By Aditi Patwardhan. Posted on January 06, 2016
A while ago as the songs of Imtiaz Ali's Tamasha came out, it was an interesting assortment of songs of different moods - the funky Matargashti, the rustic, earthy tune of Wat Wat Wat, the soulful, beautifully sad melody Agar Tum Saath Ho and the happy-sad song of a broken heart that brought together Mika Singh & Rahman, Heer toh badi sad hain. In one album you see so much variety that you're awestruck at this man's range. And that's true for most of A R Rahman's work.
If you grew up in the 90's anywhere in India, you grew up listening to Rahman. He revolutionized Indian film music like very few before him had done (RD Burman comes to mind). In fact a large number of his fans believe that much of his best work came in the early part of his career, when he rocked an entire nation with one chartbuster after another. If you missed out on that then we recommend this amazing playlist of his songs (mostly in Tamil) from the 90's as a primer on the early Rahman.
In the last 25 years, A R Rahman has given us one melody after another, and remains to this day one of the most influential music composers of India and also one of the most revered Indian names across the world.
The beloved music composer, singer and teacher turns 49 today and apart from the love and adulation of millions of fans around the world, he has also won all the top awards there are, including two Oscars, two Grammys, a BAFTA, a Golden Globe, four National Film Awards & umpteen music awards in India. Not simply limited to composing songs for Indian films, he has ventured into composing background scores, producing his own albums like Vande Mataram and is also a teacher and mentor to hundreds of rising musicians at the music school he has founded called K M Music Conservatory. After winning accolades for his music for Slumdog Millionaire, Rahman composed music for various Hollywood films and has been collaborating with several international artists like Mick Jagger and Joss Stone.
While he seems to have it all now, it's easy to overlook that when he started he didn't have much going for him. The myth of the 'genius' hides the tremendous amount of hard work that those like Rahman put in. We came across this lovely interview of Rahman from 1992, from the hugely popular DD series Surabhi, which aired before he won his first National Award for Mani Ratnam's Roja. Here's the soundtrack from the film that introduced Rahman to the world.
His father being a music arranger, introduced Rahman to music at a very young age and he was a natural. However, his father passed away and Rahman became the breadwinner for the family of five at a very young age. He worked as a session musician, then slowly started composing jingles for commercials, composing for documentaries, until he was discovered by Mani Ratnam and was given the task of composing the songs for Roja.
What followed, is history. Roja's music became an instant sensation, not just for the catchy beats of Rukkumani and the soulful rhythm of Chinna china asai (Chotisi asha), but also because of the incredibly sweet melodies like pudhu vellai mazhai (Yeh haseen vaadiyaan) and the title track Kadhal Rojave (Roja janeman). After Roja, Rahman never looked back. One of the most successful, yet most humble people, Rahman says in an interview, "Every time I sit for a song, I feel I am finished. It's like a beggar sitting waiting for God to fill your bowl with the right thought. In every song, I ask help from Him."
The interview is a delightful throwback to the early days of a maestro & as far as he's come, he still retains much of that trademark humility of his. We wish Rahman a very happy birthday and hope to hear more of his soulful music for many many years to come!