Music Focus: A R Rahman

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This week’s focus falls on a music director who can be identified by his accolades alone. With 2 Oscars, a Golden Globe, 2 Grammys and a BAFTA under his belt, A R Rahman’s musical career, it seemed, had hit its peak in 2009 with Slumdog Millionaire. The music of Danny Boyle’s critically acclaimed movie helped put India and Bollywood out there for the world to see. However, Bollywood followers argued that Slumdog’s musical score was far from Rahman’s best work.

Rahman’s compositions have always been hugely popular, despite the fate of the films in question. His unconventional style and thumping melodies changed the face of Bollywood music forever when his first break came in the shape of Rangeela in 1995. The soundtrack won Rahman the Filmfare award for Best Music Director. With Asha Bhosle’s amazing voice, the album can easily be seen as one of the most popular in history. Rahman’s actual musical debut came when veteran filmmaker Mani Ratnam offered Rahman the opportunity to compose the music for Tamil film, Roja in 1992. When converted into Hindi, the title track and ‘Chhoti Si Asha’ were much-loved by all. The music for the film Bombay was also celebrated in South Indian cinema, much before it’s Bollywood remake.

The soundtracks and music scores that followed were simply dazzling. Audiences lapped up any soundtrack which had the Rahman stamp: From Dil Se to Lagaan and from Saathiya to Guru. It seems if there was ever a music director with the most magical touch, it is Rahman. His melodies are soulful and catchy. His use of different instruments and his twist between folk and classical is the strength and backbone of his music.

It’s a difficult task choosing tracks from Rahman’s albums which represent his style and popularity, here’s a list of some of the maestro’s most loved and played tunes:

‘Tanha Tanha’ – Rangeela
‘Chaiyya Chaiyya’ – Dil Se
‘Ramta Jogi’ – Taal
‘Radha Kaise Na Jale’ – Lagaan
Title track – Saathiya
Title track – Swades
‘Tere Bina’ – Guru
‘Khwaja Mere Khwaja’ – Jodhaa Akbar
‘Guzaarish’ – Ghajini
‘Jai Ho’ – Slumdog Millionaire
‘Masakalli’ – Delhi 6

Rahman’s compositions bring pride to India and to Bollywood and post-Bombay Dreams, his fame has gone from strength to strength. Bombay Dreams was a Bollywood-themed musical, produced by Andrew Lloyd Webber. The music for the theatre show gave the chance for Rahman to re-work his original Bollywood/South Indian music to fit to a western audience. The production which opened in 2002, ran for two years, and can be seen the start of Rahman’s musical love affair with the west.

More recently, the legend’s music came to the forefront once again with the release of Raavan… and once again, his music has been well-liked even though the film itself received a mixed reaction. In the coming year, Rahman’s talents will be showcased again in Shekhar Kapur’s Paani, among others. The composer has more Tamil projects to hand than Hindi but he is also due to give background scores to a number of English productions.

No doubt A R Rahman can fly the Bollywood flag single-handedly in the west… and we hope the flag does keep flying and A R Rahman continues to make us proud. Proud to be Indian… and proud that such a talented music director has graced our generation.

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