Allah Rakha Rahman was born on 6 January 1966 as A. S. Dileep Kumar in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India, is an Indian film composer, record producer, musician and singer. His film scoring career began in the early 1990s. He has won fourteen Filmfare Awards, eleven Filmfare Awards South, four National Film Awards, two Academy Awards, two Grammy Awards, a BAFTA Award and a Golden Globe.
A. R. Rahman was born in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India to a musically affluent Mudaliar Tamil family. His father R. K. Shekhar, was a Chennai based composer and conductor for Malayalam films. Rahman lost his father at the age of 9 and his family rented out his father’s musical equipment as a source of income. He was raised by his mother Kareema (previously called Kashturi). During these formative years, Rahman served as a keyboard player and an arranger in bands such as “Roots”, with childhood friend and percussionist Sivamani, John Anthony, Suresh Peters, JoJo and Raja.
Rahman is the founder of the Chennai-based rock group, “Nemesis Avenue”. He played the keyboard and piano, the synthesizer, the harmonium and the guitar. His curiosity in the synthesizer, in particular increased because, he says, it was the “ideal combination of music and technology”. He began early training in music under Master Dhanraj. At the age of 11, he joined, as a keyboardist, the troupe of Ilaiyaraaja, one of many composers to whom musical instruments belonging to Rahman’s father were rented. Rahman later played in the orchestra of M. S. Viswanathan, Ramesh Naidu and Raj-Koti, accompanied Zakir Hussain, Kunnakudi Vaidyanathan and L. Shankar on world tours and obtained a scholarship to the Trinity College of Music where he graduated with a degree in Western classical music.
He was introduced to Qadiri Islam when his father was dying and his younger sister fell severely sick. He describes the process as taking five years; he along with other members of his family converted to Islam in 1989 when he was 23 years old. He changed his name to Rahman.
Rahman obtained a degree in western classical music from the Trinity College of Music in London, and set up his own in-house studio called Panchathan Record Inn at Chennai, arguably one of Asia’s most sophisticated and high-tech studios. Later by working in India’s various film industries, international cinema and theatre, by 2004, Rahman, in a career spanning nearly two decades, had sold more than 150 million records of his film scores and soundtracks worldwide, and sold over 200 million cassettes, making him one of the world’s all-time top selling recording artists. He was described as “India’s most prominent movie songwriter” by Time magazine in 2005.
His works are notable for integrating eastern classical music with electronic music sounds, world music genres, new technology and traditional orchestral arrangements. Time magazine has referred to him as the “Mozart of Madras” and several Tamil commentators have coined him the nickname Isai Puyal. In 2009, Time magazine placed Rahman in its list of World’s Most Influential People.
Though his film career started in 1992, Rahman at the age of 9, in 1975, had accidentally played a tune on piano during his father’s recording for a film, which R.K.Shekhar later developed into a complete song “Vellithen Kinnam Pol”, for the Malayalam film “Penpada”. This track credited to his father, was sung by Jayachandran and penned by Bharanikkavu Sivakumar.
He is married to Saira Banu and has three children, Khatija, Rahima, and Ameen. Rahman made his son Ameen sing the track “NaNa” from Couples Retreat and his daughter Khatija the track “Pudhiya Manidha” from Enthiran. Rahman is the uncle of composer G. V. Prakash Kumar, who is the son of Rahman’s elder sister, A. R. Reihana. She debuted in film singing on the track “Vidai Kodu Engal Naadae” from Kannathil Muthamittal. He is the brother-in-law of Malayalam film actor Rahman.
He had become an atheist as a result of childhood struggles, and eventually in 1989 converted to Islam, the religion of his mother’s family. In an interview with Time magazine, he said that he embraced Islam through Sufism. He is very devoted to his mother. During the 81st Academy Awards ceremony, he paid her a tribute saying: “There is a Hindi dialogue ‘mere pass ma hai’ which means even if I have got nothing I have my mother here.”
Despite being a former atheist, Rahman began his own catchphrase, “Ella pughazhum iraivanukke”, a sentence in Tamil which literally means “All praises dedicated to God”. The phrase was further popularized after Rahman uttered it during his speech at the 81st Academy Awards ceremony.