Allahrakka Rahman is an Indian composer, singer-songwriter, music producer, musician, multi-instrumentalist and philanthropist. Creating a distinct style of music and mesmerizing people world over for more than a decade is something that only A R Rahman could do. His film scoring career began in the early 1990s. He has worked with many of his country’s brightest music stars and a growing list of international luminaries, including Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Zakir Hussain, L. Shankar, Apache Indian, and David Byrne.
His music always has a Southern Indian influence. A. R. Rahman’s works are noted for integrating Indian classical music with electronic music, world music and traditional orchestral arrangements. Among his awards are two Academy Awards, two Grammy Awards, a BAFTA Award, a Golden Globe, four National Film Awards, fifteen Filmfare Awards and fifteen Filmfare Awards South. He has been awarded the Padma Bhushan, the third highest civilian award, in 2010 by the Government of India.
A. R. Rahman was born A.S. Dileep Kumar on January 6, 1966, in Madras (now Chennai), India, to a musically affluent family. 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.
Born Hindu in a Tamil Mudaliar family, Dileep Kumar converted to Islam in 1989 and assumed his present name, Rahman. He was more or less an atheist during his childhood, but found direction in Sufi Islam, and converted to his mothers’ family’s religion, Islam. After the early death of his father, his family experienced difficult times; Sufism influenced his mother who was a practicing Hindu and, eventually, his family. During the 81st Academy Awards ceremony Rahman paid tribute to his mother: “There is a Hindi dialogue, mere pass ma hai, which means ‘even if I have got nothing I have my mother here’.” He said, “Ella pughazhum iraivanukke” (“All praise to God” in Tamil, a translation from the Quran) before his speech.
A. R. Rahman started learning the piano at the age of 4, and at the age of 9, his father passed away. Since the pressure of supporting his family fell on him, he joined Ilaiyaraaja’s troupe as a keyboard player at the age of 11. He dropped out of school as a result of this and traveled all around the world with various orchestras.
Rahman’s musical interests and outlook stem from his love of experimentation. Rahman’s compositions, in the vein of past and contemporary Chennai film composers, bring out auteuristic uses of counterpoint, orchestration and the human voice, melding Indian pop music with unique timbre, forms and instrumentation. By virtue of these qualities, broad ranging lyrics and his syncretic style, the appeal of his music cuts across the spectrum of classes and cultures within Indian society.
Rahman met one of the finest directors of India, Mani Ratnam. Mr. Ratnam heard a few samples of Rahman’s music and was so impressed that he immediately signed Rahman for music composition of his movie Roja (which was released in 1992). The film’s score brought him nationwide success, recognition and fame.
In 2006, Rahman launched his own music label by the name, KM Music. He composed music for a Mandarin language film, Warriors of Heaven and Earth in the year 2003. He had done research on Chinese and Japanese classical music before composing the music. He won the Just Plain Folks Music Award for Best Music Album for his music in the film Varalaru (God Father) (2006).
In 2008, Rahman scored his first Hollywood picture, the comedy Couples Retreat released the next year, which won him the BMI London Award for Best Score. Rahman scored the film Slumdog Millionaire in 2008, for which he won a Golden Globe and two Academy Awards, becoming the first Asian to do so. The songs “Jai Ho” and “O…Saya” from the soundtrack of this film met with commercial success internationally.
Rahman is married to Saira Banu and has three children: Khatija, Rahima and Ameen. Ameen has sung “NaNa” from Couples Retreat, and Khatija has sung “Pudhiya Manidha” from Enthiran. Rahman is the uncle of composer G. V. Prakash Kumar, the son of his older sister A. R. Reihana. Kumar’s first film work was singing on Rahman’s “Chikku Bukku Rayile”, from his score for 1993’s Gentleman. Reihana’s film debut was singing on “Vidai Kodu Engal Naadae” from Kannathil Muthamittal, and she is a music director. Rahman’s younger sister, Fathima, heads his music conservatory in Chennai. The youngest, Ishrath, has a music studio. A.R.Rahman is the co-brother of film actor Rahman.
- Name: Allahrakka Rahman (b. A.S. Dileep Kumar)
- Other name: A. R. Rahman, A.R. Rehman, The Mozart of Madras
- Born: 6 January 1967
- Star Sign: Capricorn
- Birth Place: Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India
- Education: Graduated with a diploma in Western classical music from the school
- Profession: Singer, Composer, Songwriter, Composer, Record Producer, Music Director, Arranger, Conductor
- Citizenship: India
- Children: Khatija Rahman, Ameen Rahman, Rahima Rahman
- Parents: R. K. Shekhar, Kareema
- Spouse: Saira Banu