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A.R.Rahman
A.R.Rahman
Composer Extraordinaire
The Complete Biography of A.R.Rahman
The continuing saga of the genius par excellence
Table of Contents

Introduction The Year - 1996
Prologue The Man Behind the Music
Background The Year - 1997
People-Speak The Year - 1998
Early Days The Year - 1999
The Year - 1992 The Year - 2000
The Year - 1993 The Year - 2001
The Year - 1994 The Year - 2002
The Year - 1995 Epilogue
INTRODUCTION:

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.


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 fruitful association with the doyen of Tamil film music Illaiyaraja, which had spanned 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 during the making of Mani Ratnam's then latest film 'Dalapati'.  One day, at an  awards function for excellence in the field of advertising, Mani Ratnam chanced upon a young man who received the award for the best ad jingle which he had composed for the popular Leo Coffee ad. At the celebrations party that followed the awards presentation ceremony, Mani Ratnam was introduced to the young composer by his cousin Sharada Trilok of Trish Productions for whose company the young man had produced some outstanding work. Sharada 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 and invited the director over to his studio. Mani Ratnam turned up at the studio only after six months, where the 24 year old lad played out a tune that he had been pushed into composing by his school friend G.Bharat alias Bala when they both had been greatly disturbed by the socio-political tensions in South India over the Cauvery river waters issue. Listening to the tune that was played, Mani was hooked instantly. Without a second thought he signed on the composer to score the music for his next film. That film did not work out but Mani signed him on for a new film which was to be produced by the veteran Tamil director K.Balachander for his respected 'Kavithalayaa' banner. That film was 'Roja'. That tune would become the song "Tamizha Tamizha" in 'Roja'. The music of the film would be a phenomenal success 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 history.

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 sold like hot cakes even six months after it was released in the market. In a recession hit Indian Film industry, the two biggest hits of the year, 'Pyar Kiya To Darna Kya' and 'Ghulam' had sold 2 million cassettes each. Such was the 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 successfully 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 enter the U.K. Top 10. Moviegoers in London said that it is the music that drew 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 combination has taken music to new heights that has succeeded in captivating millions of listeners not just across India but even in far flung corners of the world. Rahman says about his mentor, "I was blessed to be picked by a director like him. He encouraged me a lot. It was as if I studied in Mani's own university of music. He is like a brother to me."


BACKGROUND:

Going back in History, the following question arises. Six years ago, who listened 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 all that. With his universally appealing tunes, A.R.Rahman has demolished all conventional rules in Indian film music. He amazes with the manner in which he seamlessly integrates traditionally incompatible harmonies. If anyone can make a perfect potpourri of the latest dancehall rhythms, electro-pop, 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.Rahman. His music transcends all barriers - geographic, age or linguistic. Everyone from 6 to 60, Kashmir to Kanyakumari, as the cliché goes, are fans of his music. He was the first to successfully and solidly bridge the gap across the Vindhyas with Hindi speaking denizens who did not understand one word of Tamil enthusiastically lapping up his music. He gave film music a trendy legitimacy, a legitimacy that made Indian youth who were till then ashamed of admitting in public that they enjoyed Indian film music, dance to Humma Humma, Muqabla Muqabla, Musthafa Musthafa and Chaiyya Chaiyya at every pub, club and disco. Overnight, Indian film music considered 'infra-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 languages: music. Predictably Rahman would later say "I hate the discrimination between south, north, Tamil, Hindi. If I represent India that is good enough for me. But we should cross all these barriers." Rahman did more: he made, to use film industry jargon, music a territory in its own right. Thus, the soundtrack of each movie was sold as if it were a separate entity from the film itself. And as if to prove him right, his music assumed a life of its own, flying off the shelves at record speed even when the film in question bombed at the boxoffice.

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-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 intelligent, not just noise. He concentrates on his melodies and has not totally deviated from Carnatic traditions". Noted director and lyricist Gulzar says "He is a milestone in Hindi film music. He has single-handedly changed the sound of music in the movies. He has broken the mukhda-antara-mukhda scheme of composition and replaced the traditional patterns of tuning. He can tune 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 voices. Rahman says ".. a defect in the singing adds a human touch." His close friend and arranger-composer Ranjit Barot adds "In the Hindi music industry, if Kumar Sanu or Udit Narayan don't turn up, the music director starts panicking. But Rahman would probably look around the studio and experiment 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 revolutionised the Hindi film music. Before we did Humma Humma for Bombay, the two of us composed jingles together. Rahman's USP is his ability to combine slickness with melody. The songs from Roja still haunt me. Few can make a successful 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. He is the best fusion of art and science in music". One of his favourite directors Ramgopal Varma says," It is a challenge to picturise songs set to Rahman's music." His erstwhile competitors Nadeem-Shravan say, "The most amazing 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-Indian audience". Composers Jatin-Lalit say, "He totally changed the sound of Indian film music." 

Internationally acclaimed Indian Tabalchi 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, " Rahman is known to record only during the night time. But he records with me during 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 exception for me. When an artiste shows such consideration for another artiste, 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 40 minutes." Singer Srinivas, whose career best numbers have been with Rahman is totally impressed with Rahman's dedication to music and says, " He's totally 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 turned 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 mine 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 whole 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 for having introduced me to such a wonderful artist." At one time an assistant to Rahman and today an independent composer in his own right, Harris Jayaraj remarks "I have learnt many things from many music directors. If you single out A.R.Rahman, I can quote his relentless labour, high enthusiasm, and commitment to the tasks at hand. He would never compromise on the quality 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 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." Reocunting his experiences he says, "In 1992, in Coimbatore, was when I went to see Maniratnam's Roja because it was a Maniratnam movie.  Dreams of playback singing had taken a back seat;  I was in Coimbatore and travelling and didn't know how to approach 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, Rahman, had introduced so many singers; the re-entry of Sujatha, Hariharan , Minmini and Unnimenon.   Immediately, I realized that this person has an attitude towards introducing new artists, his music sounds fresh and he was definitely here to stay! On one of my official trips to Chennai, I got hold of Rahman's address and went to see him directly.   At that time, he was very 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 that I lived in Coimbatore and he said that if I moved to Chennai, he might be able to work with me.  By the time I came to Chennai in 1994-95, he had shot through the roof! The gates had become bigger at Rahman's place .  It was difficult to even get through to his office.  With persistance and a little 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 him as well!  He slowly started giving me singing assignments. Rahman's approach 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 headphones, you are transported to some other world.  Within two minutes, he creates 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 very 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 given 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 always 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-confidence it will be a big hit. He is like a younger brother to me. The total 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!" Another 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 held me spellbound! His talent, energy, enthusiasm is a lesson to all youngsters. 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 has scored. He has high regard for others, and gives due respect to other forms 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 listened to the music of Dil Se.. a hundred times and, each time, I learn something new. It is like an encyclopaedia on production." Director Suresh Krissna with whom he worked on 'Sangamam' and then the Indian version of 'The Return of the thief of Baghdad',  calls him a 'die-hard perfectionist' and said "Rahman's manner of working sounds very unusual. Generally music is composed, lyrics are readied and the recording is done. But with Rahman it is not so. Far from it, Rahman composes and mixes the voice with a basic rhythm track. Then he goes on adding the music making innovations, inclusions and improvisations till the very last minute, or rather till the cassette 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 variation and the whole of it is recorded. This system of working was a revelation for me." Upcoming lyricist Ilayakamban who is working with Rahman in 'Tenali' says "His musical ability to confine the whole world's air in his flute; his glowing inner peace; the simplicity of a mother is what I saw 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 he gives the singer. Even for my first song he let me sing the way I was comfortable with, eventhough I was a nobody then." "Singing for Rahman was a wonderful experience. I really enjoyed the song. A R Rahman is a wonderful, humble person to work with. A complete workaholic and very involved with his music. He is very creative and undoubtedly talented,"  says singer Roopkumar 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 worked with Rahman for a beautiful song called E Nazneen suno and for Nayak. Of course, I did get nervous when I had to record with him, especially since he records at an unearthly hour like three in the night. But he makes you feel as if you are AR Rahman and he is just an ordinary 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 front of the mike."
 

Director Shankar, again a favourite with Rahman - having worked with him on on some of his earliest films like 'Gentleman' 'Kadhalan' and later 'Indian' 'Jeans', 'Mudhalvan' 'Nayak' and 'Robot', has only praises for him, "A.R.Rahman - the name speaks for itself. He knows what clicks and what does not. He composes music according to the demand of the situation. He slogs so much to see that a song is good. He does not want to give anyone in the 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' ." World famous guitarist, Jeremy Spencer ,formerly of Fleetwood Mac says 'The only contemporary Indian composer I know of and like is A.R.Rahman. His 'Vandemataram' was brilliant'. Lyricist Mehboob, who made his debut in 'Rangeela' 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 him 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 regular, the equally veteran Vanraj Bhatia, to Rahman, for the film Zubeidaa says, ', I admire three things about Rahman. Among the young composers he probably is the most original. He has a strong sense of melody and his harmony is unbeatable. Finally he gives his music a rich tonal color, richness through 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 music 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, his 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 favourite  because he's a genius, he knows exactly what he's doing, he's very well 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' and '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 and 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 before Rahman came in. When I sang for him the first time I found that I was doing 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 much 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 preference. He's part of my family. We've been working together for the past 14 years. In fact he was the one who got me into filmmaking, while I called him for a lot of my advertising assignments." Acclaimed singer Yesudas says, 'He is a  genius musician knowing the psychology of youth.' Veteran singer Manna Dey remarks "I do not think too much of today's melodies. I do admire 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 Rahman 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 Peters, "I was a drummer, not a singer and Rahman was a keyboard player. Both of us were working in a band called `Nemesis Avenue'. He was a very talented composer earlier itself, but everything happens only when the time comes. 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 appreciate Rahman's sense of arrangement.  No one can teach Rahman how a song should be composed. He is aware of all the latest in sound techniques. He knows 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 himself, nothing can stop him from reaching the top ." Independent composer, rhythm programmer and close associate of Rahman, Pravin mani says, "...Rahman gives a lot of freedom to his technicians and all those-involved with him, 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 behaves 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 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. He keeps a cassette ready wherein he has sung the song himself and listening to it makes your work 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 retain 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 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." New age Singer-Composer and a close friend of Rahman, Shankar Mahadevan 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 absolute 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 given a new direction to film music. I think even the established music directors 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 extremely enjoyable." Veteran singer S. P. Balasubramanium says "The man responsible 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 Madras the next day for the recording. Even though I was on cloud nine, deep down I was feeling as if somebody had pulled a trick on me. God has been 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 Dil Se), he taught me a lot of techniques in composing music arrangement and recording. He was the one to impress upon the need to be technically perfect 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-Ehsaan-Loy trio ""A. R. Rahman is the best! He is a genius and a wonderful human being and it translates in his music."

Popular drummer Sivamani, a childhood friend of Rahman and a professional regular 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 today 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 figured on the screen or the cassette cover. Rahman changed it all. He gives credit 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 because of him. I thank him for that." Javed Akhtar, noted lyricist, says "I think he is an all rounder, I mean his grounding is very very solid. He knows Indian classical music, he is in touch with Indian folk music, he knows about western music and he has really studied western classical also. He knows about Middle Eastern music. So there is no wonder you see different colours 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 or if he takes a folk tune, or if he takes notes of say Arabian music or South American music. When this music comes to Rahman, it becomes Rahman's music 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 they 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 sensibility to Indian music listener and the music maker. The sound, the orchestration, the very structure of the song. He has challenged the basic structure of Indian film song and he has altered it, changed it. And, I think his contribution is totally unprecedented. Successful people come and go. Ultimately it's the pathbreakers who're remembered with the passage of time. People who have walked on untrodden roads. Success is worshipped momentarily, and then forgotten. 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 given a new dimension and understanding to sound. Working with him is definitely a great pleasure. I get along very well with him. He is one person who is only interested in his work. Inspite of his stupendous success, he is so humble and down-to-earth."

Says composer and former Rahman associate Sandeep Chowta, known as 'The poor man's Rahman', "Rahman revolutionised sound. He's a trend-setter in more ways than one. The only thing common between us is the fact that we started out in advertising and moved on to films. There's just no comparison otherwise. Rahman is a legend of sorts. Rahman is unique. He doesn't have 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 him 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 compare me to him, I'd take it as a compliment. " Bhupen Hazarika, the legendary Assamese composer with whom Rahman worked on 'Desh Ka Salaam',  opines, "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 and Indian music styles. He's a great talent but his talent shouldn't be overutilised." Many other noted personalities like lyricist Javed Akhtar, actress-parlimentarian-social worker Shabana Azmi, actress Sridevi, singer Shubha Mudgal, classical instrumentalist-composer Pandit Vishwa Mohan Bhatt(worked with Rahman on Iruvar and Alai Paayuthe) have repeatedly expressed their liking for the Rahman brand of music. Says Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber, the reknowned composer of musicals, who picked Rahman to score for his musical Bombay Dreams, the first time an outsider worked on the compositions of an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, " I think he has an incredible 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 the world. He will hit the West in an amazing kind of way; that is, 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 international public"
 

Choreographer Chinni Prakash throws up his hand in mock frustration and says, "Its challenging to choreograph Rahman's songs. He does not stick to the conventional four-eight-twelve-sixteen beats. He's unpredictable. Sometimes, 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 "There 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 feeling my story as deeply as he was". "His music has that international quality which is absolutely stunning," says international director  Douchan Gersi for whose film 'The Return of the Thief of Baghdad', Rahman scored the music. Says Pune based music critic Jayanth Deshpande, "The unique brand of classicism brought into Bollywood music by A.R.Rahman mirrors not only the variegated tapestry that is India, but also the global musical culture. Rahman borrows ever so subtly from American soul or Gospel. He draws generously from rap, disco, folk, reggae, qawaali, Hindustani and Carnatic in his rhythms. And the vocal ornaments of Carnatic music or ever present. Orchestral textures and harmonies typical of Western music often grace the background. His is a truly international music with a distinctly Indian feel. 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 highorder. 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 that 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!  His 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 his music. Just as a painter is identified by his artistic style he is identified by his tunes. Even If i say I am satisfied he does not stop. Uncompromising spirit!! I am not saying this just to praise him. A. R. Rahman is the only composer in India upto international standards today. In fact I will go so far as to say that he is a composer of the next millennium. He is not a person who  merely makes tunes. He is someone who creates music. He is constantly 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 detailed 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!Give me a phrase." And he would work out a rough tune on the spot. Then he records it with a singer. But the real magic starts when once he has the song before 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 ultimate 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 make 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 tunes in the night and sleeps during the day. Rare man, rare way of working. That's how all great men are. He creates according to the director's need. He 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 for his albums but have not done well later. I love him both as a composer and 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. " Rahman'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 get the best out of you and makes you feel at ease which is important. I have 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 the most consummate composer that I know of in the world. His music comes from the characters and is an extension of them. I think he is the best.He is the most brilliant film composer in India today and is in such demand that he has altered his normal working day to begin at six in the evening and go through the night, so that he can compose undisturbed by producers' calls. A.R.R. is a very young man of prodigious talent with an immense sensitivity to the film's context and characters. Whatever I say about his genius 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, classical, he's got it on his finger tips. He's so cinema literate. He can discuss Ingmar Bergman's Autumn Sonata and he can talk about Subhash Ghai's Taal, all in one breath." Singer Alka Yagnik opines "He's a one-man-show. Once 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 the only person with humility in this entire industryrdquo;. Up and coming composer 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 Rahman. 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 know I can't even compete with him there." Says another leading Bollywood composer Anu Malik, "I appreciate A.R's work. He has a penchant for being international. I think he is talented. A.R. has taught me the value and meaning 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. Sridhar reveals some little known facts of Rahman,"I had known Rahman many years 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. Rahman's biggest asset is that he treats each song as his first song. He prays before each session. I believe there is some power in his God, faith and religion. I can give you countless examples when he became so inspired after 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 into 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 immediately connect. Rahman allows musicians to be themselves. He understands their soul. He also has a fabulous way of getting notes out of a musician without telling them in so many words. Rahman never ceases to amaze me. He is such a fine musician apart from being a music director; his strength is fusion. He is also a techno-junkie. If you give him a set of headphones he will most probably rip it apart to understand why it works so well! I sometimes say that we are techno-brats. But Rahman knows that a song shouldn't speak the technical language but should have soul. Rahman is humble and very generous with money. He hates to see people suffer. I think his philosophy 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 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.He has the music in his mind, and uses every musician as an artiste, probably because he has been an instrumentalist himself. He tries to extract something extra from every one of his musicians as well as his playback singers. He believes in their additional input. Rahman improvises. I found in him 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 with 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-director Rajeev Menon who worked on many ads and the films 'Minsara Kanavu' and 'Kandukonden Kandukonden' with him, " Music comes to him instinctively. When you see him play, his skill is such that you really believe God exists in his work."

India's leading newspaper 'The Times of India' carried a feature titled "Men we regard: Our tribute to the men without whom this world would be quite, quite insipid" in which it picked Rahman as one of them and wrote "Music maker A.R.Rahman has given these raucous and raunchy times melody and mood. 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 with 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 when 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 bathroom 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 night. Sometimes a song is just a voice for a music director, whose passion makes 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 leading women's magazine Femina published a feature in its July 1999 issue listing 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 on the 6th of January in the year 1967, in Madras (now Chennai), to a musically affluent Tamil Mudaliar family.  The second of four children he had three sisters Kanchana, Bala (now Talat) and Israth, Kanchana being elder and 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). 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 with rumours abounding that 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 released. It was at this time that Rahman's belief in God first took a beating. 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 Dileep. At first the family subsisted by lending out his father's musical instruments. 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 father's footsteps and fully supported him in his vocation. But all this had an adverse effect on his formal education. Infrequent attendance and an unaccommodative 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 also 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 televison 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 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, 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 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." 

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 liked 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 keyboard for T. V. Gopalakrishnan and Kadri Gopalnath, with Sivamani on the drums. He says, "It gave us some kicks.'' At this time, Vizi Manuel, the lead keyboard player in Illaiyaraja's troupe advised him to try other alternatives for pursuing a musical career, like advertising. This was a suggestion that appealed to him and he explored some avenues seriously. The complexes increased. "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 jingles for ads. Fortunately for Dileep he soon got his first break in advertising 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 them was appreciated. Dileep quit playing in orchestras and moved full time into advertising as a few more offers came his way. Thus began Dileep's 5-year 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 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.'

Both his father and mother were believers in Astrology. His mother took him along once to a astrologer to get the horoscope of Bala (Talat) done. She asked the astrologer to suggest an Islamic name for Dilip. The astrologer 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 the other initial 'R', the astrologer replied "Give him a name with two initials and mark my words, he will grow up to be a great man". His mother did accordingly. But the A and R would later become Allah Rakha on the suggestion of reknowned composer Naushad Ali.

In an interview, he was to say about his father, " My father passed away when I was 9 years old. My mother used to narrate many tales about my father which used to make me very happy. My father was regarded to be highly knowledgeable in music by many people. I still listen to many of the old songs 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 father 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 Bible beside his hospital bed... I remember the pujas and the yagnas performed by the pundits... by the time, the Muslim pirs came , it was too late. He had already left us. After my father passed away, for some years when I was a teenager I believed there was no God. But there was a feeling of restlessness within me. I realised that there can be no life without a force governing 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 would advise us. When we shifted to this house, we resolved to stick to the faith."

Rahman became a very religious and devout Muslim. After this period his career graph began to take the upward path. More and more advertising offers came 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 his convenience. At this time, the Pir came to his house and blessed him saying that he would attain unparalled success. The very next day the Pir passed 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 thing 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 studios. 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 popular ads like those for Parry's, Leo Coffee, Springz Mineral Water, Boost featuring Sachin Tendulkar and Kapil Dev, Titan, Remanika Sarees, Premier 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, multi-media audio-visual scores national integration programmes, social awareness and public campaign programmes and international documentaries in many 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 recognition. He also won an award for composing the theme music of the Madras 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 convey 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 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.

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 Ratnam guiding me to achieve it also and by the grace of god it set and the people know from the moment the song is heard that this is Rahman's." Mani Ratnam, 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 who 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 really brilliant, really outstanding piece. So I went across to his studio and he played me some more, lots of things which he had done for jingles and a few other musical pieces he has done for somebody else. They were quite amazing and I had no doubts that he would be right for my film. How much he would grow, I was not looking at. I was looking at predominately my film at that point of time. He was ready to break a lot of conventions that were there in terms of music at that point of time, in terms of recording at that point in time. So I was very lucky to find someone who was willing to break away and do something different. To that extent it was absolutely perfect. He 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 recording 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, Rahman was very mature and sagacious. He did not let success go to his head and 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 quality over quantity and refrained from signing films blindly. "Rather than making money, I believe in making people happy; all other things are secondary. 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 this field has made me quite frustrated. I have evolved a technique which requires a lot of time. Other music directors record a song in seven or eight hours. 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 also began to formally learn Indian classical music, Carnatic from Dakshinamurthy and N. Gopalakrishnan and Hindustani from Krishnan Nair. He took classes 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 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. 

His other films in Tamil in that and the subsequent year were 'Uzhavan' with Kadhir, 'Kizhakku Cheemayile' with Bharathiraaja, with both of whom he would work on many more films in the future, 'Vandicholai Chinnarasu',  and 'Pudhiya Mannargal'.  All the scores were only moderately successful. But it was his second score for Mani Ratnam in 'Thiruda Thiruda' and for K.Balachander 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 'Thiruda Thiruda' appeared on Hindi language countdown shows. It was for the first time that Tamil songs became popular on a national scale. His equally unconventional score for 'Duet' centering around one instrument - the saxophone, played by one of its noted Indian exponents Kadri Gopalnath, was also 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 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. 

But Rahman was more pleased about the immense popularity of the song 'Ennavale 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 gone tomorrow but is real hard work to produce an everlasting gem like 'Ennavale'. He said that he had been inspired by a 2000 year old Tamil composition. Overnight most Rahman tunes in Tamil reappeared in Hindi albeit under the baton of other music directors. Three other releases of Rahman that year were 'Pavithra' , 'Karuthamma' with Bharathiraaja and "May Maatham', 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 went thus. Producer G. Venkateshwaran, incidentally Mani Ratnam's brother, sold the rights of the music of the film to three companies simultaneously 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 subterfuge. 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, mollified Lahiri by offering them the rights of his next film with Rahman, Indira -diretced by Suhasini Maniratnam, and had an out-of-court settlement with HMV. 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.

Rahman composed a haunting and surreal instrumental theme with a long and eerie flute prelude to capture the sombre mood of the film. The evocative, soul-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 of 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 - "Establishing itself through soundtracked strings, which sits menacingly in a cradle of drifting flute rises - epic horns introducing a full orchestral progression. Although classical music is more than a little unusual in a compilation 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 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. 

Rahman's music also began to arouse interest internationally. He was treated 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 wildly and threw money at the screen when his name appeared on the credits. Films that were sold on the strength of the stars in it or its directors now began to sell just on the strength of the name A. R. Rahman attached to it and attract fabulous initial responses when released. The music rights of the movie, till then just a nominal source of additional income for the producer, became a separate territory in its own right and commanded prices equivalent 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 queuing up outside music stores on the morning of the release of any Rahman soundtrack. Crowds that used to leave the movie hall for a break during the songs stayed put firmly in their seats and took in every note of the songs in Rahman's films. People came in to music stores and asked if there were any new 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 his 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 devotion 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 elusive 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 You' at awards nites inspite of rpeated requests for rendering a song on stage. This  earned him the nickname 'Artful Dodger'.

In 1995 he yet again won the Filmfare Award and the Tamil Nadu State Award , among many others, for 'Kadhalan'. He was also a very strong contender 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 'Kadhalan' 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 'Kadhalan' was a typical masala movie, we thought it would send the wrong signals to film makers and  decided against giving it the award". End 1995 also saw the release of an album of his favourite lyricist, Vairamuthu's double album of poetry amp;'Thenvandhu Paayudhe' where he scored the background music for Vairamuthu's recitation. But the album remained very inconspicuous. He consolidated his hold on Bollywood and signed more Hindi films 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 planned "Tararampampam" as a mega musical with 10 songs. Rumours that Rahman himself 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 Hindi for his schoolmate turned director Shivendra Singh titled 'Waqia' and later a second film with him titled 'Ittefaq'. Rahman was to work with Gulzar on both the movies. Both the films never got made unfortunately. Rahman's first score for Rajnikanth was released, with 'Muthu', in 1995. The score was awaited with high expectations and one witnessed serpentine queues outside music stores on the morning of the soundtrack's release and cassettes were even sold at a premium. Though the music did very well it was criticised for not suiting Rajnikanth's superstar image. The song 'Thillana Thillana' 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 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'.

Reflecting on the runaway success of his rhythm based tunes, he says, " I had some golden rules when I started my first film, 'Roja'. These rules were - good lyrics, good thought, good melodies, good recording and good presentation. But I think Gentleman was to break the rule completely because Shankar wanted commercial music for the film to break the monotony of the serious 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 than 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 time, 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 normal."

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


THE YEAR - 1996:

Rahman's popularity touched such heights, that other composers began to cash in, rather innovatively, on his name rather than his music. Many albums like 'Fantasy'  and 'Beauty Palace' which actually had music composed by someone else but was falsely credited to Rahman were released in the market. Usually such albums had Rahman's photograph splashed across the album cover to draw the attention of buyers. And most people bought such albums 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 albums '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 avatar as 'Set Me Free' the focus was on singer Malgudi Shuba and Rahman was 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 publicising 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 venture 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, an increase of over 10000% in sales since the previous time. But Magnasound'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 guarantee to success. So, what is wrong in exploiting that?". That summed up the 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 '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'. 

In end-1996, Rahman went on a signing spree in Tamil films. He signed Kadhir's next film 'Kadhalar Dhinam'. He then signed his friends R. M. Sait and 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 false. 'Love Letter' was later retitled 'En Swasa Katre'. He also signed 'Engineer' 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 Mani 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 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 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 delayed 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 churn 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 time in order to do a quality job and made clear the same to his directors before taking up the assignment. "What is the use of quick delivery if you don't get good stuff? I'm not lazy. I need time to get involved so that something 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 lack 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 Varaku' 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 'Rangeela' . Then 'Anjali Anjali' from 'Duet' reappeared as 'Milgaye Woh Manzilen' 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 'Karuthamma' 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 'Jumbalika' 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 Hi Bharosa' and 'Nayagara' from 'En Swasa Katre' as 'Kay Sera Sera'.

Another charge against him was that his music was getting repetitive. Initially Rahman countered it saying that it was his individualistic brand of music and therefore might sound that way but later he brushed away the oft-repeated allegation saying "hellip; the accusation is getting repetitive. You call 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 been dealing with a particular brand of music alone. Once you hear the music, you 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 what you call my trademark sound, I am accused of sounding the same, and if I try to do something different , people complain that it doesn't sound like Rahman'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 many are of the opinion that he has given a new dimension to music he responds by saying that many also feel that he is lousy. He adds further that ' I accept 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 took the route of slander and took digs at him calling him 'only a jingle composer' and saying that he would fizzle out in a couple of films. The same 'composers' who copied him left, right and centre made grandiloquent statements 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 used 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 and 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 completely 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 approach 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 music grows. Sometimes even after a shoot, I listen to the music find its allwrong 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 tastes sour at the beginning but as time passes it starts to work. If you take sweets for example, they taste great at the beginning but they vanish without a trace immediately. Songs are also like that. You like some songs immediately 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 satisfied 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 tempting 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 handle more than 4-5 films at a time. And once I accept a project it is my responsibility to give my fullest to it. When I refuse offers, I do feel terrible. Some could feel disappointed by my refusal. I say no mainly because I know 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 everyone. And as far as the money goes, Money can't buy you happiness. The biggest offers I get are for 'live' shows. The amount I'm offered for one concert is much more than what I would earn after slogging on 10 films! But I'm afraid 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 appreciate interaction on a film's score. In reality, the best music emerges from any composer when there's an exchange  of ideas... when there are stories that inspire you. Then the project keeps moving... when you're not into the spirit of things, you can get stuck. And then delays in delivering the score become unavoidable. So I'd rather not get into projects which don't excite me from the very outset. I don't want anyone to feel that I've let them down later .. honestly that's how I've been brought up. Don't get into something 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 Vairamuthu won National Awards repeatedly for songs set to tune by Rahman, namely for 'Roja', 'Pavithra', 'Kadhalan' and 'Minsara Kanavu'. Rahman himself insists on good poetry for his songs, "Lyrics lend immortality to a melody. The eternal, evergreen hit songs are always the ones with profound lyrics ndash; 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 expect 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 computer 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 have to be in step with the times. But you have to hold yourself back from going 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 use entirely under my control."

Rahman is probably the foremost user of technology in music in India today. He can probably be described as the man who pioneered the use of technology in Indian music. India's leading Information Technology journal , Express Computer, profiled the use of technology by Rahman. He avoids making 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 PowerBook 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 portable 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 flexibility 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? "It is perhaps the easiest and best platform to use, especially in the areas of 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 the 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, so each performs a different function. Everything is integrated into the final 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, the 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 singers. 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, Rahman's reaction was " Why should any actor or actress sound like S. P. Balasubramaniam, 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, they 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 they suit the character or not, he says " I do it for varieity. Otherwise things 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 decreased and his geographical purview has broadened. The listeners no longer think in terms of peprfect or imperfect. They want different voices, standards 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 never be able to give typical Indian tunes. But Rahman quickly disproved that allegation and demonstrated that he was equally at ease with Indian Classical and Folk rhythms and melodies with his scores in 'Indira', 'Kizhakku Cheemayile', 'Karuthamma', 'Iruvar', 'Uzhavan', 'Taj Mahal' etc.

One other allegation was that Rahman ahd become very arrogant and treated filmmakers 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 believe 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. People were waiting for him to falter. But as one Bollywood composer acknowledged "He just does not fail. He knows the pulse of the public better than any 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 characteristic 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 Hi 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 also 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 that he has consistently introduced a whole host of new talented singers, the notable names being Suresh Peters, Shahul Hameed, Aslam Mustafa, Unnikrishnan, Sreenivas, Mahalaxmi, Harini, Minmini, Sujatha Mohan, Nithyashree etc. He even got his secretary Noell James to sing in films. Once, in 1995, Rahman 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 winner of the contest a break in cinema. True to his word, he introduced the winner of the contest, Harini, with the song 'Nila Kaigiradhu' in 'Indira' and 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 fresh lease of life to the careers of fading and failing singers like Asha Bhonsle with 'Rangeela', Hema Sardesai with 'Sapnay' and Sukhvinder Singh with 'Dil Se..' . He also brought to the mainstream Sreenivas and let him prove his worth after being a chorus singer for a long time. Rahman says, "That is because I know the  difficulty of not being given a chance to prove yourself when you are talented. When God has made me a successful music director today, then why not use it to the best by  introducing new talent? I will 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 instrumentalists and chorus singers are credited on the inlay card of the album. If, today, Noell James, Febi, Feji, Sivamani are household names the credit goes to Rahman's sense of fair play. Sivamani has repeatedly thanked Rahman 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 having composed to the feel of the picturisation."

Rahman is also known for some strange personality quirks. Like his inclination 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 working 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 will 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 worked 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 to 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 My 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 why not work in the nights and sleep in the day." "It started when I was working on films and jingles simultaneously. It used to be nine to nine in a studio, ten to five on jingles, three hours of sleep, and back to the studio. Then 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 later and hen fall asleep, I missed out on my prayers, so I decided to stay awake for a few more hours and complete praying. By then it would be six. So, now I sleep from nine to three." Speaking about how he relaxes, he says."After I finish a film, I mostly take my family to the Dargah where we pay our respects 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 people there wasn't enough time to do justice to the music or that the director gave 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 think 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 'Minsara Kanavu'. 'Iruvar' was an offbeat film and had a topical score with a couple 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, probably 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 make a movie to commemorate its 50th anniversary, it was not sure of what kind of movie it would be or who would make it. All it was sure of was that it wanted A. R. Rahman to score the music. First thing, Rahman was signed up by the studio and he was asked who he wanted the director to be. Rahman suggested the name of cinematographer and friend from college, Rajeev 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 fetched 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 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.

Two months hence, in March 1997, amidst Sony Music executives in Mumbai, came 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 speak 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 conference 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 Columbia 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." Says Subramaniam: "It was the hit of the conference."

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. 

Interestingly the Indian release had only 7 songs while the International release 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 'evocative'. 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 " Forget 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 history for one unforgettable night: August 14th 1997. That was the night A. R. Rahman gave his country its most rapturous 50th birthday present - Vandemataram - 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 personality. 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 more suggestive qualities. On the one hand it must quickly grab the listeners attention and on the other hand it must be so richly woven that the listener keeps wanting to come back for more. Vande Mataram is an example of music with personality. What separates this collection from the others is the provocative music and lyrics. What makes this collection enchanting is the raw unbridled emotion that AR Rehman projects through his musical score. 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 objective of the album is to inspire a feeling for the country. And the sentiments so aroused go beyond caste, creed and colour. The feelings which inspired 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, that's enough. I personally think Vande Mataram is an ongoing movement, and people will feel good about it for the next 50 years."

Rahman himself underwent a physical transformation in order to feature in the music videos of the album and grew long hair, much to his dislike initially. In his dedication in the album he says, " All perfect praises belong to the Almighty alone. I dedicate this album to the future generations of India. I wish that this album inspires them to grow up with the wealth of Human 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 and find themselves motivated Human beings". 'Vandemataram' touched the heights of fame, appreciation and recognition when it made it to the final rounds 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 blasts. He was asked by people at the festival "Here he was singing his heart out about peace and his country and his country was terrorising the world with 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 nuclear blasts. ''On the one hand, we were singing in praise of our mother earth and on the other, we were blasting it away. People kept asking us, what the hell do you think you all are doing," says Bharatbala. But even so, their song made it to the finals.  From being the No.1 music director, Rahman also became a top pop star, though he didn't appreciate 'Vandemataram' being branded as a pop album.

1997 brought him further personal joy and happiness when he became a father. He named his daughter Kathija. Other movies that were released in 1997 were 'Rakshakan' and 'Vishwa Vidhaata' in Hindi which had the same music 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 the Filmfare Award yet again, for 'Kadhal Desam'. He signed Mansoor Khan's 'Josh' but again opted out owing to time constraints. Aamir Khan, impressed 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 painter 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 paucity 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 decline the offer. He took up one interesting offer from Director Suresh Krishna and Producer 'Pyramid' Natarajan. The film, 'Sangamam', was a  low-budget venture with a musical subject and would feature out and out classical 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 more 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 worked on a level of mysticism. I was this mystic from the down South who made music. But you can't hide from people all the time. I need to relate to people. I have also realised that if I stayed away from people, they would 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 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. 

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 Se.. . 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 Independence. His second film for Deepa Mehta, 'Earth', where he came up with a totally new score was released at the Toronto Film Festival in September and the 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 superstar 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 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.

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

All this success has not been without its fallouts for Rahman. Some mischievous elements of society spread canards in early 1998 that Rahman was funding Muslim fundamentalists in Tamil Nadu, something that was totally unfounded and caused him a great deal of grief. Later in the year he began receiving threatening calls from Fundamentalist groups for singing Vandemataram and was accorded armed protection by the Government. What was amusing that he received threats from both Hindu and Muslim Fundamentalists, from the Hindu Fundamentalists for 'defiling a Hindu song' and from the Muslim fundamentalists for 'singing an anti-Islam song'. Rahman dismisses all these controversies saying that while his religion is very important to him, his 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 choice in view of the perceived threat to his life. Expressing his views on religion, "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 be 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 to live. I will die only when he wants me to die. I can't understand all these 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 interview, "It is better that I clear everything up. About the rumour that I helped fundamentalists, how can it be that I provide funds for them, when I have 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 satisfy 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 organisations too. The money I give as charity is limited as I have to improve my instruments. I have invested heavily in technology and there is not much left to indulge in mass charity. The amount I give is definitely not enough to help the extremists to buy arms with my money!"

His shy demeanour hides a soft and generous heart. His close associates recount  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 cyclist 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. All the charges turned out to be totally unfounded and baseless. Rahman defended himself saying, "A rumour has been going around that a beggar I picked up at a Dargah has become an absolute tyrant and has become the reason for sending out M K Arjunan. M. K. Arjunan was a  very close associate of my father and my adviser. He helped our family in the time of our need by letting 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 instruments. And M. K. Arjunan went back to Kerala to help his son set up his recording studio there. Therefore there was no question of an outsider making him leave,was there? And while on this point, I did not pick up any beggar on the streets. Another rumour which is spreading is that I convert people close to me. What nonsense. If I had converted people, Noel, Shivakumar, Shridhar etc. would have changed religion! When I am not perfect myself,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 doing 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 time 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 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'. 

In late March the music of Rajnikanth's 'Padayappa' was released after a long delay. The expectations were immense and most considered the music to be disappointing. But the sales told a different story as 1.2 million music 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  would be apt for Rajnikanth and came up with a nice blend of the 'Rahmanesque' and the 'Rajnikanthish'. Some bizarre rumours that some fans of Rajnikanth gave death threats to Rahman for his score in 'Padayappa' were also floated. But they were unfounded and Padayappa was a resounding hit. In end 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 'Kadhalar Dhinam'. This was Rahman's third film with Kadhir who became his brother-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 trilogy 'Water', a bilingual. He was also slated to work with the legendary composer 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 the Opera'. Following the lukewarm response to the reused score of 'Jodi', Rahman consented to compose two new songs for the movie. He also began working on Maniratnam's next film 'Alai Paayuthe', this being the sixth film 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 TIPS Cassettes and Records Industries acquired the music rights of Subhash Ghai'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.' Producer-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 Ashaji, Kavita, Alka and Sukhwinder echoing the poetry of Anand Bakshi, had me visualising my characters Mansi, Manav and Vikrant going through the emotional highs and lows of life even before the actual picturisation. That'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 goes to A.R.Rahman and Anand Bakshi without whom 'Taal' would not have happened." Early June saw the release of 'Sangamam'. After a long time, Rahman was working in a low-budget film; centered around a village dancer. The score was totally folk music and classical music based. He made use of traditional instruments extensively. The tunes were appreciated widely. Ananda Vikatan magazine called him the 'real hero of Sangamam'.

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.

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 music of '1947', the Hindi version of Deepa Mehta's 'Earth'. On the 30th of July he won the Cinema Express Award for Best Music in 'Jeans'.  The music of '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' followed suit as  'Premante Pranamistha'. 'Taal' was dubbed into Tamil as 'Taalam'. Rahman teamed up with Bharatbala and Kanika once again to give a new sound to India's National Anthem. He was part of a concert with 30 of India'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 Today 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 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 mid-August Rahman signed another English film, 'The Return of The Thief of Baghdad' directed by noted anthropologist Douchan Gersi and starring Chiranjeevi, Charlotte Ayanna and Omar Shariff. The film was to be simultaneously remade in Indian languages by director Suresh Krissna. He also signed Govind Nihalani's next film. He also returned to work with Ramgopal Varma when he signed his forthcoming film starring Jaya Bachchan, Amitabh Bachchan, Abhishek Bachchan and Urmila Matondkar. In early September he won the International Viewers' Choice Award at the MTV Video Music Awards for 'Dil Se..' . The award was presented to him by the Managing Director of MTV India, Alex Kuruvilla at a special ceremony in New York City on September 9. The music of Govind Nihalani's 'Thakshak' was released on September 15. He agreed to work on Filmfare editor-scriptwriter 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 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.

Speaking on 'Bombay Dream', Rahman said "It is the increasing popularity of Indian film music in the overseas market which has forced the west to sit up and take note of the `richness' and `diversity' of Indian notes. There is a whole new movement of Indian music happening all over the world today. Madonna is singing our songs, Michael Jackson is crooning Ekam Satyam. Even Stanley Kubrick incorporated Indian notes in Eyes Wide Shut. The fact that Taal entered the Top 20 of the UK audio charts has encouraged people 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 of us are determined to give it a shot."

Mid October saw the release of 'Taj Mahal', Rahman's fourth film with Bharatiraaja. 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 the 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 'Mudhalvan'. This was Rahman's fifth film with Shankar. Both the movie and the music became blockbusters. 'Mudhalvan' was a native score that reminded one of his 'Gentleman' score for the same director. 'Mudhalvan' was dubbed into Telugu as 'Oke Okkadu'. Interestingly Rahman appeared in promos of the movie 'Thakshak' wearing the movie's promotional T-Shirt, with "Thakshak' 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 Integration. He was also reported to be working with French composer Jean Michel-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 from 'En Swasa Katre' and his non-film 'Oh Bosnia' number, which was originaly presented in his 1996 Malaysia concert. 'Nayagara' reappeared in 'Pukar' as 'Kay Sera Sera' and was a huge hit. 'Oh Bosnia' became 'Ek Tu Hi Bharosa' and this was Lata Mangeshkar's second song with Rahman. TIPS Records released a special collection of Rahman songs in November 1999 entitled '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 'Tommidi 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 Rahman. 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 Entertainers and Artists category. Rahman achieved another milestone when he became the first Indian to own the much sought after Apple iBook laptop computer. Outlook magazine, in its December issue assessed Rahman to be the third highest earning Indian entertainer just behind Sooraj Barjatya and Subhash Ghai and ahead of other icons like Sachin Tendulkar and Shahrukh Khan. 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 issue, India's leading newsmagazine 'India Today' carried a feature titled 'The Nineties' Decade-The people who made a difference' in which it selected Rahman along with Shubha Mudgal in the music category and hailed him as 'The man who single-handedly reinvented Indian film music.' Unconfirmed 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 which Rahman extended his horizons as a composer. A major highlight of his Hindi soundtracks released that year was his effective use of Hindustani classical music and north Indian folk music. After Dil Se.. found mass acceptance across the nation, in 1999 it seemed that Rahman had finally won over the north with his scores in 'Taal', 'Thakshak', '1947' and 'Pukar'. This 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 music in '1947' and 'Taal', South Indian folk and Carnatic classical in 'Sangamam' and 'Taj Mahal' and contemporary pop and techno music in 'Kadhalar Dhinam' and 'En Swasa Katre'. It was also observed in 1999 that Rahman was increasingly moving away from what has been traditionally acknowledged as the 'Rahman sound'. 1999 encountered a more explorative and experimentative 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 international music scene. This ranged from interactions with Jean-Michel Jarre to collaborations with Andrew Lloyd Webber, David Bryne and concerts with Micheal Jackson. He also got to work with artists across the entire spectrum of Indian classical music, both Hindustani and Carnatic and instrumentalists and vocalists, when he composed 'Desh Ka Salaam'. In the midst of all this Rahman 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 career, something very unusual for Rahman who normally has 3-4 releases a year. He had 'En Swasa Katre', 'Padayappa', 'Kadhalar Dhinam', 'Sangamam', 'Jodi', 'Taj Mahal' and 'Mudhalvan' in Tamil and 'Taal', '1947', 'Thakshak' and 'Pukar'(music release only) in Hindi. 'Taal' was the biggest hit of the year and at the end of the year had sold over 75 lakh cassettes and 5 lakh CDs 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. In the course of the decade Rahman changed many things in music. And as the decade and the millenium drew to a close Rahman was widely and ungrudgingly acknowledged as the man who brought about a revolution in the sound of Indian music and was hailed as the man responsible for popularising 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 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.

He won the first award of the new millenium when he bagged the award for Best Music Director for 'Taal' at the Stardust Cine Honours on the 7th of January. In January Rahman went on  an unprecedented award winning spree . He followed up the Stardust Cine Honours by winning the Filmgoers Award for Best Music Director for 'Taal' and then on January 23rd he bagged the Screen Award for the music of 'Taal'. The same day he was declared the winner 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 Rahman, for his outstanding contribution to music. The 'Padmashri' is India's fourth highest civilian honour and is conferred on only a select few. Reacting to his receiving the award Rahman said "I am extremely happy and surprised at receiving this award. I hope I can justify my receiving this award. Till now I have been receiving mainly film awards. This is the first time that I have received such an award. I thank God, my mother, all the people 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'. Billed as a tribute to those who struggled to establish the Indian republic the music was arranged and produced by Rahman and featured vocal and instrumental reinterpretations of India's National Anthem, 'Jana Gana Mana'. It contained exclusive renditions of the national anthem, both vocal and instrumental, by more than 65 musical maestros from all over the country.The pieces were performed by numerous luminaries of Indian music from playback singers to classical vocalists and instrumentalists. The original composition by Rabindranath Tagore was recreated into magnificent arrangement and production by A. R. Rahman. From classical to the contemporary,  artists crossing 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,Lata Mangeshkar, Pt. Jasraj, Dr. Balamuralikrishna, Jagjit Singh , Pt. Ajay Chakravarty , Smt Shobha Gurtu, Begum Parveena Sultana, Dr. Bhupen Hazarika, Ustad Rashid Khan, Ustad Ghulam Mustafa Khan, Smt Shruti Sadolikar, Dr. S P Balasubramanium, Sudha Raghunathan, Asha Bhosle, Hariharan, Kavitha Krishnamurthy, P.Unnikrishnan, Nityashree, Sadiq Khan, Kaushiki Chakravarty and A. R. Rahman. The instrumentalists were Pt. Hari Prasad Chaurasia, Ustad Amjad Ali Khan, Amaan Ali Bangash, Ayaan Ali Bangash, Pt. Shiv Kumar Sharma, Rahul Sharma, Vikku Vinayakram, Uma Shankar, Pt. Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, Kadri Gopalnath, Ravikiran, E. Gayathri, Ustad 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 the morning of January 27th in the hallowed Central Hall of the Indian Parliament 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 presence of a very distinguished audience. Mr Narayanan expressed happiness that so many artistes had come together on the project. This particular tryst with nationalism for Rahman began during the Golden Jubilee celebrations of India's Independence in 1997 with 'Vandemataram' and came a full circle in the Golden Jubilee Year of the Indian Republic in 2000 with 'Jana Gana 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 emotions 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 great 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 difficult to bring together artistes from varying streams to work together, the spirit of nationalism in every heart made it very easy. Rejecting the definition 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 Vandemataram 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 with emotion. That's why I have taken up this project. Because we were working 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 unlike Vande Mataram which had been adapted to modern beats. While Vande Mataram 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 try to give it a modern touch. Its rendition was made slower, though, purely 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 direct latent nationalism towards the mainstream. ", added Rahman.

In the evening of January 27th , Rahman participated in a special cultural show titled 'Bharat Gaurav Gyan' in commemoration of the Golden Jubilee of the Indian Republic, in New Delhi. In front of of an audience comprising of the Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee Rahman sang 'Maa Tujhe Salaam' and 'Jana Gana Mana'. In late January, Rahman was nominated for the Best Music Director Award for 'Taal' in the Filmfare Awards 1999 and 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 February rumours abounded about Rahman turning down all new offers for films and concerts as he was shifting base to London where he was to score the music 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 Filmfare Award and his fourth for Hindi films. Rahman signed up Bharatiraaja's next film 'Alli Arjuna' to be directed by Saran. On February 22nd, the music of the much awaited Mani Ratnam movie 'Alai Payuthey' was released along with its Telugu version 'Sakhi'. The music was of a subdued nature but nevertheless like always sold in huge numbers. This was Rahman's sixth film with his mentor. One of India's leading film magazines "Stardust', in its annual ranking of the 50 most powerful people in Bollywood, published in its March 2000 issue placed him at number 38 , eight notches above 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 1998 Dubai concert in a 3 cassette pack. On 7th march, Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber flew down to Mumbai to formally launch 'Bombay Dreams'. A musical to feature Asian performers and to be staged worldwide he musical was to be in 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. Rahman'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 Rahman 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 love at first sound. The sound of Rahman's music. that Sir Webber asked Kapur 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 collaborator. 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 come to London, and he did. I also asked him if he would be interested in doing a stage show. At that point when he said "Maybe", I thought I better come here and ask him. I am very happy to say that he has just said yes. I saw a very exciting Hindi film dance sequence on Channel 4 and asked Shekhar 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 cultural roots, and deserves to be heard by an international public. I am not writing 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 first time that I have invited another composer to write a musical for the stage. I am very excited to be able to explore this possibility with A R Rahman. My production company has produced several plays by writers other than myself, but this is for the first time I will be working with another composer. I regard A R Rahman as one of the most exciting young composers of 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 brilliant. 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 flavour to a musical production in the West."  He decided to hear more of Rahman, 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 eloquent about Rahman's work Webber said "The time has come in the West (I believe) for Asian music to make a strong presence 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 provide 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 would not only be an extension of his career but also showcase Indian culture to the West. In turn he said, "I am happy to be associated with my friend Shekhar Kapur and the legend Andrew Lloyd Webber,God willing, it will be successful, an extension of my career and Indian culture abroad. I am a great fan of the legendary musical theatre composer. I loved some of his songs like 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 expectations is also there." He also added that he would be shuttling between London, 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 music by Rahman. Not surprisingly rahman opted out of 'Lajja' when Santoshi decided to make it a quickie. On March 11th Rahman completed a clean sweep of the year's major awards by bagging the Zee Cine Award for Best Music Director for 'Taal'. It looked like Bollywood had finally accepted that Rahman was here to stay. On 15th March the music of Rajeev Menon's 'Kandukonden Kandukonden' was released along with its Telugu version 'Priyaralu Pilichindi'. 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 function. Speakers like Kamalhaasan said  "'All these people go on and on about his music look at him, he's as cool as ever, I think he's composing some tune even now in his mind that he's least bothered about all these praises! Be like this Rahman, its a great new high!' But an innocuous remark by lyricist Vairamuthu, "I agree wholeheartedly that Rahman is a great composer. But I do wish his music would not totally swamp my lyrics to the extent that nobody can make them out", sparked off a whale of controversy. Rumours of a rift between the two took flight. But Vairamuthu hastily clarified 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 had begun to promote an upcoming lyricist IlayaKamban. 

On March 23, Kamalhaasan's next film 'Tenaali', a full length comedy to be 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 production. Rahman returned, after 'Indian',  to work for Kamalhaasan with this 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 genre. On March 30th, Rahman was conferred the Padmashri by the President of 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 announced. Rahman bagged the Best Music Director Award for 'Mudhalvan'. This 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 nominated under the Best Music Director Category for 'Taal' in the Zee Gold Bollywood International Awards 2000, awarded for popularity of Hindi films in the USA.

Following his nod to movies like Star and Alli Arjuna which would feature Rahman's earlier tracks from another language, a wave of criticism was unleashed against him. Rahman justified his move thus - 'It is the question of time. 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 my tracks from other movies." When asked if he Bombay Dreams would be a channel to Hollywood, "I am not interested in Hollywood. There is more fun in what 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 there." On being told that his chances to latch on to the international pop scene 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 which 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 'Lagaan','Zubeida',' Fizaa',' Water' thus "When you take up a big movie people expect big things and want to hear big things. If you are doing a non-commercial 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 commercial 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 Bollywood.

Rahman made his first movie appearance, albeit in a clipping, when he was shown receiving a Filmfare Award from K. Balachander for the film 'Minsara Kanavu' in the film 'Kandukondain Kandukondain'. In May he was nominated in the Best Music Director category at the India International Film Awards. On May 27th he bagged the Zee Gold Bollywood International Award for 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 York for his outstanding contribution to music. Meanwhile director Sanjay Gupta was in hot pursuit of Rahman trying to get him to compose for his next film 'Kaante'. HMV re-released the soundtrack of Alai Payuthey with 3 new 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 newer 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 seventh 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 lyricist. After making a clean sweep of all the other awards Rahman lost the National Award for Best Music Director which went to Ismail Darbar for 'Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam'. It was announced that Rahman would hold two concerts in North America, in New York City on September 23rd and at the Skydome in Toronto on September 30th.

For a shy and reticent person who always shied away from controversies, people 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 ranging from converting his associates to funding terrorists, he came in for more 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 songs, from which Rahman had supposedly copied, at an incredible pace. But most of the allegations were either totally false or there were only some coincidental or passing resemblances. But to be fair there were a couple of songs composed by Rahman with striking resemblances to other numbers. After this he was accused of delaying the release of 'Rhythm'. The story was that Pyramid Natarajan, producer of 'Sangamam', 'Rhythm' and 'Udaya' had not paid Rahman for 'Sangamam'. And therefore he was dragging his feet on completing the work for 'Rhythm'. The producer suposedly toyed with the idea of replacing Rahman with another music director in both 'Rhythm' and 'Udaya' 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 part of an interview to Sun T.V. because the producer refused to delete Rahman's reference to the song 'Sankara nadasareerapara' from the movie 'Shankarabharanam' as one of his favourite songs composed by another music director. 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 described 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 thouroughly investigated the whole issue before publishing the piece and the journalist 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 Vairamuthu. If some magazines were to be believed the whole thing started when director of 'Udaya' Azhagu Perumal introduced upcoming lyricist Ilayakamban to Rahman. Pleased with his work Rahman asked him to do a song for 'Udaya'. 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. In July Rahman signed Shankar's next film 'Nayak' starring Anil Kapoor, a remake of 'Mudhalvan'. In addition to reusing some songs from the Tamil original Rahman would compose three new songs for the film. This would be Rahman's sixth film with Shankar. On July 14th Rahman deposed as a prosecution witness in the bevy of corruption cases against former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalitha. Deposing before judge A C Arumugaperumal Adityan, Rehman said that in July 1995 Jayalalitha's secretary Jawahar Babu had called 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 since disowned. Sudhakaran, a co-accused in a corruption case against Jayalalitha, is one of the three nephews of Sasikala Natarajan, Jayalalitha's close friend. Rahman said that 10 days before the function, Bhaskaran (Sasikala'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 with the card placed on a silver plate holding a 'kumkum' (vermilion) container 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 told the court that he had performed free of charge. 

In early August the music of Khaled Mohammed's 'Fiza' was released. For the first time Rahman took on the mantle of Guest Composer and scored his first 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 which would start only in late-2001. Around this time some rounds of the popular 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 area 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 massive 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 store 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. Amidst all this came the news that Maniratnam had signed up an upcoming composer 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 little 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. Around this time Rahman also trimmed his hair and returned to his pre-Vandemataram 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 make 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 music megastore chains and encouraging people to avoid buying pirated goods. Though all the shooting was completed for 'Tenaali' the movie was on hold 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 August than settling for below par compositions from Rahman. Rahman had reached 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 signed 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 his shift to Bollywood, Rahman signed a movie for the Amitabh Bachchan promoted AB Corp(formerly ABCL) to be directed by ad-man turned director Rakesh Mehra, starring Abhishek Bachchan. Rahman followed this up by giving the 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 reports that Rahman had been signed by the UK based Shakespeare Foundation to score the music for a new play on Shakespeare's life. He was supposedly offered an astounding Rs 300 crores for it.

In a reader poll conducted by Stardust Magazine for the year 1999-2000 Rahman 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 singers like S.P.Balasubramaniam, Hariharan, Udit Narayan, Kavitha Krishnamurthy, Sukhvinder Singh etc. Rahman came armed with a 82-member strong troupe. Academy award winning British lyricist Don Black, best known for writing the songs for James Bond movies, said as a special guest at the event 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 Dreams' received a special award for promoting world music. The audience was treated to another surprise by the introduction of percussionist Vikku Vinayagam on the Ghattam. This was quickly followed by an equally successful  one in the Toronto Skydome on September 30th which was graced by Hollywood superstar Steven Seagal who was reportedly interested in hiring the services of Rahman for one of his forthcoming films. Here the audience strength was at 40,000. Responding prehaps to widespead criticism over his use of pre-recorded pieces in the New York concert Rahman emphasised that the entire Toronto concert was being performed completely live and no recorded CD music was being used. The third concert was staged in Los Angeles on October 6th and the final one on October 8th in San Francisco. The most jarring feature of the concerts was the open expression of displeasure 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 there was a predominantly Hindi crowd and vice-versa. That apart the concerts 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 influencing the American Consulate to deny visas to key members of his troupe. 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 they had no time for rehearsals they ended up using lot of recorded music in the concert.  In early-October the music of Tenaali was released in Tamil 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 story of a princess'. The music released on 16th of October . It was an unconventional album for Rahman, featuring mellow songs. 'Muthu' was taken up for dubbing in Hindi. The grapevine reported that Kamal Haasan was trying to persuade Shankar to drop Rahman from their next project 'Robot'. In an interview to Ananda Vikatan magazine Rahman clarified a whole host of rumours, firstly that nothing was wrong between Vairamuthu and him and they would certainly work together in the future. He also confirmed that he was doing Shankar's 'Robot' and denied that he was doing any musical in association 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 foster son's wedding and had only performed out of respect for the bride's grandfather Sivaji Ganesan. The grapevine reported that Rahman would perform with Jennifer Lopez at a football tournament scheduled in India in 2001. It seemed like Rahman would never stop winning awards in 2000. On November 12th he added two Bollywood Music Awards, for Best Composer and Best 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 tribute 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. In an interview to India Abroad News Service director Deepa Mehta said that she had more or less shelved 'Water' in view of the protests against the movie. The news was a big disappointment for Rahman fans since since Rahman 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 one of Indian cinema's most ambitious project. The project was 'Taj Mahal-The Great Indian Experience', India's first film on IMAX that was to be made 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 'Sangamam'. He received two nominations for the IMI-Zee Sangeet Awards for Thakshak but didn't win any.

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. Alai Payuthey will probably rank at the bottom among his 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 grace was Zubeidaa where he managed to a great extent in recreating a period score that was mellow. It appeared that Rahman seemed to have hit a plateau. The most significant development was his teaming up with Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber and Shekar Kapoor for 'Bombay Dreams'. 2000 was most fruitful 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 close 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 soundtrack 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 turned director Ahmed Khan and one for producer Vashu Bhagnani. The film by Vashu Bhagnani was meant to be a remake of the Tamil film 'Minnale'. Following this he also signed his fourth film for intimate friend and director Kadhir titled, 'Kadhal Virus'. On January 12th he personally received his sixth Tamil Nadu State Film Award for Best Composer for the film 'Sangamam' 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 gave his nod to Priyadarshan's international venture in English on the life 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 January 25th multiplied though there was no official word from any quarters. Rahman appeared at a ceremony in Hyderabad where the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh Nara Chandrababu Naidu honoured the team behind Mudhalvan on the 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 panned by the critics. As January 25th passed, it turned out that the much talked about performance with Jennifer Lopez at the football tournament were 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 of the fact that he was not scoring the music for the film. The same day Rahman also appeared at the launch of Kadhir's 'Kadhal Virus' were Maniratnam 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 from 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 bridges of friendship across the oceans and bring men-of-war together in a gesture of peace. The major countries that participated included United States, United Kingdom, Russia, France, Japan, Australia and South Africa featuring 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 executive producer of Lagaan, Reena Khan, waiting at his residence when she had gone there to give him his remuneration for the film. The stories spoke about how she waited for an entire day and therefore missed her flight 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 Sangeet'. 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. Meanwhile there was talk that Rahman would perform in a concert in March in Delhi , 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. In an interview, when he was asked what he felt about his own growth as a composer 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 effort 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 ceaseless 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 Prabhudeva, 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 Indian 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 tune 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 today'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 with acoustic instruments.' 

The barrage of allegations continued when website tehelka.com, known for its sensationalisation of news carried an article that accused Rahman of growing too big for his boots and spoke of the Tamil film industry turning its back on him. Among the many things that the article related was that directors like Bharatiraaja, Mani Ratnam and Rajeev Menon had given up on him 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 piece, both Rajnikanth and Kamal Hassan were under the impression that Rahman'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 Rahman had signed actor-dancer Javed Jaffrey's directorial debut that would be co-directed by Sangeeth Sivan with whom Rahman had earlier worked on 'Yoddha'.

In one of his best interviews ever, Rahman spoke in depth about various issues 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 feel 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 satisfied with what I had. I had producers asking me to compose for commercials and whatever ambitions I had had long been subjugated. Just before 'Roja' happened 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 and 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 worked out better this way because it is no use having too many ambitions and getting 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 whenever 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 getting repetitive, he has no future. Four months down the line, after the film releases, the same people say that the music is very good. When I tried and worked on a new sound, and I felt that at least now they would stop saying 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 something completely new and they don't like that either."  On criticism he opined, "Initially, it used to hurt, but then I tried to analyse that they were trying to say. One criticism is that all my tunes sound alike. Now that is not true, but it could be the use of certain instruments. I used the pan flute 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 not the tunes but the instruments that are being repeated and how the instruments are used is a signature style of the composer, it takes time to establish that 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 thing 'It is like a personal signature. Take Mohammed Rafi, for example. He might 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 composes, you know this is a RD Burman composition by the way it sounds, by the way the instruments are arranged, and by the way the song flows. It is possible 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." Speaking 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 life 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 happiness 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 the wellspring of happy experiences from his own life to create the right ambience for that tune. I think this is more improtant than learning all the technical gymnastics of music." Explaining his reasons for staying away from the limelight, he stated "I always wanted my music to be famous, not me. But I accept that people relate the music to the person. I have tried to stay 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 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 March 31 Rahman participated in a charity music show in Chennai titled 'Netru Indru Naalai' to raise funds for the organisation 'The Banyan' involved in caring for disabled children. The concert which was centered around children had Rahman conducting the music for two songs, 'Achcham Illai' from Indira and 'Chanda Suraj' from Vandemataram. He later made a public donation for the organisation. It was speculated that Rahman would score the music for Kamalhassan's next film 'Pammal Sambandham'. But it turned 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 Kandukondain 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 Aishwarya 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 Mahal. The film would be released in August 2002 and would be exhibited all over 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 Gururaj Deshpande, and the IMAX Corporation. Rahman seemed to be on an uncharacteristic signing spree and the latest film in his kitty was 'Dil Ne Jise Apna Kaha' starring Salman Khan, Aishwarya Rai, Sohail Khan and directed by debutant director Atul Agnihotri. Rahman, participated in a special feature 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 on DD Metro on April 1 and had everyone in raptures about the music. 'Lagaan' which was scheduled to be released on April 6 was premiered on Doordarshan 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. Thye 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. He 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 stalwarts 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. Sudha Raghunathan, the acclaimed Carnatic classical singer rendered the title 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 film, 'Neecha Aasmaan'. On April 30, Rahman was awarded the Awadh Samman, a honour conferred on outstanding artistes by the Government of Uttar Pradesh. Rahman received the same from Vishnu Hari Shastri, the Governor of Uttar Pradesh. Speaking to a newspaper, Andrew Llyod Webber commented on the upcoming 'Bombay Dreams' thus, "I haven't heard a musical in the last 20 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 game that we could be talking about the future of musicals for a very long time. 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 promotions for Lagaan spoke of Rahman visiting Bhuj thrice with all his accompaniments 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 infintely 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' did precious little to regain the ground Rahman had lost to composers like Harris Jayaraj(Minnale) and Karthik Raja(Dumm Dumm Dumm) in 2001. Some new films for Rahman were producer Tahir Hussain's 'Ada' in Hindi. Kamal Hassan 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 Sambandham. Rahman also gave the nod to Mani Ratnam's next, their seventh together, tentatively titled 'Kannathil Muthammittal'. In an interview to Minnambalam ezine Illaiyaraja clarified  about a controversy that erupted three years ago in 1998 regarding a ring. In a musical function arranged to felicitate musical greats Illayaraja and M S Vishwanathan, a ring was presented to each of them. A R Rahman had presented the rings and put them on their fingers. Raja immediately removed the ring and presented it back to Rahman. Explaining what had transpired that day, Raja clarified that he does not wear gold ornaments and also disliked jewellery. When the ring was put on his finger he was caught unawares. The first thing that he did was put 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 about 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 the 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 Vajpayee and Pakistan President Parvez Musharaff, there were reports that Rahman 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 countries. On July 5th the music of 'Nayak'was released to a characteristically 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 for earthquake relief in Gujarat. Rahman was awarded the Best Music Director 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 same producer but that movie never saw the light of the day. The Rahman composition Bombay Theme was used in ad for a Mineral water in France starring the famous French footballer Zenadine Zidane. Erstwhile Rahman flunkey Harris Jayaraj's second release Majnu, wholly reminiscent of his first Minnale took the charts by storm. 

Rahman's almost year long absence from the Tamil scene save for the reused 'Star' which bombed, was taking a toll on his stature in the Tamil film industry. Rahman was likely to score the music for Rajnikanth's forthcoming film. Rahman received a double nomination in the Zee Gold Bollywood 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 doing the music for his next film 'Samjhauta Express', earlier titled 'Awaaz'. In an interview to MTV, Rahman revealed that he was working on Tanveer Ahmed's 'Ada', Shyam Benegal's next 'Ganga' and Khalid Mohammed's "Tehzeeb' starring Shabana Azmi and Tabu. 

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. 

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 Kancheepuram to be made in Malayalam on a shoestring budget. An American company called Mondo released an album of Rahman's Hindi and Tamil songs along with one song each of R D Burman and Vishal, called Mondo India to promote his music in the western world and it drew rave reviews wherein Rahman was described as "possibly the greatest of the modern filmi composers, and a man who can seamlessly marry Indian and Western melodies, instruments, and techniques in a way no one has managed before. He is to the Bollywood scene what Ennio Morricone or Nino Rota have been to European cinema: people who transcend the idea of score and soundtrack to bring forth pieces like "Dheeme Dheeme" that can stand alone as pieces of music." The music of Paarthale Paravasam which was due to be released in late October was delayed amidst reports of several music labels fighting over the rights to the soundtrack. 'Bombay Theme' was featured in yet another International 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 'Fly' and was also used in the ad for a French brand of mineral water titled 'Volvic' featuring footballer Zinedine Zidane. Paarthale Paravasam finally released amidst a mjor controversy over the rights between HMV, Challenge Music and Hit Music. K. Balachander sold the rights of Paarthale Paravasam 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 from Challenge music. Challenge Music, for whom Paarthale Paravasam was the 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 High Court restraining Challenge Music from producing or selling cassettes of Paarthale Paravasam. Defying the stay order, Challenge Music wente ahead 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 labels though HMV's was claimed to be the genuine one. The music was very experimental and unlike Rahman and received a overwhelmingly positive response from fans but was received very badly by listeners by and large. K.Balachander and Rahman-The Duet duo-failed to love up to the massive expectations and both music and film met a sorry fate. 

Rahman gave the nod to a new film, 'Naran' starring Kamal Haasan and Amitabh Bachchan to be directed by K S Ravikumar which said to be man and beast 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 Ali, Mani Ratnam's assistant. The film would feature music from Alai Payuthey along with new compositions. Rahman took up a Telugu assignment after 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 Tamil 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 'Taal'. There were reports that Rahman had opted out of Nasser's 'Dheem Tharakita Thom' which was retitled 'Popcorn' with Yuvan Shankar Raja as composer. 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 'Kannathil Muthamittal' with the music expected to be released in late December. Director Vasanth said in an interview to The Hindu that he was working on 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 backburner 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 meanwhile started work on Raj Kumar Santoshi's ambitious 'The Legend of Bhagat Singh'. The song that he recorded was described by the producer Kumar Taurani of TIPS Films as "It is a unique song which, besides giving the periodic feel, has a fresh feel about it." The newspaper Dinmani reported that a 9-th standard schoolgirl called Vidya had sung for Rahman in 'Kannathil Muthamittal'. Rahman had chosen the girl from his alma mater Padma Sheshadri 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 record 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 finally 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 Kungumam magazine spoke in depth about her relationship with him, 'He's a born 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. The 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. Participating in a seminar organised by the Indian Performing Rights Society in Chennai on December 22, Rahman spoke about the importance of valuing Intellectual 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 just one original release in Tamil, Paarthale Paravasam which was a massive non-success. His other two releases Star and Alli Arjuna were irresponsible rehashes of his earlier work. Coupled with the massive success of other composers like Harris Jeyraj, Karthik Raja and Yuvan Shankar , Rahman's stock in the Tamil industry probably touched its lowest level ever. People were questioning his commitment to the Tamil industry. His forays in Bollywood 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 the best conventional Bollywood score from Rahman so far, the fact that the movie was terrible took the music down with it, calling into question Rahman's choice of films and filmmakers. His score in Nayak, partly reused from Mudhalvan, was also torn to shreds. Zubeidaa, the music of which released in 2001, received much critical acclaim but did not attract attention independent of the film itself which was aimed at a niche audience. The saving grace for Rahman in an abysmal 2001 was Lagaan. A film with massive expectations and lot of hype that could have proved counter-productive. But Rahman 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 without question 2001 was the most subdued and lacklustre year in Rahman's 10 year 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 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. 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 Rahman's 35th birthday on January and used the opportunity to announce his next film 'Thullal' supposedly with music by Rahman making one seriously question Rahman's wisdom in continuing his association with the director. Some newer reports spoke of Rahman actually doing Nasser's Popcorn which was 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. January 11th saw Rahman taking the Zee Cine Awards for Best Composer for 'Lagaan', the first awards of the year. January 12th marked the first release of the year for Rahman, the much awaited Kannathil Muthamittal, his seventh outing with Mani Ratnam. Much was expected from the combination and in keeping with the demands of the film Rahman turned out an appropriate score that went down well with his fans but not so much with the masses at large. Rahman was nominated for the music of Lagaan at the 48th Filmfare Awards on January 17th. In a strange incident the quirky Bal Thackeray announced that he was declaring a ban on synthesisers since it was spoiling Indian culture and music and vented his ire on Rahman describing his music as the sound of washing vessels. On January 18th, Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy bagged the Screen Award for their peppy score in Dil Chahta Hai beating Rahman 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 Paarthale 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 announced 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 the movie. Outlook magazine published a snippet that the Delhi based health products company Morepen Labs was in the final stages of negotiations with Rahman to compose a 'Health Anthem' for their upcoming ad campaign. Dinmani newspaper reported that Rahman had asked for gists of a few important prose/ poetry from classical tamil literature. Lyricist Ilayakamban had given such a collection to Rahman. Rahman planned to use them in subsequent movies.  Rahman dashed to London to be present at the official launch of Bombay Dreams on February 7th. The glittering function was attended by several dignitaries and several encomiums were showered on Rahman. Remarked Webber, " In Rahman I met someone who I believe could carry the torch 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, Rahman 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 Victoria theatre on May 31 and have regular shows from June 19. 

Rahman apparently met director S.J.Surya on a flight from Mumbai to Chennai 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 to the makers of a T.V. serial based on noted Tamil literateur Kalki's epic Ponniyin Selvan. To be produced by a Singapore based company Hebron Image Makers the serial was to be directed by T.V.Raja starring M.N.Nambiar, Vijayakumar and K.R.Vijaya among others. The serial was to be screened on Sun T.V. Vairamuthu is to pen the lyrics. Meanwhile it was also clarified that Kannathil Muthamittal was held up only because of censor issues and not any delay on the part of Rahman. Several critics praised Kannathil Muthamittal's music as reflecting a 'new found maturity' in his music. Rahman's films for Vashu Bhagnani and Ahmed Khan converged with Vashu Bhagnani launching his next production starring Kareena Kapoor, Tusshar Kapoor and Abhishek Bachchan directed by Ahmed Khan. Rahman hit back 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, humble 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 music from. Sony made plans to promote the music of the film as well. Says Shreedhar 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 with Columbia Tristar and selling the music at the venue, retailing at theatres.” 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 unanimously acclaimed as Mani Ratnam's best movie to date. Mani had consciously diluted the importance of the songs in the movie. There was some criticism 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 publicised 'Enakku 20 Unakku 18', the Tamil dubbed version of his Telugu film 'Nee Manasu Naaku Telusu'. 

After a prolonged wait of three years Rajnikanth finally announced a new film 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 Music category for 'Zubeidaa' and 'Lagaan' at the 3rd International Indian Film 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 went on the floors again. Rajnikanth's 'Baba' too went on the floors on 24th 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 picturised 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 interact with listeners, in March. In its April 2002 edition, Filmfare magazine wrote about Rahman thus, "A.R.Rahman was his usual humble self. After receiving 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 were coming out with an album titled, 'Rahmania', a tribute to Rahman containing 16 of Rahman's tracks mixed and played by the band. The album is to 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 Indian vocal and drum styles, but he seems to listen to everything from everywhere, so you could say he is a world music artist". On the 6th of April, Rahman was awarded the IIFA for Best Music for 'Lagaan' at the 3rd International Indian Film Academy Awards in Malaysia. On the 7th The Guardian newspaper of England carried an interview with Andrew Lloyd Webber in which Webber described Rahman as being in the league of Paul McCartney. In 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 and 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 roped 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 penned by the Kalaignar, the first time being in 'Yelelo'. The Bollywood Brass 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 to 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 revealed that he had been offered two Hollywood projects by Sony's Columbia Pictures but refused to divulge any more details. Director S.J.Surya confirmed that Rahman would be scoring the music for his forthcoming film 'New' expected to go on the floors in the latter half of the year. Rahman was 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-May. With the impending release of Bombay Dreams, the publicity for the musical was touching a feverish pitch with every mainstream publication and newspaper according extraordinary coverage to the musical. It was supposed to have 70% new compositions and the rest were reworked from Rahman's earlier 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 Director Priyadarshan. The music of 'The Legend of Bhagat Singh' released in early 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 short film to be made by Director Priyadarshan for this year's Independence Day and would star child artiste Keerthana and the Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee. A report in the Economic Times on the highest tax payers in the past year from the entertainment industry listed Rahman at No. 27, the highest tax paying composer/musician in the country. Rahman apparently paid taxes to the tune of Rs. 60 lakhs in 2001-2002. 

The publicity for Bombay Dreams touched a feverish pitch with Webber managing to get nearly every publication of note to do a feature on Bombay Dreams. The first preview held on May 31 also received a favourable response. 'Shakalaka Baby' which was released as a single also became an instant chartbuster. The British press hailed Rahman as the 'Asia Mozart'. Amidst all these glowing reports came in news that Rajanikanth's baba was getting 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 picked up with the release of the film. Sony Music announced that it had picked up the rights for the Bombay Dreams soundtrack and a forthcoming Instrumental album of Rahman. In an interview to The Hindu veteran Malayalam composer Isaac Thomas Kottukapally revealed that he had a long standing association with Rahman and Rahman's first ever independent music composition 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 17th 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 lifetime." 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 an 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 composer it is hard work. But with Rahman being a spiritual person, it is very much 'it will happen when it happens'. If you are in the middle of a song and it gets difficult he is quite happy to leave it. The other thing is he 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 will come when it comes, which is a bit nerve-wracking to start with, but — along with a bit of prompting from me regarding deadlines — it eventually seemed to work." 

Director Steve Plimlott says, "Rahman is a melodic genius, and I don't use the word 'genius' very often. In India, people say he's their Mozart, and it's sort of true." The star studded premiere show was attended by Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber, his wife Madeliene Webber, socialite Ivana Trump, director 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 and ended with a standing ovation being accorded to Rahman and Webber.The critics, fans and the press were almost unanimous in their praise of Rahman's music in Bombay Dreams. The CD rose to No. 6 on Amazon's sales charts.

Said a fan, "This album encapsulates the essence of Bollywood, from the first sweeping strings to the breath taking dance numbers. I was not a fan of asian music, but this album has certainly made me change my mind. A R Rahman's ground breaking music fuses ethnic indian with western beats. The songs 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 one of the greatest living composers on the planet. From tender ballads to rambunctious foot-stompers to a satisfyingly percussive background score, he pulls out all the musical stops and creates a work that showcases his unique 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 forgettable, but all in all a remarkable achievement." Times Online opined "it's incredibly catchy, full of soaring ballads and — when the drums stop pounding — gilded with beguiling instrumental colour." 

But there were a couple of dissenting opinions as well. The Independent wrote, "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 "oriental" stuff, the sort of thing one would hear in an old movie." And This is London 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 often 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 from "disappointing" to "refreshing". Reuters summed up the reaction of the British Press as,"British critics gave theatre impresario Andrew Lloyd Webber's latest musical adventure, an extravagant version of Bollywood love story Bombay Dreams, a qualified thumbs up on Thursday after its London premier." The Daily Mail said "Once you enter the spirit, the show, cannily produced 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 "Asian 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 was very critical, " It's a shame that this potentially thrilling subject is crippled by formula and mediocrity. Bombay Dreams may have the right ingredients, 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 response 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 popularity 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 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. 

Bombay Dreams, which had a slow start, went on to become a major hit through 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 Broadway in 2003-2004. Bombay Dreams ended up becoming the biggest West End 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 Planet M in Mumbai and Music World in Chennai to release the music. The British press crowned him with the title 'Mozart of the East'. In India too, the 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 sold 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 Rahman, 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 chatting about a song, and suddenly he's get up and leave the room. Before I got to know him well I thought, 'Has he gone to the loo? Is it something I said?' but what he actually does is just get up, go out, and pray. He's a very spiritual man. he 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 will come when it comes, which is a bit nerve-wracking to start 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 music. 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 change in Indian music and taken it international. And it was only rhe beginning. The icing of the cake was the announcement of the award of the National Film Awards for the year with Rahman bagging the Best Composer award for Lagaan, this being his third national award, a feat unmatched by any of his contemporaries. The much awaited music of Baba released in early August to a tepid response. The music did not have the mark of Rahman in 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 partnerships. With the movie also flopping, Baba added to Rahman's recent streaks of flops in Tamil cinema. Rahman signed debutant director Ranjith's 'Swami' which was the Tamil version of the bilingual film titled 'Nandanam' in Malayalam. Rahman also signed director S.J.Suryah's 'New'. The movie was launched at a gala ceremony on August 15th with Rahman being prominently featured in all the publicity material. 'New' was to be remade in Telugu with Mahesh Babu as 'Naani'. In an interview to Gulf News Rahman said that he was exploring the possibility of a concert in Dubai in 2003. August 15th marked the 1oth anniversary of the release of Roja, a day that heralded 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, Business Today carried feature on India's most Global corporate brands. one of 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 Rahman's standing in India: 107 million albums sold. International recognition has been nudging him for some time. With Andrew Lloyd Webber's Bombay Dreams, 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 for 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 company Bharti Teleservices had signed up Rahman as Brand Ambassador for its wireless service Airtel. The news was significant as it market the return of Rahman 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 exclusive ringtones for Airtel customers. Of the five ring tones, two will be from the ad film itself, for which Rahman has composed the music, another two 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 brand in the fiscal 2002-03 and are planning to involve Rahman in our corporate campaign for 'Bharti' as a mother brand," Bharti Enterprises joint managing director Ranjan Bharti Mittal said. 

He said the new brand campaign delivered AirTel's new positioning 'Live Every Moment' in a simple yet real fashion. On association of the renowned music composer with the brand, Mittal said the new AirTel TV campaign celebrates a person's inherent need to communicate simultaneously and grab that moment to live it completely. "Rahman reinforces the leader-innovator and Indian cum international dimensions of AirTel," he said. This marked 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 although 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 my 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 London. Let’s hope people like this commercial, God willing. However, I am not sure whether I will endorse other brands in the future." "The Airtel ad actually was a true account of what once happened while I was recording I chanced upon a tune and had it played back to my studio on the mobile. So when Bharti approached me with the creative I was quite surprised. I was apprehensive about how I would look before the camera, but I think the reactions and 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 across major Television channels and became an instant success. The ad featured Rahman arriving at the airport to see a sobbing child. Rahman pulls out 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 it just in time for the concert. The jingle was a major hit and was heard ringing from every mobile phone in town for several weeks. If the figures are to be believed, the ad had a sledgehammer-like impact. The company’s brand tracking research shows that top of the mind recall for the Airtel brand 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 Roja would be relaunched for an international release. Rahman appeared at the press conference. An article in Ananda Vikatan spoke of Rahman composing for director Bharatiraaja's new venture, 'Kangalal Kaidhu Sei'. Rumours that Subhash Ghai was wooing Rahman to compose for his next directorial venture were floating around in the press. Rahman recorded a song for Ahmed Khan's directorial venture with girl band Viva. The Arjun starrer Chanakya was renamed yet again, as 'Parasuram'. Rahman released the debut title of Mandolin Srinivas' brother Anil Srinivasan, 'Into the Light'. Reports spoke of Rahman having broken away from the traditional one-time payment 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 imitative, he spaces himself out unlike other directors who sign up whatever they 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, executive director of Saregama HMV, which released Sapney: "He is the most bankable 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 glowing praises of Rahman. "The music maestro has also cleverly marketed himself as a recognisable brand. Rahman has also played his financial cards with reasonable skill. He is one music director who prefers to be paid royalty rather than a one-off lumpsum amount.Rahman’s popularity is undoubtedly 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 new musicals. He said that making music for the Indian film industry continues 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 and savvy public figure. In an interview Rahman remarked, Making music today, believes Rahman, is now more challenging. "I think there is more pressure now, the audience taste is much more elevated and they are more demanding. But it's good for us. They are much more open to new things. I am scared of meeting people, because I can't say no to them. I usually end up saying 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 from 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 Chennai. Rahman signed Shyam Benegal's ambitious bio-pic on Subhash Chandra Bose, 'Netaji - The Last Hero' which was to be a international project.. On October 21, Rahman recorded the first song for Subhash Ghai's new venture and the film was formally announced on October 24. The film would be launched on December 24th. Rahman released 'Ashtaruchi' an album of Carnatic 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 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.

His forthcoming films include 'New', 'Ashoka/Chanakya/Parasuram',  'Engineer', 'Mudhal Mudhalaaga' , 'Udaya',  'Theekul Viralai Vaithal',  'Prashanth', 'Yelelo' , 'Robot', 'Boys', '9-30 to 10-00', 'Thullal', 'Swami', 'Kangalal Kaidhu Sei' and Selva's untitled next in Tamil and 'Rashq', 'Ittefaq', 'Waqia',    'Neecha Aasmaan', 'Do Kadam Chal Ke Dekho', 'Dil Ne Jise Apna Kaha', Ada', 'Ganga', 'Tehzeeb' , 'Awaaz/Samjhauta Express', 'Netaji The Last Hero', Shekhar Kapoor's 'Pani' and Subhash Ghai,  Ahmed Khan,  Javed Jaffrey'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 Baghdad', 'The Last Revolutionary'  and 'Water' in English and the non-film 'Ekam Satyam', 'Listen'. Besides this he also has the serial 'Ponniyin Selvan' and Instrumental album of his hits for Sony. He is also,reportedly, currently 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 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.

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. You want fame, but once you get it you lose your head. So just leave it to God 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 asked why there is so much back-biting about him, he says "See, you can never be a better person to everyone,'' he says ingenuously. "To achieve something 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 need to hang on to something peaceful''. When asked if he is scared of disappointments 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 thing, 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 where ever it takes me', he says. Rahman's visits to dargahs and long prayer sessions have been criticised as unprofessional interruptions of his schedule."If there's no mental peace, what schedule? I need that spiritual cleansing, 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 answers his need. Rahman discloses also that with that gain in confidence, he has 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 photograph 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 all 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 the 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 wanted today, I could be discarded tomorrow. they'll simply say, 'look this boy 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 short 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 music internationally. He has successfully taken popular Indian music international. He has fans not just among expatriate Indians but also among natives of places like Brazil, Sweden and Australia. He changed the image of a music director from being a paan-chewing, harmonium-clutching copycat to that 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 benchmarks set by him were what others aimed to achieve. The soundtracks of his unsuccessful scores sold more than the soundtracks of the successful scores of other composers. He also collected inumerable accolades for his work - a Padmashri, 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 others - 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 hopes to dance to his tunes, literally.

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."

"I'm inspired any time I watch a good musician playing. When I'm programming 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 beautifully 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 with a continuous, intense feeling. No cracks, no jerks. It took Naushad two years of concentration, as if he couldn't see anything else''. 

When asked if dealing with constant pressures of delivering somthting different would lead to a burnout, Rahman says, "I believe that a burnout occurs when one is not happy with what he is doing. Probabaly he's doing it out of family pressures or financial hassles. But not for the passion of it. But I am 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 overworked 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 everything that I do has to be related only to music. So, there's no concept of a burnout occuring in my life. God forbid." "Above all I am a strong believer 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, at 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 anything like that. Your almost like a vacuum, straight about everything. Which gives you a completely sublime, lonely feeling apart from others."

Never one to boast or brag about his accomplishments, he credits all his inspiration and success to Allah. "I am whatever because of my parents' prayers to Allah. I am whatever I am because the prayers I pray conscientiously, sincerely and with full faith five times a day. I will be whatever I am only because of Allah, I know it. He has given me everything. He can take everything away and I accept His decision without any questions, without a murmur. Allah is my everything. I am just an infinitesimal creation of His. He has created me for a specific mission. I will be committing a sin if I don't fulfil that mission. That's my only belief. That's the only thing that matters to me. I don't care for all the other temptations of the world. I am born for music. I live 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 can 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, can 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. That'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 encouraged 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 with fame. Rahman makes his presence felt again despite maintaining a low profile in public life. It is well known that he is seldom seen at social gatherings, film parties or functions. "Fans, VIPs wanting to meet you, functions, parties - the moment you stop making good music all will stop. The only formula is - yes, we are back to it - total concentration on the work." All this success has not uprooted him from his roots, "Beyond what people achieve and strive for the only things that are really important are - personal values, 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 current fads, it must have a couple of memorable melodies. 'Hai rabbas' don't satisfy 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 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 ."

In response to all the acclaim he has received, he says "It's a great responsibility. 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 make 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 time while I am creating and with Allah by my side I know nothing can go wrong. 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 of the millions for whom I strive to create my music, music that springs from 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 necessity. 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 music which he helps me create which appeals to both the body and the soul that 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, modest, shy, low profile, unassuming, self-affacing, devout and down-to-earth 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 is summed up in his favourite prayer which goes thus "O God, if I worship thee for fear of hell, burn me in hell, and if I worship thee in hope of Paradise, exclude me from Paradise, but if I worship thee for thy own sake, grudge me not thy everlasting beauty." The man has given immense pleasure to millions 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 probably these very divine qualities that made him the great man he is and the same will hopefully help him touch greater heights and touch newer glories and keep millions enchanted with his blissful music for years to come.

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