removes your insecurity. Then you can
go ahead. The world can abuse you but your confidence cannot be shaken. Yo
u want fame, but once you get it you lose your head. So just leave it to Go
d and carry on with your work. It makes it all easy. If I put it in my head
that I did it, then I fall flat because I can't take the next step. When a
sked why there is so much back-biting about him, he says "See, you can neve
r be a better person to everyone,'' he says ingenuously. "To achieve someth
ing you have to offend someone. I am doing five films and someone says, do
mine too. I say no. And he goes around saying, "Rahman? Bullshit!'' because
I'm no longer useful to him. Besides, so much is happening outside, you ne
ed to hang on to something peaceful''. When asked if he is scared of disapp
ointments he states frankly "Disappointments? Failures? The holy book says
they test you. A few years down the line you see the setback was a good th
ing, it stopped disaster''. He wants to be like a boat on a river without a
sail, the currents having freeplay. 'I am like a boat in the river, I go w
here ever it takes me', he says. Rahman's visits to dargahs and long prayer
sessions have been criticised as unprofessional interruptions of his sched
ule."If there's no mental peace, what schedule? I need that spiritual clean
sing, I meet the friends of God who have learnt so much and helped so many.
'' He sees dargahs as beyond religious conflicts. The Sufi way of love answ
ers his need. Rahman discloses also that with that gain in confidence, he h
as become more considerate towards others.

If all this reveals a man mature beyond his years, he responds by saying " I
have been with older people since I was eleven.Only when I saw my photograp
h in the newspaper while scoring for Roja did I discover I didn't have grey
hair, why, I was quite young!'' He continues "I know there is no point in al
l this success. I remember father, I remember how he suffered. And I learnt
the hard lesson. When a musician is in demand everyone flocks around him...
otherwise he's abandoned like a shirt that is torn and tattered. I've seen t
he callousness of the world with my very own eyes at a young age. Today, I
know that success doesn't last forever. It could disappear suddenly one day.
In fact,I feel every new film that I take up will be my last one. If I'm wa
nted today, I could be discarded tomorrow. they'll simply say, 'look this bo
y has failed and he thought he was in a position of advantage.' " He adds, "
Each movie is like a child to me. If the child is beautiful, its a matter of
pride for me."

Rahman, for whom music is not just a profession but 'a spiritual experience
', completed 9 years in the film industry on August 15th 2001. In this shor
t span he changed the very face of film music in India and touched heights
that no music director ever had previously. He has built up a repertoire of
scintillating scores that anybody would kill for. He has become a national
icon. He is also arguably the most well known Indian composer of popular m
usic internationally. He has successfully taken popular Indian music intern
ational. He has fans not just among expatriate Indians but also among nativ
es of places like Brazil, Sweden and Australia. He changed the image of a m
usic director from being a paan-chewing, harmonium-clutching copycat to tha
t of a technology-savvy person. He took Tamil music global and established
the universal appeal of his music, whatever the language the lyrics be in.
He set the standards by which music came to be rated in India. The benchmar
ks set by him were what others aimed to achieve. The soundtracks of his uns
uccessful scores sold more than the soundtracks of the successful scores of
other composers. He also collected inumerable accolades for his work - a P
admashri, 14 Filmfare Awards in 10 years (9 years on the trot in Tamil and
5 in Hindi), 3 National Awards, 6 Tamil Nadu State Awards and numerous othe
rs - a feat unparalleled and not likely to be overhauled in the foreseeable
future. Every director of repute yearns to work with him and every actor h
opes to dance to his tunes, literally.

At the age of 35, when many others are just starting out, Rahman has gar
nered achievements that many others cannot in a lifetime. He has already
worked with internationally reputed artistes like Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan
, Michael Jackson, Jean Michel Jarre, Sir Andrew LLoyd Webber, Deep Fore
st, Apache Indian, Zakir Hussain, Dominic Miller, L.Shankar, David Byrne
, Kadri Gopalnath, Vikku Vinayakram, Ustad Sultan Khan and Pandit Vishwa
Mohan Bhatt among many others. On a recent trip to India, David Byrne m
et Rahman and was so impressed that he went on to record some sessions w
ith Rahman for a projecthe is currently completing (as yet unreleased).
It can be safely said that the current modern era will be considered as
to have been greatly influenced by the 'Rahman School of Music'. Rahman
lists among his musical favourites Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Carpenters,
Carnatic, Rock and fusion and among film composers Naushad, S. D. and R.
D. Burman and in Tamil K. V. Mahadevan and Vishwanathan-Ramamoorthy.

When asked what music means to him, he says "Many things. Its hard to define
: bread and butter, peace, happiness, and devotion. When you are working on
a piece and it turns out to be good its like a moment of magic. It gives you
a lot of happiness when you think that millions are listening to your music
. Its also a whole process- making it likeable to myself first andthen takin
g it towards perfection. Music is beyond description and without boundaries
. We have to keep expanding our horizons and make room for new things. take
a small butterfly or insect - if you look at it closely you discover so many
new things. When I do something, I want to be original. I sit, just blank m
y mind and pray. and I come up with something. Mostly its good and gets appr
oved. It could be so simple and even a child could have composed it, but to
give it soul that's what's important. Music is a spiritual thing not a formu
la. "If a music artiste wants to blossom into a full-pledged person, it's no
t enough if he knows only classical music; nor it's enough if he's well-vers
ed only in raagaas and techniques. Instead, he should be a knowledgeable per
son interested in life and philosophy. In his personal life there should be,
atleast in some corner of his heart, a tinge of lingering sorrow."

"I'm inspired any time I watch a good musician playing. When I'm programmi
ng my music on my own, I always think of some great drummer or some great
bass guitarist. When I'm playing on the keyboards, I think of how beautifu
lly another musician plays the instrument. And that inspires me to play."
"When I see Mughal-e-Azam I feel the whole sound track has been produced w
ith a continuous, intense feeling. No cracks, no jerks. It took Naushad tw
o years of concentration, as if he couldn't see anything else''.

When asked if dealing with constant pressures of delivering somthting differ


ent would lead to a burnout, Rahman says, "I believe that a burnout occurs w
hen one is not happy with what he is doing. Probabaly he's doing it out of f
amily pressures or financial hassles. But not for the passion of it. But I a
m in this profession because I thoroughly enjoy doing what I do, and wouldn'
t want to do anything else. That's the reason why I have never felt overwork
ed or then felt like taking a break from my work. At times, all I want to do
is absorb the things happening around me and study more about music. But ev
erything that I do has to be related only to music. So, there's no concept o
f a burnout occuring in my life. God forbid." "Above all I am a strong belie
ver in destiny. I also believe that destiny can be changed by prayers."

"I am surprised when good things happen. I am cool when something bad happens
, also. I trust God and in that way helps me to get rid of unnecessary things
like jealousy, greed and all that stuff. Although I'm not fully out of it, a
t least I am almost at the surface of getting out of it. These things kind of
give me a security for doing music. I don't have to worry if whether I'll be
good, if I'll be successful, I'll be a failure or if I'll be thrown out or a
nything like that. Your almost like a vacuum, straight about everything. Whic
h gives you a completely sublime, lonely feeling apart from others."

Never one to boast or brag about his accomplishments, he credits all his insp
iration and success to Allah. "I am whatever because of my parents' prayers t
o Allah. I am whatever I am because the prayers I pray conscientiously, since
rely and with full faith five times a day. I will be whatever I am only becau
se of Allah, I know it. He has given me everything. He can take everything aw
ay and I accept His decision without any questions, without a murmur. Allah i
s my everything. I am just an infinitesimal creation of His. He has created m
e for a specific mission. I will be committing a sin if I don't fulfil that m
ission. That's my only belief. That's the only thing that matters to me. I do
n't care for all the other temptations of the world. I am born for music. I l
ive for music. I will live for music till the very end. That's Allah's will.
That's all I Know", Rahman says. "The problem is, you can create only as long
as you have the gift, only as long as the almighty wishes. After that, you c
an stand on your head, it still won't come. If God wills it so, it may happen
to me too. I can take that. I belive that every individual, even an atom, ca
n move only with the will of God. I don't take credit for doing all this. If
I did, then I would fall flat. '' "Destiny has been the biggest influence in
my life. Without the will of God I would have never reached where I have. Tha
t's why I believe I am like a boat in a river without a sail and a firm destination".

Apart from the Almighty he credits all his success to his mother who encoura
ged him to take up music when his interest lay in electronics. His maxim is
that only total dedication and concentration to one's profession can help in
producing good work. Rahman is certain that this dedication must increase w
ith fame. Rahman makes his presence felt again despite maintaining a low pro
file in public life. It is well known that he is seldom seen at social gathe
rings, film parties or functions. "Fans, VIPs wanting to meet you, functions
, parties - the moment you stop making good music all will stop. The only fo
rmula is - yes, we are back to it - total concentration on the work." All th
is success has not uprooted him from his roots, "Beyond what people achieve
and strive for the only things that are really important are - personal valu
es, family and friends." Ever the great improviser he never stops till he is
fully satisfied. "If an album is to please all age groups, go beyond curren
t fads, it must have a couple of memorable melodies. 'Hai rabbas' don't sati
sfy me. They make hits but are soon forgotten. You want to do something that
lasts.''

Rahman treats his compositions with a Sufi's dedication. When a tune comes
to him he ceases to function normally. "When music comes to me," he confess
ed in an unguarded moment, "I stop sleeping. I continue to work on spontane
ously at nights for seven to eight hours at a stretch. When I finally pop o
ff to sleep early in the morning I have these dreams that people are waitin
g for me. I can't even complete these dreams ."

In response to all the acclaim he has received, he says "It's a great respon
sibility. I am trying my best to combine traditional and contemporary styles
. But sometimes the result isn't in my hands at all. It depends on the film
and the director. Trends come and go but I have to keep doing my own thing."
. "You have to learn from the inside out. None can teach you, none can mak
e you spiritual. There is only teacher and that is your soul.

For Rahman, who eats music, thinks music, breathes music and lives music,
the bottomline is that his music should reach out to the soul of humankind
. "I know there are many people who say I don't know what music is. There
are so many who say that what I create is not music. But I know the people
are with me. The people love my music. I know Allah is with me all the ti
me while I am creating and with Allah by my side I know nothing can go wro
ng. My music comes from somewhere deep within me. I could have created any
kind of music but I create only that kind of music that comes from within
my being. My music has a mission. It has to reach the bodies, the souls o
f the millions for whom I strive to create my music, music that springs fr
om deep within me. I am a within man more than without. It is the language
of the heart and the soul together that makes my music. And I don't have
to make great efforts because my kind of music does not come by force or n
ecessity. It has to flow from within me. That's the only way I know how to
create. There's no other way. Let the people who don't like my music say
what they want, I say again and again. Allah be with them. It is this musi
c which he helps me create which appeals to both the body and the soul tha
t is going to be one of the greatest forces that will help people from all
over the world come closer, become one in body and soul in the millennium
to come. I am working on that music for the future."

Amidst all this heady success, Rahman remains unchanged. He is as humble, m


odest, shy, low profile, unassuming, self-affacing, devout and down-to-eart
h as he was at the beginning of his career. A man of few words he believes
in letting his work do all the talking. He prefers to save his energies for
his work instead of fighting out numerous controversies. His personality i
s summed up in his favourite prayer which goes thus "O God, if I worship th
ee for fear of hell, burn me in hell, and if I worship thee in hope of Para
dise, exclude me from Paradise, but if I worship thee for thy own sake, gru
dge me not thy everlasting beauty." The man has given immense pleasure to m
illions of music lovers world-wide with his compositions, music that brings
a cheer to one's face and helps in forgetting one's troubles. It is probab
ly these very divine qualities that made him the great man he is and the sa
me will hopefully help him touch greater heights and touch newer glories an
d keep millions enchanted with his blissful music for years to come.