AR Rahman was born as AS Dileep Kumar on 6 January 1967 in Madras, Tamil Nadu to musician RK Shekhar, and Kareema Begum (born as Kashturi). Rahman began learning piano at the age of four and assisted his father in the studio.
When Rahman was nine, his father passed away. Rahman who was then studying in Padma Seshadri Bala Bhavan started working to support his family. Furthermore, the family rented out his father’s musical instruments to earn a living.
As Rahman was working hard to make the ends meet, he failed the exams. Mrs. YGP, the then principal of the school summoned his mother and told her to take him to the streets of Kodambakkam to beg and not to send him to the school anymore.
Post this incident, Rahman attended MCN for a year and then Madras Christian College Higher Secondary School. However, Rahman dropped out of school with the permission of his mother to pursue a career in music.
He later earned a scholarship from Trinity College London to the Trinity College of Music and graduated with a diploma in Western classical music from the music school in Madras.
Rahman is a practicing Muslim who converted from Hinduism in his 20s along with his family and changed his name to Allah Rakha Rahman (A.R. Rahman) from AS Dileep Kumar.
Allah Rakha Rahman was born as A. S. Dileep Kumar in Madras, Tamil Nadu, on 6 January 1967. His father, R. K. Shekhar from a Mudaliar family, was a film-score composer and conductor for Tamil and Malayalam films. Rahman began studying piano at age four. He assisted his father in the studio, playing the keyboard.
After his father’s death when Rahman was nine years old, the rental of his father’s musical equipment provided his family’s income. Raised by his mother, Kareema (born Kashturi), Rahman, who was studying in Padma Seshadri Bala Bhavan had to work to support his family. which led to him to routinely miss classes and fail exams. Therefore, the Principal Rajalakshmi Parthasarathy summoned Rahman and his mother and told them that Rahman should focus on academics irrespective of family circumstances. However, in an interview in 2012, Rahman said that his mother was summoned and was told to take him to the streets of Kodambakkam to beg and not to send him to the school anymore.
Rahman attended another school called MCN for a year, and later joined the Madras Christian College Higher Secondary School, where he was admitted on his music talent and formed a band with his high school classmates. However, after discussing with his mother, he later dropped out of school to pursue a career as a full-time musician. Rahman was a keyboard player and arranger for bands such as Roots (with childhood friend and percussionist Sivamani, John Anthony, Suresh Peters, JoJo and Raja) and founded the Chennai-based rock group Nemesis Avenue. He mastered the keyboard, piano, synthesizer, harmonium and guitar, and was particularly interested in the synthesizer because it was the “ideal combination of music and technology”.
Rahman began his early musical training under Master Dhanraj, and at age 11 began playing in the orchestra of Malayalam composer (and close friend of his father) M. K. Arjunan. He soon began working with other composers, such as M. S. Viswanathan, Vijaya Bhaskar, Ilaiyaraaja, Ramesh Naidu, Vijay Anand, Hamsalekha and Raj–Koti, accompanied Zakir Hussain, Kunnakudi Vaidyanathan and L. Shankar on world tours and obtained a scholarship from Trinity College London to the Trinity College of Music. During his early career, Rahman had assisted many music directors to play keyboard and synthesizer. One of the notable works includes a Malayalam film, Ramji Rao Speaking released in 1989 where Rahman and Sivamani programmed a song called “Kalikalam” for the music director S.Balakrishnan.
Studying in Madras, Rahman graduated with a diploma in Western classical music from the school. Rahman was introduced to Qadiri tariqa when his younger sister was seriously ill in 1984. His mother was a practising Hindu. At the age of 23, he converted to Islam with other members of his family in 1989, changing his name to Allah Rakha Rahman (A. R. Rahman)
Rahman initially composed scores for different documentaries and jingles for advertisements and Indian television channels. In 1987 Rahman, then still known as Dileep, composed jingles for a line of watches introduced by Allwyn. He also arranged the jingles for some advertisements that went on to become very popular, including the popular jingle for Titan Watches, in which he used the theme from Mozart’s Symphony no.25.
Rahman (left) receiving a platinum award at the MagnaSound Awards; MagnaSound released his first film soundtrack, Roja, in 1992.
In 1992, he was approached by director Mani Ratnam to compose the score and soundtrack for his Tamil film, Roja.
Rahman’s film career began in 1992 when he started Panchathan Record Inn, a recording and mixing studio in his backyard. It would become the most-advanced recording studio in India, and arguably one of Asia’s most sophisticated and high-tech studios. Cinematographer Santosh Sivan signed Rahman for his second film Yoddha, a Malayalam film starring Mohanlal and directed by Sivan’s brother Sangeeth Sivan that released in September 1992.
The following year, Rahman received the National Film Awards (Silver Lotus) award for best music director at the National Film Awards for Roja. The films’ score was critically and commercially successful in its original and dubbed versions, led by the innovative theme “Chinna Chinna Aasai”. Rahman followed this with successful scores and songs for Tamil–language films for the Chennai film industry, including Ratnam’s politically charged Bombay, Thiruda Thiruda and S. Shankar’s debut film Gentleman (with its popular dance song, “Chikku Bukku Rayile”), the urban Kadhalan. Rahman collaborated with director Bharathiraaja on Kizhakku Cheemayile and Karuththamma, producing successful Tamil rural folk-inspired film songs; he also composed for K. Balachander’s Duet, which had some memorable Saxophone themes. The 1995 film Indira and romantic comedies Mr. Romeo and Love Birds also drew attention.
Rahman attracted a Japanese audience with Muthu‘s success there. His soundtracks are known in the Tamil Nadu film industry and abroad for his versatility in combining Western classical music, Carnatic and Tamil traditional and folk-music traditions, jazz, reggae and rock music. The soundtrack for Bombay sold 15 million copies worldwide, and “Bombay Theme” would later reappear in his soundtrack for Deepa Mehta’s Fire and a number of compilations and other media. It was featured in the 2002 Palestinian film Divine Intervention and the 2005 Nicolas Cage film, Lord of War. Rangeela, directed by Ram Gopal Varma, was Rahman’s Bollywood debut. Successful scores and songs for Dil Se.. and the percussive Taal followed. Sufi mysticism inspired “Chaiyya Chaiyya” from the former film and “Zikr” from his soundtrack album for Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose: The Forgotten Hero (which featured elaborate orchestral and choral arrangements).
Rahman’s soundtrack album for the Chennai production Minsaara Kanavu won him his second National Film Award for Best Music Direction and a South FilmFare Award for Best Music Direction in a Tamil film in 1997, the latter setting a record of six consecutive wins; he later went on to win the award three consecutive additional times. The musical cues in the soundtrack albums for Sangamam and Iruvar used Carnatic vocals, the veena, rock guitar and jazz. During the 2000s, Rahman composed scores and popular songs for Rajiv Menon’s Kandukondain Kandukondain, Alaipayuthey, Ashutosh Gowariker’s Swades, Rang De Basanti and songs with Hindustani motifs for 2005’s Water. Rahman has worked with Indian poets and lyricists such as Javed Akhtar, Gulzar, Vairamuthu and Vaali, and has produced commercially successful soundtracks with directors Mani Ratnam and S. Shankar (Gentleman, Kadhalan, Indian, Jeans, Mudhalvan, Nayak, Boys, Sivaji, Enthiran, I and 2.0).
In 2005 Rahman expanded his Panchathan Record Inn studio by establishing AM Studios in Kodambakkam, Chennai, creating the most cutting-edge studio in Asia. The following year he launched his own music label, KM Music, with his score for Sillunu Oru Kaadhal. Rahman scored the Mandarin-language film Warriors of Heaven and Earth in 2003 after researching and using Chinese and Japanese classical music, and won the Just Plain Folks Music Organization|Just Plain Folks Music Award For Best Music Album for his score for 2006’s Varalaru (God Father). He co-scored Shekhar Kapur’s second British film, Elizabeth: The Golden Age, in 2007 and received a Best Composer Asian Film Award nomination at the Hong Kong International Film Festival for his Jodhaa Akbar score. Rahman’s music has been sampled for other scores in India, appearing in Inside Man, Lord of War, Divine Intervention and The Accidental Husband.
His score for his first Hollywood film, the 2009 comedy Couples Retreat, won the BMI London Award for Best Score. Rahman’s music for 2008’s Slumdog Millionaire won a Golden Globe and two Academy Awards (a first for an Asian), and the songs “Jai Ho” and “O… Saya” from its soundtrack were internationally successful. His music on 2008’s Bollywood Jaane Tu… Ya Jaane Na was popular with Indian youth; that year, his score and songs for Jodhaa Akbar won critical acclaim, a Best Composer Asian Film Award nomination and IIFA awards for best music direction and score.
In 2010, Rahman composed the original score and songs for the romantic Vinnaithaandi Varuvaayaa, the sci-fi romance Enthiran and Danny Boyle’s 127 Hours, composing for the Imtiaz Ali musical Rockstar; the latter’s soundtrack was a critical and commercial success. In 2012 Rahman composed for Ekk Deewana Tha and the American drama People Like Us, and collaborated with director Yash Chopra on Jab Tak Hai Jaan. all were positively received. By the end of the year his music for Mani Ratnam’s Kadal topped the iTunes India chart for December. In 2013, Rahman had two releases: Raanjhanaa and Maryan. Both were successful, with the former nominated for a number of awards and the latter the iTunes India Tamil Album of 2013.
The year 2014 was one of the busiest years for Rahman, with him claiming to have worked in 12 films in various languages. While his first release for the year was the Imtiaz Ali’s road movie Highway which garnered positive reviews, his very next release was the performance captured animation film Kochadaiiyaan, a Rajinikanth starrer directed by Soundarya Rajinikanth. The film’s soundtrack was long-listed at the forthcoming Academy Awards. His next were the scores for the two back to back Hollywood films, Million Dollar Arm and The Hundred Foot Journey, both of which got into the contended list for the original score category nomination at the Oscars.
Then he composed for the period drama Kaaviya Thalaivan teaming up with director Vasanthabalan for the first time. His next release was Shankar’s thriller I and K. S. Ravikumar’s period action film Lingaa.
Musical style and impact
Skilled in Carnatic music, Western and Hindustani classical music and the Qawwali style of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Rahman is noted for film songs amalgamating elements of these and other genres, layering instruments from different musical idioms in an improvisational style.During the 1980s Rahman recorded monaural arrangements in common with his musical predecessors, K. V. Mahadevan and Vishwanathan–Ramamoorthy. He has also worked as a pianist in Ilaiyaraaja’s troupe for hundreds of movies. In later years his methodology changed, as he experimented with the fusion of traditional instruments with new electronic sounds and technology.
Rahman’s musical interests and outlook originate in his love of experimentation. His compositions have an auteuristic use of counterpoint, orchestration and the human voice, melding Indian pop music with a unique timbre, form and instrumentation. With this syncretic style and wide-ranging lyrics, the appeal of Rahman’s music crosses classes and cultures in Indian society.
His first soundtrack, for Roja, was listed on Time’s all-time “10 Best Soundtracks” in 2005. Film critic Richard Corliss said that the composer’s “astonishing debut work parades Rahman’s gift for alchemizing outside influences until they are totally Tamil, totally Rahman”, and his initial global success is attributed to the South Asian diaspora. Music producer Ron Fair considers Rahman “one of the world’s great living composers in any medium”.
Director Baz Luhrmann said:
I had come to the music of A. R. Rahman through the emotional and haunting score of Bombay and the wit and celebration of Lagaan. But the more of AR’s music I encountered the more I was to be amazed at the sheer diversity of styles: from swinging brass bands to triumphant anthems; from joyous pop to West-End musicals. Whatever the style, A. R. Rahman’s music always possesses a profound sense of humanity and spirit, qualities that inspire me the most.
Rahman introduced 7.1 surround sound technology to South Indian films. Rahman is one of the best-selling music artists in India, with an estimated 150 million records sold worldwide. On 21 May 2014 Rahman announced that he has partnered with former Black Eyed Peas’ Will.i.am to recreate an early popular track ‘Urvashi Urvashi’. Track is ‘Birthday’.
Rahman is married to Saira Banu (not to be confused with actress Saira Banu), sister-in-law of actor Rahman; they have three children: Khatija, Rahima and Ameen. Ameen has sung “NaNa” from Couples Retreat, and Khatija has sung “Pudhiya Manidha” from Enthiran. Composer G. V. Prakash Kumar is the son of Rahman’s elder sister, A. R. Reihana. Rahman’s younger sister, Fathima, heads his music conservatory in Chennai. The youngest, Ishrath, has a music studio. A.R.Rahman is the co-brother of film actor Rahman.
Born Hindu, Rahman converted to Islam when he was in his 20s. After the early death of his father, his family experienced difficult times; Sufism influenced his mother, who was a practising Hindu and, eventually, his family. During the 81st Academy Awards ceremony Rahman paid tribute to his mother: “There is a Hindi dialogue, mere pass ma hai, which means ‘even if I have got nothing I have my mother here’.” He said, “Ella pughazhum iraivanukke” (“All praise to God” in Tamil, a translation from the Quran) before his speech. In February 2020, Rahman was critiqued for his liberal image after Bangladeshi author Taslima Nasreen raised a question about his daughter wearing a burka.
|2019||Bigil||Tamil||Himself||Cameo in “Singappenney” song|
|2022||Aaraattu||Malayalam||Cameo in “Mukkala Muqabla” recreated song|
Producer, writer and director
A. R. Rahman Height Weight Age And Body Statistics Biography
AR Rahman Awards
AR Rahman has won several awards at the national and international levels. Some of them are listed below:
Awards by the Government of India
State Government Awards
|Year||Award||Awarded By||Awarded For|
|1995||Kalaimamani||Government of Tamil Nadu||Awarded for contributions to music|
|2001||Awadh Samman||Government of Uttar Pradesh||Awarded for exceptional and meritorious contribution to music|
|2004||National Lata Mangeshkar Award||Government of Madhya Pradesh||Awarded for Contributions to music|
Academy Awards or Oscars
|2009||Slumdog Millionaire||Best Original Score|
|Best Original Song (Shared with Gulzar for “Jai Ho”)|
|2009||Slumdog Millionaire||Best Original Score|
Golden Globe Awards
|2009||Slumdog Millionaire||Best Original Score|
|2009||Slumdog Millionaire||Best Compilation Soundtrack Album for a Motion Picture, Television, or Other Visual Media|
|Best Song Written for a Motion Picture, Television, or Other Visual Media (For “Jai Ho”)|
World Soundtrack Awards
|2009||Slumdog Millionaire||Best Original Song Written Directly for a Film|
|2011||127 Hours||The Public Choice Award|
|2017||Viceroy’s House||The Public Choice Award|
National Film Awards
|1992||Roja||Best Music Direction|
|2017||Mom||Best Background Score|
Tamil Nadu State Film Awards
|1992||Roja||Best Music Direction|
|1996||Rangeela||Best Music Director|
|2007||Rang de Basanti|
|2009||Jaane Tu… Ya Jaane Na|
|2003||The Legend of Bhagat Singh||Best Background Score|
|1995||Filmfare RD Burman Award for New Music Talent|
Filmfare Awards South
|1993||Roja||Best Music Director|
|2006||Sillunu Oru Kadhal|
|2007||Sivaji: The Boss|
|2017||Achcham Yenbadhu Madamaiyada|
|2011||Ye Maaya Chesave||Best Music Director|
Best Music Director
|2007||Rang De Basanti|
Best Background Score
|2008||Outstanding Contribution by an Indian in International Cinema|
|2009||IIFA Music Director of the Decade|
|2014||Royal Conservatoire of Scotland|
|2014||Berklee College of Music|