A. R. Rahman was born in Madras (now called Chennai) in the Southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu with his original name A. S. Dileep Kumar. His father died when he was a 9 year old boy and he helped to support his family by playing keyboards in veteran Tamil composer Ilaiyaraaja's troupe and gained a lot of practical experience touring the world and performing with various musicians, groups and orchestras. Like Ilaiyaraaja he also studied Western Classical Music and gained a degree in music at London's Trinity College of Music. Along with some family members he converted to Islam and adopted the name Allah Rakha Rahman and has since been credited as A. R. Rahman. His early experience as a composer came from the advertising business, where he composed numerous jingles and he founded a studio called Panchathan Records
Rahman's first break into film music came when he met the director Mani Ratnam who commissioned Rahman to score the film "Roja". Although often referred to in the West using the generic term "Bollywood", India has a huge and diverse film industry with numerous centres in different Indian states. Rahman's initial work focussed around the Tamil language film industry in Tamil Nadu (centred mainly in the state capital Chennai), but he also later wrote music for some Hindi language films for which the term "Bollywood" was originally coined. The majority of Indian films are musicals and with a number of years' experience, Rahman has proven himself as both a score composer and as an excellent song-writer. In 1997 Rahman released an album called "Vande Mataram" to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Indian independence.
His success with film musicals translated readily into success with stage musicals, and Rahman has gained recognition and awards for both "Bombay Dreams" and the "Lord of the Rings" musical. "Bombay Dreams" involved some collaboration with Andrew Lloyd Webber as producer, and in the world of films he has also collaborated with Michael Danna on "Water" and with Craig Armstrong on "Elizabeth: The Golden Age". With this background and a huge reputation in film musicals and songs, the composer was a natural choice for Director Danny Boyle when it came to the film "Slumdog Millionaire". The Director and movie as a whole has won a staggering number of awards, but arguably Rahman himself has personally won the most with a Golden Globe, a BAFTA and two Oscars! Rahman again worked with Danny Boyle on "127 Hours" a film based on a true story about a mountaineer who becomes trapped. In complete contrast to "Slumdog" the music is mostly guitar-driven though the more spiritual moments have an Indian tinge.
Rahman has scored and written songs for a large number of India made movies, mostly made in Southern India and in Tamil. Here we have included a small selection of Indian films and some of his English language films.
A. R. Rahman has provided the music and songs for the following two very successful theatrical productions:
Check out the following soundtracks and albums by A. R. Rahman: