Allah-Rakha Rahman, colloquially known as A.R. Rahman, is one of the most prolific Indian musicians of his time. Having distinguished himself in both eastern and western classical music, electronic dance, and orchestral scores, his diversified talents helped him achieve worldwide popularity. He is also known as a philanthropist, for he often used his outreach to help several disaster relief programs and ‘World Health Organization’ (WHO) programs.
A.R. Rahman was born in Chennai, Tamil Nadu on 6 January 1967. Like many other prominent musicians, he was born into a musical family. His father, R. K. Sekhar Mudhaliar, composed and conducted various scores for Malayalam films. He was therefore exposed to music at a very young age, and he started playing the piano at the age of four. At the age of nine, his father passed away, and Rahman’s family had to rent out musical equipment to make ends meet. At the age of eleven, he started playing the piano for the orchestra of one of his father’s friends. Thereafter, he travelled the world with several composers, after which he finally earned a degree in Western Classical Music from the Trinity College of Music on scholarship. Rahman converted to Islam in 1989 because of the influence Sufism had on his family, it was then when he changed his name to Allah-Rakha Rahman from A.S. Dileep Kumar.
In 1992, Rahman started Panchathan Record Inn, a recording studio which would later go on to be the most sophisticated studio in all of India. At first, he used the Inn to compose backing tracks for nationwide advertisements, including advertisements for Allwyn Watches. Some sources state that he composed more than three hundred advertisements in less than five years. Rahman then met Mani Ratnam, who was then directing a Tamil film called ‘Roja’. Ratnam was highly impressed by Rahman’s work, after which he offered him a chance to compose the film’s score. His magnificent work on the film’s score earned him the Rajat Kamal (Silver Lotus) award for best music director in the National Film Awards. Rahman was the first composer in India to receive the award for a debut performance, which therefore, shot him to prominence. Rahman then went on to compose several scores for Tamil-Cinema, including but not limited to Kadhalan, Thiruda Thiruda, Gentleman, Bombay, and Mr.Romeo. His film score for Bombay was also revisited in a 2005 Nicolas Cage film, and was reused in several other media. Rahman finally made his way into Bollywood after writing the score for Ram Gopal Varma’s Rangeela. After that, there was no stopping him, his innovative thought process and seamless blending of Western Classical Music with jazz, rock, and several eastern folk elements made him the film composer of choice. Rahman would go on to expand Panchatan Record Inn, and to release his own recording label. His collaborations with world famous artists such as Mick Jagger, Karen David, Värttinä and Michael Bolton bolstered his popularity to newfound levels. He soon found his way into Hollywood with the score for Couples Retreat. In 2008, he won two academy awards and a golden globe for his work on Slumdog Millionaire, a first for any artist in Asia.
Rahman is currently busy with his international collaboration ‘SuperHeavy’ with Mick Jagger and Dave Stewart. He is only 47 years old and by this time he has won over 63 awards and has received more than 50 nominations, including a listing on the world’s most influential people by Time magazine. Clearly, he is on his way to becoming one of the greatest musical legends of our time.