The name A.R.Rahman needs no introduction. The man who redefined contemporary Indian music and is the pride of the entire nation and an idol for millions 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 heavenly music, then read on.
Rahman's strength lies not only in his perfect sense of melody and rhythm but also in his immaculate sound engineering. His music has been hailed as that 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 personally experience the pleasure of his creations. Many of his compositions might actually sound ordinary the first time. But his music has this amazing capacity to grow on you and establish a firm hold on the listener. His compositions are an intriguing cocktail of musical pieces that literally blow your mind. His music is unique in its offbeat instrumental interludes, unconventional harmonies, and use of far from perfect voices and thumping rhythms.
People Says :
Internationally acclaimed Ustad Zakir Hussain reminiscing about the time when Rahman played the keyboard along with violinist Kunnakudi Vaidyanathan and drummer Sivamani, on the album 'Colours' says, "He was barely 19 years old then but had mastered many different styles of music - western classical, jazz, rock and Carnatic. Even after his work was done he would stay in the studio, sitting through other musicians' pieces, eyes and ears tuned in, constantly imbibing. Very intelligent, smart and creative. He started as a young boy working with great composers like K V Mahadevan, 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 Rahman 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, "
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 many established singers, says "When Rehman calls you go without asking questions 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.
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 brought about a freshness, a new sound to film music. He's always experimenting, doing something different which is very inspiring for the playback singer."
His mentor and favourite director Mani Ratnam says, "I have found that Rahman is a favourite because he is new and above all different. He knows the pulse of the audience. He has a very good sense of tune. He knows what kind of orchestration is necessary for a scene and what music suits the mood of the scene.
A. R. Rahman or Allah Rakha Rahman was born actually A. S. Dileep Kumar on the 6th of January in the year 1967, in Madras (now Chennai), to a musically affluent Tamil Mudaliar family. 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. Dileep'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 director Sudarshanam Master found the four year old playing a tune on the harmonium. He covered the keys with a cloth. It made no difference. Dileep replayed the tune effortlessly. This impressed the music director who suggested that he be trained in music. Dileep started learning the piano at the tender 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 bread and butter. I had no special fascination for it... it was associated purely 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 the young Dileep and caught his fancy. Dileep used to spend hours experimenting with the novel instrument. This instrument was to shape the future of this child. It was perhaps divinely ordained that the synthesiser would become Dileep's favourite instrument since it was the ideal combination of music and technology.
Rahman's early years were one of struggle and hardships. At the age of 9, his father passed away following a mysterious illness. 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.
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 international 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 part of local rock bands like Roots, Magic and Nemesis Avenue where he performed with his future colleagues like Suresh Peters, Ranjit Barot and Sivamani 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.
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 Illaiyaraja, M.S.Vishwanathan, Ouseappachan and Raj-Koti. He has this to say of 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 and leading a pure life!'' " I was under the impression that if its music, whoever it is, they must have some bad habit. When I saw them with drinks and drugs I thought 'Oh! they are music people. They have to take drinks, smoke and cocaine to get their inspiration'. The man who changed these impressions altogether was only Ilayaraja. He proved that he can make good music without any bad habits! Even now he is an inspiration for me being so religious today."
Working as a jingle composer not only gave him an outlet to his creative urges 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 his first ever complete music album, of Islamic devotional songs, titled 'Deen Isai Malai', in Tamil. This was later followed by 'Set Me Free', an album 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 for Dileep in many jingles. Both the albums went somewhat unnoticed in the market. 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 numerous attempts to cure her failed. Her condition progressively worsened. The family tried everything from medicine to religious methods like havans and prayers in the church. The family had given up all hope when they came in close contact with a Muslim Pir - Sheik Abdul Qadir Jeelani or Pir Qadri as he was popularly known. The family had earlier gone to the Pir when his father had similar troubles, but were too late to save him. With his prayers and 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 influenced by the teachings of the Pir and the succour that they found in him the entire family converted to Islam. Thus A. S. Dileep Kumar became Allah Rakha Rahman. Today, Rahman says 'Islam has given me peace. As Dileep I had an inferiority complex. As A. R. Rahman I feel like I have been born again.'
The Musical Journey :
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 work and asked him to try his hand at composing for films. Rahman was initially 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, he was given an offer that would change his life. At the awards function where he received the award for Best Jingle Composer for the Leo Coffee ad,he 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 responsibility of composing music for the director's forthcoming film. Rahman, inspite of his reluctance to seriously take up work in films, accepted the offer since Mani Ratnam had the reputation of a director with a keen taste for good music and he was sure the director would do justice to his compositions on screen.
Rahman would later say, "I wasn't sure myself why I accepted Roja. I was offered Rs.25,000 for it, a sum that I could make in three days composing ad jingles. I think it was the prospect of working with Mani that enticed me. Mani 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 elevate 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 was awaited with curiosity since it was Mani Ratnam's first film without Illaiyaraja. Sceptics doubted the ability of a 25-year old debutant. The entire film world and filmgoers were in for a pleasant surprise. Rahman delivered the goods and how. To call the music a superhit would be an understatement. Rahman became a household name in Tamil Nadu overnight and the score of 'Roja' was the first step in his changing the face of Indian film music. 'Roja' not only won the heart of millions with its music it also won every 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 time. And there was no looking back for A. R. Rahman. With 'Roja', A. R. Rahman had finally arrived.
THE YEAR - 1993:
The following year, 1993, saw a lot of new releases that made him more popular. 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 'Roja' 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 were moderate successes. But his Malayalam and Telugu films have remained relatively unknown till date, inspite of having the classic Rahman touch in them. 'Yodha' particularly was offbeat featuring Nepali, Tibetan and Buddhist music in tune with the film's setting.
THE YEAR - 1994:
In late-1994, 'Roja' was dubbed into Hindi. Needless to say, both the movie and the music become phenomenal successes. This heralded a new trend where every Rahman film was necessarily a trilingual with the film getting dubbed into Telugu and Hindi. 'Roja' was also later dubbed into Malayalam, Marathi and Bengali. At the time of Roja's success in Hindi, Rahman's second 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 hit, 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 history as one of the most popular songs of all time. There was not a soul in the country who was neither dancing to it or humming it. With this song Rahman became a nationally recognised figure. The song was plagiarised freely by Bombay's tunesmiths and nearly a dozen versions of the song were churned out, a feat that earned 'Muqabla' and Rahman a place in the Limca Book of Records, the Indian equivalent of the Guinness Book of Records.
In 1994 Rahman also won the Filmfare Award, Tamil Nadu State Award and many others for 'Gentleman'. He also won the Filmfare-R. D. Burman Award for best new musical talent.
Following the unprecedented success of 'Muqabla' Rahman realised the importance 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 tunesmiths. 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 Compact 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 much 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 Bollywood just then with two films, one a remake of one of his Telugu films 'Gaayam' which had a script by Mani Ratnam and the other titled 'Rangeela'. Following a strong recommendation from friend and colleague Mani Ratnam, Varma signed on Rahman for 'Rangeela'. Following this, directors from Bollywood clamoured to work with the 'whiz-kid' and Rahman also signed Bollywood movie mogul Subhash Ghai's Magnum Opus 'Shikhar' and noted art film director Govind Nihalani's 'Droh-kaal'. But 'Shikhar' was shelved and Rahman 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 work with both directors, with Ghai in 'Taal - The Beat of Passion' and with 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 movie. 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, Rahman's third film with Mani Ratnam, the controversial 'Bombay' was released. The successful partnership that he had forged with his mentor went to new heights with the music of this film. The music of 'Bombay' was one of the most awaited scores and was hailed as a classic. With this film, Rahman also formally took to playback singing. Rahman had lent his voice to his compositions earlier too but they had been part of the chorus or bit pieces like 'Marhaba' in 'Urvashi' in 'Kadhalan' or background pieces and interludes like 'Yelelo' in 'Chinna Chinna Aasai' in 'Roja'. But 'Hamma Hamma' in 'Bombay' was Rahman's first complete song. With 'Humma Humma' Rahman came to be regarded as much a playback singer as a composer. It became an amusing and common sight at various award functions to see the comperes trying to cajole Rahman into singing on stage and Rahman coming up with hilarious excuses to avoid the same. 'Bombay' also became the first Rahman film to be released in Tamil, Telugu and Hindi simultaneously. 'Humma Humma' became an instant chartbuster and went on to become the blockbuster of the year.
The music of 'Bombay' became the biggest seller in the history of Indian films toppling '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 expectations. Carrying the tremendous burden of the enormous expectations of the public once again, Rahman did not disappoint. 'Rangeela' became an instant runaway success. With 'Rangeela' Rahman had successfully stormed the Bollywood bastion. Though Aamir Khan's performance in the film did help in sustaining the film at the box-office, it was Rahman's music that brought the crowds in droves to the theatres. Every song in the film became a phenomenal hit. With the songs 'Rangeela Re' and 'Tanha Tanha' Rahman brought veteran singer Asha Bhonsle back into the limelight. Crowds danced to the music 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, apprehensive about how Rangeela would perform there, since it was a Hindi film and none of the stars were particularly well known in that part of the country, took the advice of his brother-in-law, Ganshyam Hemdev, of Pyramid Music, and did away with the actors altogether from the posters and replaced them with a mugshot of Rahman with the catchline "The first original score of A.R.Rahman in Hindi". And sure enough, crowds flocked to watch the movie like crazy and for the first time a Hindi film was a runaway success in Tamil Nadu.
Late 1995 saw the release of 'Indira' directed by Suhasini Maniratnam where Rahman came up with a score with a rural touch. The score met with lukewarm success with a couple of songs 'Thoda Thoda' and 'Nila Kaigiradhu' becoming popular. By the end of 1995, Rahman was the No.1 composer in the country, all at the age of 28. Hailed by various critics as 'the true successor to R.D.Burman' and the 'Messiah of Music' he had endeared himself to the Bombay film crowd as well but Bollywood music directors were none too happy 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 film, more than three times that of his nearest competitor. But most producers were readily willing to shell out even that amount forcing him to further hike his fees as a deterrent and keep the producers at bay. The ones who 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.
His music also received international recognition when his tracks were used 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 but 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 signed three films with Hollywood-Indian producer Ashok Amritraj, one film each in Tamil(Jeans), Hindi(Love You Hamesha) and English(Jungle Boy). He was also offered 'Kamasutra' by the Indian-American director Mira Nair and 'Fire' by Indian born Canadian director Deepa Mehta. He accepted only the 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'.
THE YEAR - 1996:
Relatively, 1996 proved to be a listless year for Rahman, career wise. He had only four major releases, 'Indian', 'Lovebirds', 'Mr. Romeo', and 'Kadhal Desam' along with Bharathiraaja's extremely low-profile 'Anthimantharai'. 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 creativity and success. From 'Indian', starring Kamalhassan, 'Akada', 'Maya Machindra' 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 'Musthafa Musthafa' becoming extremely popular. With 'Musthafa Musthafa', Rahman arrived as a singer. 'Mr. Romeo' and 'Lovebirds', both starring Prabhudeva. bombed. His background score for Deepa Mehta's 'Fire', where some enchanting new compositions were embellished with snatches from his score for '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 prevented the masses from listening to one of Rahman's best soundtracks.
That year, he was offered a very prestigious multilingual project, 'Kaalapani' by director Priyadarshan with whom he was already working on 'Kabhi Na Kabhi'. But, reportedly on the request of lyricist-writer Javed Akhtar who had 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-budget 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 with 7-8 films. I told him that if I had to work with him I had to give him priority 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 and 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 composed 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 language. The concert was a humongous success. It featured all the top singers from India including Hariharan, S. P. Balasubramnaniam and others. For the first time Rahman sang in public when he rendered 'Musthafa Musthafa' at this concert. As always, he won numerous awards that year, the notable ones being two Filmfare Awards for 'Bombay' and 'Rangeela'.
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 would win the award for Best Music. Even the organisers forced him to come all 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, everyone at the event and those watching the show live on T.V. were shocked into 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 immediately rushed to Rahman in the audience and asked him for his reaction. All that Rahman said was 'God is Great!' which immediately won the hearts of everybody. Such is the humbleness of this man.
THE YEAR - 1997:
The songs 'Ooh La La La' and 'Poo Pookum Osai' (Awara bhanwre in Hindi) became major hits. His second original Hindi 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 fancy 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 something 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 to commemorate 50 years of Indian Independence in 1997. In 1997, the International music giant, Sony Music, whose portfolio included the likes of Michael Jackson and Celine Dion, entered the Indian market in a big way. They were looking to promote Indian artistes internationally. And the first person 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 largest 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 songs to mark the 3 colours of the Indian Flag . Sony asked him to choose from any of its international stars to work with and supposedly even suggested the name of Celine Dion. But Rahman settled, very appropriately, for the Pakistani Sufi music star Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Dominic Miller. Rahman had decided that he would definitely work with Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan after he attended his performance in Delhi. Explaining his choice, "I don't want 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. It'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 went 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 has it that angels open the gates of heaven and all prayers are answered, I descended 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 engineer. And then I sang for the first time, a few verses for just the two of us. "It was magical," says Bala. "He laughed, then he cried," says Rahman.
Rahman became the first Indian artiste of popular music to go international when 'Vandemataram' was released simultaneously in 28 countries across the 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 eve 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. The song 'Maa Tujhe Salaam' got repeated airplay in the world music category on radio and television channels across the world. With 'Vandemataram' Rahman left all his contemporaries far far behind and moved into a new dimension altogether. His full-throated rendition of the title song "Maa Tujhe Salaam", loaded with raw emotion touched the hearts of many a music lover.
THE YEAR - 1998:
1998 began on a good note when the music of 'Jeans', his fourth film with Shankar did very well. In fact, initially the movie took a bad opening and later 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 assistant Azhagan Perumal. But 1998 would musically belong to one film. The Rahman-Ratnam combination touched greater heights with the release of their fifth film together, 'Dil Se..', which became a rip-roaring success and also an all-time crowd favourite. The song 'Chaiyya Chaiyya ' became a humongous success. The entire score came in for wide spread appreciation and was hailed as 'Rahman's most versatile score till date'. For the first time, the 'Nightingale 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 doesn't work with Lata mangeshkar very often, "Most of my songs are so freaky that 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 successful 'Vandemataram', titled 'Vandemataram 2'. But Rahman did not take 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 as 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 would 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 prestigious 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 November he won the Viewer's Choice Channel [V] Award for Vandemataram, after being chosen by over 4.4 million fans. 'Dil Se..' swept the film music awards categories at the Channel [V] awards winning awards for Best Score, 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.
In the first week of December he went on a concert tour to Dubai where the Al-Shabab stadium was packed with crowds in excess of 50,000. He performed with the choicest of singers like S.P.Balasubramaniam, Hariharan, Udit Narayan, Chitra, Kavita Krishnamurthy, Sadhana Sargam, Shubha, Anupama and his entire orchestra consisting of drummer Sivamani Anandan, guitarist Kabuli and flautist Naveen. At this concert Rahman demonstrated the falseness of the claim that he used only electronic instruments in his music. He introduced his entire 50-piece orchestra to the audience and told the crowd that it was the hard work of all those people that made good music and not electronic gadgets alone. The crowd was treated to renditions of more than 30 splendid songs from Rahman's ever increasing repertoire. In December, he was invited by 'Mukti' a social service organisation to perform in a concert to promote AIDS awareness. He composed a song specially for the occasion. Titled 'Zindagi Se Pyar Karo', the song was a reflection 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.
THE YEAR - 1999:
In January 1999, he performed at the Screen Videocon Awards in Mumbai on the 16th where he unjustly lost the Best Music Award, where he had been nominated 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-Earth' - 'Raat Ki Daldal Mein', 'Piano Theme' and 'Rut Aagayi Re'. February saw the release of 'En Swasa Katre'. He bagged the Filmfare Award for a record ninth time for 'Dil Se..' in the same month. The director of 'Ratchagan', Praveen Gandhi asked him to score the music for his next venture, starring Prashanth, titled 'Jodi'. But Rahman begged off owing to his busy schedule. 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 next film 'Kandukonden Kandukonden'. Continuing with his award winning spree he picked up the Dinakaran Cine Award for Best Music for 'Jeans'. 'Doli Sajake Rakhna' was dubbed into Tamil as 'Oonjal'.
June 12th 1999. A momentous day for Rahman. The music launch of Subhash Ghai'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 that 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 -- Dil, 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 soul-stirring. I'm sure you are going to enjoy the music as much as we did. The music is the easily the best I have heard and it's definitely going to outlive 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 date", 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 was picked by Michael Jackson for a charity concert in Munich in June 1999 whose proceeds were to be donated to the underprivileged children of the 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 because he respected elders and was very humble. Vairamuthu revealed that Rahman came even as the producers of 'Rhythm' and' Sangamam' were after him to complete the music and background score of their films. He also revealed that Rahman was busy with the music of Maniratnam's latest, 'Alai Paayuthe'. Rahman acknowledged all this in his typical unassuming shy style. 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 revealed 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 Tamil and ended by saying that if he spoke more he would do "olaral" (talk rubbish). A number of Rahman compositions were performed - Padayappa by S.P.Balasubramaniam, Nenjinile by S.Janaki, Jumbalaka by Rafi, Un Pattu Selai Madippula by Maharajan - to thunderous ovation from the near capacity 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 Olympic Stadium in Munich, Germany. He performed along with a troupe comprising dancers Shobana and Prabhudeva. The song was sung together by Rahman and Michael Jackson. The concert was part of the 'Michael Jackson Friends' series. The song was penned by Kanika Bharat. The song, written in English and Sanskrit, was recorded by Rahman in London within a week. According to Bharat, the song has a lot of attitude, reflecting the energy, passion and dynamism of India. Jackson heard the song in Paris and immediately 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 Rahman. Jackson rendered the English portions of the song while Rahman sang the Sanskrit portions of the number. The crowd was a huge 60,000. This was Rahman's second collaboration with a famed international ariste, after Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. During his visit to Paris he also met French composer 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 'Zubeida', scripted by noted film critic and the editor of Filmfare magazine, Khalid Mohammed.On the 11th of July, Rahman participated in a Kargil Benefit Evening at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in New Delhi the proceeds of which were donated to the Central Defence Welfare Fund. He rendered the Vandemataram song 'Maa Tujhe Salaam' with the lyrics changed to 'Hey Jawan Tujhe Salaam'. In July he became part of an unique international project, "Listen" 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 standards. Having started to work at the age of 11 after losing my father at 9, I understand the plight of kids who have to work for their survival,rdquo; said Rahman. For the ldquo;Listenrdquo; project, Rahman was to compose 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;Listenrdquo; campaign included two one-hour international TV specials, two albums, two videos and a spectacular three-hour international television concert from India. "Listenrdquo; has the support of 99 creative artists. They include 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 Gowda and Robert Wilson, and songwriters Diane Warren and Lamont Dozier. With this Rahman well and truly made an impact on the International music scene, closely following on the heels of the concert performance with Michael Jackson in Munich. The album was expected to be released the next autumn.
Rahman's new project 'Desh ka Salaam' with Bala and Kanika which involved the musical reinterpretation of the Indian National Anthem 'Jana Gana Mana' 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. IST 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 version composed by Rahman and was played by the best instrumentalists in India and was shot at Ladakh with Pandit Shivkumar Sharma and his son Rahul Sharma on the Santoor, Pandit Vishwa Mohan Bhatt on the Mohan Veena, Kartick 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 both on the Sarod, E. Gaayathri on the veena, Vikku Vinayakram and sons Uma Shankar and Selvaganesh on the Ghatam, Ustad Sultan Khan on the Sarangi, 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, Hariharan, Dr. Balamurali Krishna, Pandit Ajay Chakravarty, Kaushiki Chakravarty, S P Balasubramaniam, Jagjit Singh, Shobha Gurtu, Parveen Sultana, Dr. Bhupen Hazarika, Dr. D K Pattamal, UnniKrishnan, Rashid Khan, Sudha Raghunathan, 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 instrumentation 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 reinterpretation of India's National Song 'Vandemataram' in 1997 this was Rahman's unique attempt at the musical reinterpretation of India's National Anthem 'Jana Gana Mana'. "Its our way of paying a musical tribute to all the poeple who have been martyrs for the cause of the nation", said Rahman.
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 included the Rahman composition 'Jiya Jale' from Dil Se.. . Calling it her favourite composition of the 90s she said, "A.R. Rahman's style is amazing. No doubt 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 forward his ascent on the international music scene when he tied up with Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber to work on a dance musical entitled 'Bombay Dream'. He also performed with Sir Webber at a concert in Dublin in October 1999.
THE YEAR - 2000:
The new millenium, that is the year 2000, began with the release of the video of the 'Vandemataram' song 'Masoom' featuring Rahman. The video was telecast by India's National Television Network, Doordarshan at the stroke of midnight between 31st December 1999 and 1st January 2000. At the Millenium 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 international 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 category for 'Ishq Bina' from 'Taal' and twice in the Best Background Music category for 'Taal' and '1947-Earth'. After a long hiatus he signed his first 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 third film with the director. In an interview to India's leading English newsmagazine, India Today, during a short visit to India, leading world music group 'Deep Forest' said that they were talking to Rahman about working in collaboration.
The year 2000 proved to be a very subdued year for Rahman in terms of output but was unparalleled for the awards and honours that he received and his public performances. He had only 6 releases viz. Alai Payuthey, Kandukondain Kandukondain, Rhythm, Thenali, Zubeidaa and Jana Gana Mana. Apart from this he donned the role of Guest Composer for the first time in 'Fiza'. 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.
THE YEAR - 2001:
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 released on April 6th. The anticipation of the music heightened among the public. After a long series of collaboration in Bharatbala's 'India Pride' series like Vandemataram, Desh Ka Salaam, Jana Gana Mana and Jaya He, Rahman teamed up with him once again to score the background music for a short film called 'India on IMAX'. The film directed by Bharatbala was shot in IMAX and was meant to showcase the diversity of India using the power of 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 Adlabs group, on the 25th of March. The film would later be screened at IMAX theatres across the world. Rahman was also present at the launch of this 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 Kadam Chal Ke Dekho'. The movie 'Kaante' was officially launched and the movie was a multi-composer filmwhich would involve other composers like Viju Shah, Lucky Ali, Adnan Sami and Salim and Suleiman Merchant. Rahman was no longer involved in the movie.
On August 25th, Rahman was felicitated by the Al-Ameen Foundation in Bangalore and was awarded the Al-Ameen Community Award. Shaad Ali, assistant 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 Amitabh Bachchan, Rahman completed recording six songs. Rahman was nominated twice, for Lagaan and Zubeidaa, at the International Bollywood Music Awards 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 study the Indian film industry led a delegation on a vist of Rahman's hi-tech Panchathan Record Inn as well. Rahman came in for another round of severe criticism for his slow pace of work. It was more than a year since he had had an original release in Tamil. Films like 'Udhaya', 'Alli Arjuna' and 'Paarthale Paravasam' were said to be delayed because of his failure to record the songs on time. In October Rahman gave the nod to Tamil actor Nasser's directorial venture, 'Dheem Tharakita Thom', starring Mohanlal in the lead.
THE YEAR - 2002
2002 began with everyone hoping that Rahman would firmly put a dismal 2001 behind him. The first significant event of the year was Rahman receiving 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—connected. 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 director Ashutosh Gowarikar are the kind of people who live a film.
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 leading acoustics firm announced that it had been selected by Rahman to equip a new state-of-the-art studio that he was building in Chennai. To be spread over a area of more than 5000 sq. ft. area Rahman's famed Panchathan 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 & Architectural plans for the studios were made by Studio 440 , acoustic architects from CA, USA who have designed studios for Interscope/ Universal Music Group , Warner Brothers , Burbank , California and Saban Entertainment , just to name a few. The studio is expected to be one of the best in Asia.
On October 25th, Airtel released the five exclusive ringtones composed by Rahman. The five ringtones were ‘Dream’ - the ability to dream, the confidence to achieve; ‘Desire’ - the passion & spontaneity of the moment; ‘Buddy’ - the spirit of friendship; ‘Sizzle’ - the togetherness of fun & frolic; ‘Little One’ - the joy of the moment with your child. With the release of these ringtones Airtel's network was jammed for hours with customer's rushing to download them. In an interview to India Today, Shekhar Kapur revealed 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 original 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.
The man behind the music is still much of an enigma. "If a music artiste wants to blossom into a full-pledged person, it's not enough if he knows only classical music; nor it's enough if he's well-versed only in raagaas and techniques. Instead, he should be a knowledgeable person interested in life and philosophy. In his personal life there should be, atleast in some corner of his heart, a tinge of lingering sorrow," he says.
At the age of 35, when many others are just starting out, Rahman has garnered 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 Forest, 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 met Rahman and was so impressed that he went on to record some sessions with 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 taking 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 my mind and pray. and I come up with something. Mostly its good and gets approved. 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 formula. "If a music artiste wants to blossom into a full-pledged person, it's not enough if he knows only classical music; nor it's enough if he's well-versed only in raagaas and techniques. Instead, he should be a knowledgeable person interested in life and philosophy. In his personal life there should be, atleast in some corner of his heart, a tinge of lingering sorrow."
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 confessed in an unguarded moment, "I stop sleeping. I continue to work on spontaneously at nights for seven to eight hours at a stretch. When I finally pop off to sleep early in the morning I have these dreams that people are waiting for me. I can't even complete these dreams ."