Amazing Resounding Rahman is first Indian to get two Oscars

By Arpana

New Delhi, Feb 23 (IANS) God Save Rahman. That's what Allah Rakha Rahman means. And that's what the country said Monday for the man who became the first Indian music director to win two Oscars for his score in the globally appreciated film "Slumdog Millionaire" and for the film's theme song "Jai Ho".

Rahman, a household name in India for his contribution to Bollywood, as well as regional cinema from the south, has been the cynosure of all ears since 1992 when he burst on the Indian musical scene with his refreshingly different tunes for the Tamil film "Roja".

The film was subsequently made in Hindi, giving mainstream Hindi film music a new meaning altogether: the rest as they say is history.

He has moved on from being a celebrated composer in India to a global music supernova who has entered the record books as the first Indian to get a Golden Globe, the first Indian to get the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) award for music and the first Indian to bag a golden Oscar statuette.

With "Slumdog Millionaire", Danny Boyle's rags to riches drama based on a book by Indian diplomat Vikas Swarup, the 41-year-old Rahman has stuck gold - and so has India and Indian music.

The film had 10 Oscar nominations, including three for Rahman - he was nominated for Best Original Score and two for the Best Original Song for a motion picture with his songs "Jai Ho" and "O Saaya". It was another first for an Indian.

For India, the "Slumdog" awards story, which some say is as improbable as the film itself about an 18-year-old orphan from the slums of Mumbai who goes on to win a staggering Rs.20 million ($410,000) on India's "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?" game show, is not just about the BAFTAs and the Oscars.

It is also recognition of popular Indian cinema in the West that for long has shunned Indian movies as too long and too full of song-and-dance sequences. Rahman's exuberant score has shattered all those perceptions, and shown that the West likes the sound of India.

"It's a moment of pride not just for me. India has done it," Rahman said modestly.

Composing music for British director Danny Boyle was a challenge, said the self-effacing celebrity.

Boyle simply wanted a score with energy and an edge for his film. There was also a twist. The perfectionist Rahman was given just three weeks to plan and execute the score.

"We had met and talked about it for about two months. But I had to finish it quickly as Boyle wanted to start mixing the film by August," Rahman told IANS in an interview.

"It's probably one-fifth of the time I normally take. For one thing, a normal film has about 150 cues. But in this one there were only 17-18 cues for me. Boyle uses music very little but very efficiently," he added.

Like the film's protagonist Jamal, Rahman's is also an inspiring story of the everyday struggle for survival that has ended on the glittering red carpets of showbiz.

Born A.S. Dileep Kumar to a Tamil Hindu family, his father R.K. Shekhar, a composer who directed music for Malayalam movies, died when he was just nine. The family was forced to rent out musical equipment. Two years later, the 11-year-old budding maestro joined noted composer Ilayaraja's troupe as a keyboardist and computer programmer to support his mother and three sisters.

After working with several renowned composers like Vishwanathan-Ramamurthy, Zakir Hussain and L. Shankar, he set out on his own to compose jingles and scores for popular Indian television features and has composed more than 300 jingles.

During this period, he also earned a degree in western classical music from the Trinity College of Music, London and went on to set up his own in-house studio called Panchathan record-inn at Chennai, which is said to be Asia's most sophisticated and hi-tech studio.

In 1989, Dileep Kumar converted to Islam along with his family due to personal reasons. He became A.R. Rahman.

The Bollywood debut came a couple of years later. And there was no looking back after that.

In 1997, Sony Music signed up Rahman as its first artist in South Asia to commemorate 50 years of Indian Independence. The result was "Vande Mataram", the anthem of Indian patriotism, an album that succeeded in rekindling the nationalistic spirit and was an instant hit with Indian youth.

The musical genius not only won hearts in India but also made a mark on the global music scene.

He got his first international break when Andrew Lloyd Webber invited him to compose music for the Broadway musical "Bombay Dreams", which won him immense fame.

He also composed for the stage adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's "Lord Of The Rings" that premiered in Canada in 2006 and in London in 2007.

Apart from composing music Rahman is also involved in social work. He launched the A.R. Rahman Foundation to tackle the issue of poverty by providing education to the poor and equipping them with knowledge and skills to earn a living.

An outcome of this initiative was his first single in the English language called "Pray for me brother" and all proceeds from sales went to his foundation.

As the awards pile up, Indians can only say a collective and joyous "Jai Ho".

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