A. R. Rahman
A.R.Rahman at 57th FF Awards.jpg

A. R. Rahman at the 57th Filmfare Awards, 2012
Background information
Birth name A. S. Dileep Kumar
Also known as
  • A. R. Rahman
  • A. R. R.
  • Allahrakka Rahman
  • Isai Puyal
  • Mozart of Madras
Born 6 January 1967 (age 52)
ChennaiTamil Nadu, India
  • Singer
  • background music composer
  • composer
  • record producer
  • music director
  • arranger
  • conductor
Years active 1992–present
Website arrahman.com
Musical career
Associated acts


Allahrakka Rahman (About this soundpronunciation ; born A. S. Dileep Kumar) known professionally as A. R. Rahman, is an Indian music director, composer, musician, singer and music producer. A. R. Rahman’s works are noted for integrating Indian classical music with electronic musicworld music and traditional orchestral arrangements. Among his awards are six National Film Awards, two Academy Awards, two Grammy Awards, a BAFTA Award, a Golden Globe Award, fifteen Filmfare Awards and seventeen Filmfare Awards South. He has been awarded the Padma Bhushan, the third highest civilian award, in 2010 by the Government of India.[1] In 2009, Rahman was included on the Time 100 list of the world’s most influential people.[2] The UK-based world-music magazine Songlines named him one of “Tomorrow’s World Music Icons” in August 2011.[3] South Indian fans of Rahman refer him with the nickname of “The Mozart of Madras”, and “Isai Puyal” (English: the Musical Storm).[4]

With an in-house studio (Panchathan Record Inn in Chennai), Rahman’s film-scoring career began during the early 1990s with the Tamil film Roja. Working in India’s film industriesinternational cinema, and theatre, Rahman is one of the best-selling recording artists,[5][6][7] with an estimated 200 million units sold worldwide.[8] Rahman has also become a notable humanitarian and philanthropist, donating and raising money for a number of causes and charities. In 2017, Rahman made his debut as a director and writer for the film Le Musk.[9]

Early life

Rahman was born in Madras, India.[10] His father, R. K. Shekhar, was a film-score composer and conductor for Tamil and Malayalam films; Rahman assisted his father in the studio, playing the keyboard.

After his father’s death when Rahman was nine years old, the rental of his father’s musical equipment provided his family’s income.[11]Raised by his mother, Kareema (born Kashturi),[12] Rahman, who was studying in Padma Seshadri Bala Bhavan had to work to support his family. which led to him to routinely miss classes and fail exams. Therefore, the Principal Mrs YGP summoned Rahman and his mother and told them that Rahman should focus on academics irrespective of family circumstances. Rahman attended another school called MCN for a year, [13] and later joined Madras Christian College Higher Secondary School, where he was admitted on his music talent and formed a band with his high school classmates.[14] However, after discussing with his mother, he later dropped out of school to pursue a career as a full time musician.[15][16] Rahman was a keyboard player and arranger for bands such as Roots (with childhood friend and percussionist Sivamani, John Anthony, Suresh Peters, JoJo and Raja)[17] and founded the Chennai-based rock group Nemesis Avenue.[18] He mastered the keyboard, piano, synthesizer, harmonium and guitar, and was particularly interested in the synthesizer because it was the “ideal combination of music and technology”.[19]

Rahman began his early musical training under Master Dhanraj,[20][21] and at age 11 began playing in the orchestra of Malayalam composer (and close friend of his father) M. K. Arjunan.[22] He soon began working with other composers, such as M. S. ViswanathanIlaiyaraajaRamesh Naidu and Raj-Koti,[21] accompanied Zakir HussainKunnakudi Vaidyanathan and L. Shankar on world tours and obtained a scholarship from Trinity College London to the Trinity College of Music.[12]

Studying in Madras, Rahman graduated with a diploma in Western classical music from the school.[23] Rahman was introduced to Qadiri tariqa when his younger sister was seriously ill in 1984. His mother was a practicing Hindu.[24][25][26] At the age of 23, he converted to Islam with other members of his family in 1989, changing his name to Allahrakka Rahman (A. R. Rahman).[27][28][29][12][30]



Rahman initially composed scores for documentaries and jingles for advertisements and Indian television channels. In 1987 Rahman, then still known as Dileep, composed jingles for a line of watches introduced by Allwyn.[31] He also arranged the jingles for some advertisements that went on to become very popular, including the popular jingle for Titan Watches, in which he used the theme from Mozart’s Symphony no.25.[32][33][34]

Two smiling men holding a record award

Rahman (left) receiving a platinum award at the MagnaSound Awards; MagnaSound released his first film soundtrack, Roja, in 1992.

In 1992, he was approached by director Mani Ratnam to compose the score and soundtrack for his Tamil film, Roja.[35][36]

Rahman’s film career began in 1992 when he started Panchathan Record Inn, a recording and mixing studio in his backyard. It would become the most-advanced recording studio in India,[35] and arguably one of Asia’s most sophisticated and high-tech studios.[37]Cinematographer Santosh Sivan signed Rahman for his second film Yoddha, a Malayalam film starring Mohanlal and directed by Sivan’s brother Sangeeth Sivan that released in September 1992.

The following year, Rahman received the Rajat Kamal (Silver Lotus) award for best music director at the National Film Awards for Roja. The films’ score was critically and commercially successful in its original and dubbed versions, led by the innovative theme “Chinna Chinna Aasai“. Rahman followed this with successful scores and songs for Tamil–language films for the Chennai film industry, including Ratnam’s politically-charged Bombay, the urban KadhalanThiruda Thiruda and S. Shankar‘s debut film Gentleman (with its popular dance song, “Chikku Bukku Rayile“).[38][39][40][41] Rahman collaborated with director Bharathiraaja on Kizhakku Cheemayileand Karuththamma, producing successful Tamil rural folk-inspired film songs; he also composed for K. Balachander‘s Duet, which had some memorable Saxophone themes.[42][43] The 1995 film Indira and romantic comedies Mr. Romeo and Love Birds also drew attention.[44][45][46]

Rahman attracted a Japanese audience with Muthus success there.[47] His soundtracks are known in the Tamil Nadu film industry and abroad for his versatility in combining Western classical music, Carnatic and Tamil traditional and folk-music traditions, jazzreggae and rock music.[48][49][50][51] The soundtrack for Bombay sold 15 million copies worldwide,[52][8]and “Bombay Theme” would later reappear in his soundtrack for Deepa Mehta‘s Fire and a number of compilations and other media. It was featured in the 2002 Palestinian film Divine Intervention and the 2005 Nicolas Cage film, Lord of WarRangeela, directed by Ram Gopal Varma, was Rahman’s Bollywood debut.[53] Successful scores and songs for Dil Se.. and the percussive Taal followed.[54][55] Sufi mysticism inspired “Chaiyya Chaiyya” from the former film and “Zikr” from his soundtrack album for Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose: The Forgotten Hero (which featured elaborate orchestral and choral arrangements).[30]

Rahman’s soundtrack album for the Chennai production Minsaara Kanavu won him his second National Film Award for Best Music Direction and a South FilmFare Award for Best Music Direction in a Tamil film in 1997, the latter setting a record of six consecutive wins; he later went on to win the award three consecutive additional times. The musical cues in the soundtrack albums for Sangamam and Iruvar used Carnatic vocals, the veena, rock guitar and jazz.[56] During the 2000s, Rahman composed scores and popular songs for Rajiv Menon‘s Kandukondain KandukondainAlaipayutheyAshutosh Gowariker‘s SwadesRang De Basanti[57] and songs with Hindustani motifs for 2005’s Water. Rahman has worked with Indian poets and lyricists such as Javed AkhtarGulzarVairamuthu and Vaali, and has produced commercially successful soundtracks with directors Mani Ratnam and S. Shankar (GentlemanKadhalanIndianJeansMudhalvanNayakBoysSivaji and Enthiran).[58]

In 2005 Rahman expanded his Panchathan Record Inn studio by establishing AM Studios in Kodambakkam, Chennai, creating the most cutting-edge studio in Asia.[59][60] The following year he launched his own music label, KM Music,[61] with his score for Sillunu Oru Kaadhal.[62] Rahman scored the Mandarin-language film Warriors of Heaven and Earth in 2003 after researching and using Chinese and Japanese classical music,[63] and won the Just Plain Folks Music Organization|Just Plain Folks Music Award For Best Music Album for his score for 2006’s Varalaru (God Father).[64] He co-scored Shekhar Kapur‘s second British film, Elizabeth: The Golden Age, in 2007[65] and received a Best Composer Asian Film Award nomination at the Hong Kong International Film Festival for his Jodhaa Akbar score.[66] Rahman’s music has been sampled for other scores in India,[67] appearing in Inside ManLord of WarDivine Intervention and The Accidental Husband.

His score for his first Hollywood film, the 2009 comedy Couples Retreat, won the BMI London Award for Best Score.[68] Rahman’s music for 2008’s Slumdog Millionaire won a Golden Globe and two Academy Awards (a first for an Asian), and the songs “Jai Ho” and “O… Saya” from its soundtrack were internationally successful. His music on 2008’s Bollywood Jaane Tu… Ya Jaane Na was popular with Indian youth; that year, his score and songs for Jodhaa Akbar won critical acclaim, a Best Composer Asian Film Award nomination and IIFA awards for best music direction and score.

In 2010, Rahman composed the original score and songs for the romantic Vinnaithaandi Varuvaayaa, the sci-fi romance Enthiran and Danny Boyle‘s 127 Hours, composing for the Imtiaz Ali musical Rockstar; the latter’s soundtrack was a critical and commercial success.[69] In 2012 Rahman composed for Ekk Deewana Tha and the American drama People Like Us,[70] and collaborated with director Yash Chopra on Jab Tak Hai Jaan.[71] all were positively received.[72] By the end of the year his music for Mani Ratnam’s Kadal was critically acclaimed, and the album topped the iTunes India chart for December.[73] In 2013, Rahman had two releases: Raanjhanaa and Maryan. Both were successful, with the former nominated for a number of awards[74][75][76] and the latter the iTunes India Tamil Album of 2013.[77]

The year 2014 was one of the busiest years for Rahman, with him claiming to have worked in 12 films in various languages.[78] While his first release for the year was the Imtiaz Ali‘s road movie Highway which garnered positive reviews, his very next release was the performance captured animation film Kochadaiiyaan, a Rajinikanth starrer directed by Soundarya Rajinikanth. The film’s score and soundtrack garnered huge critical appraise with its score being long-listed at the forthcoming Academy Awards.[79] His next were the scores for the two back to back Hollywood films, Million Dollar Arm and The Hundred Foot Journey, both of which got into the contended list for the original score category nomination at the Oscars.

This was followed by the highly successful soundtrack album for the period drama Kaaviya Thalaivan teaming up with director Vasanthabalan for the first time. His next release was Shankar‘s supernatural thriller I and K. S. Ravikumar‘s period action film Lingaa, both of which were highly acclaimed and appreciated upon release.

Background scores

Apart from successful soundtracks, he has also received acclaim for his background scores and is considered one of the finest background-score composers in India.[80] His background scores are often characterised by the usage of subtle orchestration and ambient sounds.[80] Trained in western classical music, he often employs contemporary instruments such as Guitars, Cello, Flute, Strings, Keyboard, Finger board, Harpejji, Santoor and traditional Indian instruments such as Shehnai, Sitar, Mrudangam, Veenai & Tabla to create scores.

Apart from getting favourable reviews, several of Rahman’s background scores have earned him many prestigious awards ranging from Academy awards to Filmfare awards.[80][81]Some of the films which fetched him appreciations for background scores include RojaBombayIruvarMinsara KanavuDil Se..TaalLagaanThe Legend of Bhagat SinghSwadesRang De BasantiBose: The Forgotten HeroGuruJodhaa AkbarRaavananVinnaithaandi VaruvaayaaRockstarEnthiran ,KadalKochadaiiyaan and I. Among his Hollywood scores, Warriors of Heaven and EarthSlumdog Millionaire127 HoursMillion Dollar Arm and The Hundred-Foot Journey received rave reviews. A. R. Rahman received two Academy Awards for Slumdog Millionaire and two Academy Award nominations for 127 Hours. Recently, his scores for KochadaiiyaanMillion Dollar Arm and The Hundred-Foot Journey have been nominated in the long list released by Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.[82][83] In 2017 his Mersal (film) music’s background score has impressed one and all.[84]

Performing and other projects

Male singer with female singers and dancers

Rahman at the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize Concert

Rahman has also been involved in non-film projectsVande Mataram, an album of original compositions released for India’s 50th anniversary of its independence in 1997,[85][86][87] is one of India’s bestselling non-film albums.[88] He followed it with an album for the Bharat Bala–directed video Jana Gana Mana, a collection of performances by leading exponents and artists of Indian classical music.[89]Rahman has written advertising jingles and orchestrations for athletic events, television and Internet media, documentaries and short films,[90] frequently using the Czech Film Orchestra and the Chennai Strings Orchestra.

In 1999, Rahman partnered with choreographers Shobana and Prabhu Deva and a Tamil film-dancing troupe to perform with Michael Jackson in Munich, Germany at his Michael Jackson and Friends concert.[91] In 2002 he composed the music for his first stage production, Bombay Dreams, which was commissioned by Andrew Lloyd Webber.[92] The Finnish folk-music band Värttinä collaborated with Rahman on the Toronto production of The Lord of the Rings, and in 2004[93] he composed “Raga’s Dance” for Vanessa-Mae‘s album Choreography (performed by Mae and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra).[94]

Singer and guitarist in front of effects smoke

A. R. Rahman at Sufi Concert in Dubai

Since 2004 Rahman has performed three successful world tours before audiences in Singapore, Australia, Malaysia, Dubai, the United Kingdom, Canada, the United States and India,[93][95] and has been collaborating with Karen David on her upcoming studio album. A two-disc CD, Introducing A. R. Rahman (featuring 25 of his Tamil film-score pieces), was released in May 2006[96] and his non-film album Connections was released on 12 December 2008.[97] Rahman performed at a White House state dinner arranged by US President Barack Obama during an official visit by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on 24 November 2009.[98]

He is one of over 70 artists on “We Are the World 25 for Haiti“, a charity single to raise relief funds in the wake of the 2010 Haiti earthquake.[99] In 2010, Rahman composed “Jai Jai Garvi Gujarat” in honour of the 50th anniversary of the formation of Gujarat State,[100]Semmozhiyaana Thamizh Mozhiyaam” as part of the World Classical Tamil Conference 2010,[101] and the theme song for the 2010 Commonwealth Games, “Jiyo Utho Bado Jeeto“.[102] Rahman began his first world tour, (A. R. Rahman Jai Ho Concert: The Journey Home World Tour) on 11 June 2010 at Nassau Coliseum in New York; 16 cities worldwide were scheduled.[103]

Some of Rahman’s notable compositions were performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra in April 2010.[104] In February 2011 Rahman collaborated with Michael Bolton on Bolton’s album, Gems – The Duets Collection,[105] reworking his “Sajna” from Couples Retreat.[106]

On 20 May 2011 Mick Jagger announced the formation of a supergroupSuperHeavy, with Dave StewartJoss StoneDamian Marley and Rahman;[107] its self-titled album was scheduled for release in September 2011.[108] The album would have Jagger singing on Rahman’s composition, “Satyameva Jayate” (“The Truth Alone Triumphs”).[109]

In January 2012 the Deutsches Filmorchester Babelsberg announced that it would join KM Music Conservatory musicians for a 100-member concert tour of five Indian cities (Germany and India 2011–2012: Infinite Opportunities), performing Rahman’s songs. The marked the centennial of Indian cinema and Babelsberg Studio, the world’s oldest film studio.[80]

In Summer 2012 Rahman composed a Punjabi song for the London Olympics opening ceremony, directed by Danny Boyle, part of a medley showcasing Indian influence in the UK. Indian musician Ilaiyaraja‘s song from the 1981 Tamil-language film Ram Lakshman was also chosen for the medley.[110]

In December 2012 Rahman and Shekhar Kapoor launched Qyuki, a networking site which is a platform for story writers to exchange their thoughts. Cisco invested ₹270 million in the startup, giving it a 17-percent share. Qyuki uses Cisco’s cloud infrastructure for the site.[111][112][113] On 20 December he released the single “Infinite Love” in English and Hindi, commemorating the last day of the Mayan calendar to spread hope, peace and love. Rahman’s 2013 tour, Rahmanishq, was announced on 29 July 2013 in Mumbai. Beginning in Sydney on 24 August, the tour moved to a number of cities in India.[114]

In January 2016, after a long break A. R. Rahman performed live in Chennai and for the first time in Coimbatore & Madurai, with a complete Tamil playlist. As the name suggests, Nenje Yezhu (which means rise up) began 2016 with a positive note and with music from the heart. The proceeds of this concert will be used for flood relief in Tamil Nadu and also for creating awareness against cancer, supporting VS Medical Trust outside Chennai.[115][116][117]

He was interviewed by Arnab Goswami of Republic TV on 9 September 2017 for his outstanding achievements.[118][119]

On 15 August 2018, A. R. Rahman will appear as the host in the 5-episode series of Amazon Prime Video titled “Harmony”.[120][121]

A Rahman became pioneer by starting India’s first YouTube Original that aims to look for the best singing talent from across country. The series has 13 episodes and the first episode was uploaded on November 7.On ARRived, AR Rahman is the main judge and he is accompanied by Shaan (singer)Vidya Vox and Clinton Clinton Cerejo.[1]

Musical style and impact

Skilled in Karnatic music, Western and Hindustani classical music and the Qawwali style of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Rahman is noted for film songs amalgamating elements of these and other genres, layering instruments from different musical idioms in an improvisational style.[30][122] During the 1980s Rahman recorded monaural arrangements in common with his musical predecessors, K. V. Mahadevan and VishwanathanRamamoorthy. In later years his methodology changed, as he experimented with the fusion of traditional instruments with new electronic sounds and technology.[30][123]

Rahman’s musical interests and outlook originate in his love of experimentation. His compositions have an auteuristic use of counterpoint, orchestration and the human voice, melding Indian pop music with a unique timbre, form and instrumentation. With this syncretic style and wide-ranging lyrics, the appeal of Rahman’s music crosses classes and cultures in Indian society.[124]

His first soundtrack, for Roja, was listed on Time’s all-time “10 Best Soundtracks” in 2005. Film critic Richard Corliss said that the composer’s “astonishing debut work parades Rahman’s gift for alchemizing outside influences until they are totally Tamil, totally Rahman”,[125] and his initial global success is attributed to the South Asian diaspora. Music producer Ron Fair considers Rahman “one of the world’s great living composers in any medium”.[126]

Director Baz Luhrmann said:

I had come to the music of A. R. Rahman through the emotional and haunting score of Bombay and the wit and celebration of Lagaan. But the more of AR’s music I encountered the more I was to be amazed at the sheer diversity of styles: from swinging brass bands to triumphant anthems; from joyous pop to West-End musicals. Whatever the style, A. R. Rahman’s music always possesses a profound sense of humanity and spirit, qualities that inspire me the most.[127]

Rahman introduced 7.1 surround sound technology to South Indian films.[128]

On 21 May 2014 Rahman announced that he has partnered with former Black Eyed Peas’ Will.i.am to recreate an early popular track ‘Urvashi Urvashi’. Track is ‘Birthday’.[129]

Personal life

Man in grey jacket and woman in sari

Rahman and his wife, Saira Banu, at the 2010 soundtrack release of Enthiran in Kuala Lumpur

Rahman is married to Saira Banu (not to be confused with actress Saira Banu); they have three children: Khatija, Rahima and Ameen.[130] Ameen has sung “NaNa” from Couples Retreat, and Khatija has sung “Pudhiya Manidha” from Enthiran.[131][132] Rahman is the uncle of composer G. V. Prakash Kumar, the son of his elder sister A. R. Reihana.[133] Rahman’s younger sister, Fathima, heads his music conservatory in Chennai.[citation needed] The youngest, Ishrath, has a music studio. A.R.Rahman is the co-brother[definition needed] of film actor Rahman.[134]

Born Hindu, Rahman converted to Islam when he was in his 20s. After the early death of his father, his family experienced difficult times; Sufisminfluenced his mother who was a practicing Hindu[24] and, eventually, his family.[28][135] During the 81st Academy Awards ceremony Rahman paid tribute to his mother: “There is a Hindi dialogue, mere pass ma hai, which means ‘even if I have got nothing I have my mother here’.”[136] He said, “Ella pughazhum iraivanukke” (“All praise to God” in Tamil, a translation from the Quran) before his speech.[137]


Rahman is involved with a number of charitable causes. In 2004 he was appointed as the global ambassador of the Stop TB Partnership, a WHOproject.[93] Rahman has supported Save the Children India and worked with Yusuf Islam on “Indian Ocean”, a song featuring a-ha keyboard player Magne Furuholmen and Travisdrummer Neil Primrose. Proceeds from the song went to help orphans in Banda Aceh who were affected by the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami.[138] He produced the single “We Can Make It Better” by Don Asian with Mukhtar Sahota.[139] In 2008 Rahman opened the KM Music Conservatory with an audio-media education facility to train aspiring musicians in vocals, instruments, music technology and sound design. The conservatory (with prominent musicians on staff and a symphony orchestra) is located near his studio in Kodambakkam, Chennai and offers courses at several levels. Violinist L. Subramaniam is on its advisory board.[140] Several of Rahman’s proteges from the studio have scored feature films.[141] He composed the theme music for a 2006 short film for The Banyan to aid poor women in Chennai.[142]

In 2008 Rahman and noted percussionist Sivamani created a song, “Jiya Se Jiya”, inspired by the Free Hugs Campaign and promoted it with a video filmed in a number of Indian cities for a cause.[143]


The following table lists A. R. Rahman’s known soundtrack album sales, including Tamil and Bollywood music albums.

Year Soundtrack album Sales Note(s)
1995 Bombay 15,000,000 Tamil
1995 Rangeela 10,000,000 Hindi[144]
1998 Dil Se.. 6,000,000 Hindi-Urdu[145][146]
1993 /
Gentleman /
The Gentleman
4,300,000 Gentleman (Tamil) – 300,000[147]
The Gentleman (Hindi) – 4,000,000[144]
1999 Taal 4,000,000 Hindi[148]
2001 Lagaan:
Once Upon a Time in India
3,500,000 Hindi[149]
1992 Roja 3,000,000 Tamil – 200,000[150]
Hindi – 2,800,000[148]
2000 /
Alaipayuthey /
2,600,000 Alaipayuthey (Tamil) – 600,000[151]
Saathiya (Hindi) – 2,000,000[152][153]
1994 Humse Hai Muqabala 2,500,000 Hindi[148]
1997 Sapnay 2,500,000
2000 Fiza 2,500,000 Hindi[152]
1996 Indian /
2,400,000 Indian (Tamil) – 600,000[154]
Hindustani (Hindi) – 1,800,000[148]
1997 Vande Mataram 2,000,000 Hindi-Urdu[155]
1997 Daud 2,000,000 Hindi[148]
2008 Slumdog Millionaire:
Music from the Motion Picture
2,000,000 English
2005 Rang De Basanti 1,900,000 Hindi[152]
2008 Ghajini 1,900,000
1998 Jeans 1,800,000 Hindi[148]
1999 /
Mudhalvan /
Nayak: The Real Hero
1,700,000 Mudhalvan (Tamil) – 300,000[157]
Nayak (Hindi) – 1,400,000[152]
2008 Jaane Tu… Ya Jaane Na 1,500,000 Hindi[152]
2004 Swades 1,300,000 Hindi[152]
Kisna: The Warrior Poet 1,200,000
2006 Guru 1,150,000
2008 Jodhaa Akbar 1,100,000 Hindi-Urdu[158][152]
2010 Komaram Puli 760,000 Telugu[159]
2000 Kandukondain Kandukondain 400,000 Tamil
Rhythm 350,000
2002 Bombay Dreams 250,000 English[160]
2007 Sivaji 248,000 Tamil[161]
2003 Boys 60,000 Tamil[154]
2010 Enthiran 25,000 Tamil[157]
Total sales 200,000,000 [8]

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