It was a remarkable journey from Chennai to Hollywood for music maestro Allah Rakha Rahman who made a billion Indians proud, adding another feather in his cap by bagging two Oscars for his score in “Slumdog Millionaire”.
It was a ‘Jai ho’ for the soft-spoken Rahman, hailed by Time Magazine as the ‘Mozart of Madras’, when he walked to receive the award for Best Original Score and Best Song for ‘Jai Ho’. The ‘Mozart of Madras’, who redefined contemporary Indian music and has been a role model for millions of Indians, has already won a Golden Globe and a BAFTA for his music in Oscar-winning film “Slumdog Millionaire”.
The 43-year-old music wizard, who has enthralled audience in the country and abroad with his heartwarming symphonies, is creating waves on the international stage with his composition in “Slumdog Millionaire”.
Born as A.S. Dileep Kumar in a musically affluent family in Chennai on 6 January 1966, he changed his name to Allah Rakha Rahman after his family converted to Islam in the late 1980’s.
Rahman was forced to shoulder the responsibilities of his family at the age of nine after his father R.K. Shekhar, who was a composer, arranger and conductor for Malayalam movies, died due to illness. The music genius came to the limelight with his music for a Bombay Dyeing ad and Leo Coffee in 1980’s which became very popular.
But the major break in his career came when noted filmmaker Mani Ratnam approached Rahman, who was then a keyboard player with composer Illayaraja, to compose for his film ‘Roja’ in 1992.
The music of the film, which was a refreshing change from the run-of-the-mill renditions, made Rahman a star overnight and brought him his maiden Best Music Director trophy at the National Film Awards, the first time ever by a debutante film composer.
Rahman was introduced to the Hindi film industry in Ram Gopal Verma’s “Rangeela”. The music of the film became a rage and the genius continued to give some brilliant compositions for films such as “Bombay”, “Dil Se”, “Taal”, “Lagaan” and “Rang De Basanti” among others.
What made Rahman’s music click with the listeners was the refreshing use of percussions, sound and melody, most of which were inspired from the Indian folk music.
Rahman developed a trademark by mixing traditional Indian tunes with International beats from African drums to electronic funk. The composer is also famous for his fondness to the newest sound and technologies in the world of music.
His 1998 super-hit composition ‘chaiyya chaiyya’ which was deeply rooted in Sufi mysticism, became a rage among Indians and is still considered one of the best compositions of the musician.
Rahman gradually became a known face on the international platform and in 1999 he performed with Michael Jackson in Munich for ‘Michael Jackson and Friends Concert´.
In 2002, he gave the music for his maiden stage production “Bombay Dreams” directed by legendary musical theatre composer, Andrew Lloyd Webber. Rahman’s music was also a hit from London’s “West End” to New York’s “Broadway”.
In 2004, with Finnish folk music band “Varttina”, he composed the music for “The Lord of the Rings” theater production. Rahman’s composition “Jai Ho” for British director Danny Boyle’s ‘Slumdog Millionaire´ has been lapped up by western audiences and made headlines when world renowned fashion designer John Galliano used it as a theme during his fashion show.
The music has already earned him the Critics Choice Award for Best Composer in 2008 and the Golden Globe in the category of Best Original Score.
A four-time National Award winner, Rahman was honoured with the Padma Shri and received six awards at the Tamil Nadu State Film Awards, besides 11 awards for his scores at the Filmfare and Filmfare Awards South each.
In 2006, he received an honorary award from Stanford University for his contributions to global music. In 1995, he also received the Mauritius National Award and a Malaysian Award.
The music director, who is known for his humble demeanour, gave a new definition to patriotism with his modern rendition of ‘Vande Mataram´. His latest tract ‘Jiya Se Jiya´ is another attempt to send the message of peace and love through music.
Rahman, who maintains a low-profile, tied the knot with Sairo Bano in 1995 and the couple has three children — Khadijah, Rahima and Aman.
The music composer is also involved with charitable causes and had conducted concerts to raise funds for cancer patients.
In 2004, Rahman was appointed as the global ambassador of the Stop TB partnership, a project by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
He also recently launched the A.R. Rahman foundation, which is a step towards eradication of hunger and poverty.
Rahman is among five Indians to win an Oscar. Two other Indians, Gulzar and Resul Pookutty, picked up Oscars for original song and sound mixing.
Earlier Oscar winners from India were costume designer Bhanu Athaiya for her work in Gandhi in 1983 and director Satyajit Ray, who won a lifetime achievement award in 1992.
British director Danny Boyle has won best director for Slumdog Millionaire and the film also took best picture. Altogether, it netted eight awards.