Since Roja hit movie screens in South India in 1992, A.R. Rahman has been redefining the country's widely popular film music. Generally regarded as the finest Indian film composer of his time (and certainly the most commercially successful), Rahman produced music for nearly 35 widescreen releases during his first five years in the industry. He has worked with many of his country's brightest music stars and a growing list of international luminaries like Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Zakir Hussain, L. Shankar, Apache Indian, and David Byrne.
Born A.S. Dileep Kumar on January 6, 1966, in Madras, India, Allah Rakha Rahman was exposed to music from the time he was a child, entered in classical piano studies by his parents at the age of four. At 16, he quit school and was following in his father's footsteps (K.A. Sekhar was a successful film musician, arranger, and conductor himself), working full-time as a session musician on soundtracks under the popular South Indian composer Illaiyaraja. The monotony soon grew tiring however, and at the suggestion of a colleague, Rahman tried his hand at television commercials, eventually composing over 300 jingles in just five years.
It wasn't until 1989 that Rahman planted the first seeds of his film career. That year, he began acquiring the equipment and organizing the sound library for his Panchathan Record Inn. When Sharada Trilok's ad for Leo Coffee (for which Rahman penned the music) won her an award, she introduced the young composer to her cousin, Mani Ratnam. Impressed with his work, the director signed Rahman to compose the music for K. Balachander's 1992 film Roja. Rahman's score, a colorful, uncluttered combination of pop, rock, reggae, and his country's traditional music, reshaped the genre, winning him three awards for Best Music Director. Roja became the equivalent of an Indian crossover success. Originally filmed in South Indian Tamil, it was re-dubbed (and its soundtrack re-recorded) in Hindi, the...
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