National Geographic Photo of the Day

Monday, February 23, 2009

Made in India - at the Oscars 2009

A.R Rahman - an epitome of what hard work can achieve. Today is a joyous day for all Indians as this maestro wins not one, but two Academy Awards for his score in Slumdog Millionaire. Fans of Rahman would certainly agree that this awesome musician has several better works under his belt. Let's take a look at his life and musical career. Below - a few paragraphs from Wikipedia's page on A.R.Rahman.

A. R. Rahman was born to a Tamil Hindu family. His father R. K. Shekhar was a composer and conductor for Malayalam-language films of Keralite cinema. His father died when Rahman was nine years old, and his family rented out musical equipment as a source of income.

He converted to Islam from Hinduism in 1989 along with his family. During these early years, Rahman served as a keyboard player and an arranger in bands such as "Roots" with childhood friend and percussionist Sivamani, Anthony, JoJo and Raja. Rahman is the founder of the Chennai-based rock group, "Nemesis Avenue". He played the keyboard and keyboard, piano, synthesizer, 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 Ilaiyaraja, 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 and Ramesh Naidu, accompanied Zakir Hussain,Kunnakudi Vaidyanathan and L. Shankar on world tours and obtained a scholarship to Trinity College of Music in London, where he graduated with a degree in Western classical music.

In 1992, Rahman began his own music recording and mixing studio attached to the backyard of his house called the Panchathan Record Inn, which was developed into India's most advanced recording studio. He initially composed music jingles for advertisements, Indian Television channels and music scores in documentaries, among other projects. In 1992, he was approached by film director Mani Ratnam to compose the score and soundtrack for Ratnam's Tamil film Roja. The debut led Rahman to receive the Rajat Kamal award for Best Music Director at the National Film Awards, the first time ever by a first-time film composer. Rahman has since then gone on to win the award three more times (for his scores for Minsaara Kanavu (Electric Dreams, Tamil) in 1997, Lagaan (Tax, Hindi) in 2002, Kannathil Muthamittal (A kiss on the Cheek, Tamil) in 2003, the most ever by any composer.

Roja's score met with high sales and acclaim, in its original and dubbed versions, bringing about a marked change in film music at the time, and Rahman followed this with successful scores for Tamil–language films of the Chennai film industry including Ratnam's political Bombay, the urbanite Kadhalan, Bharathiraaja's Karuththamma, the saxophonic Duet, Indira, and the romantic comedies Mr. Romeo and Love Birds, which gained him considerable notice. His fanbase in Japan increased with Muthu 's success there. His soundtracks gained him recognition in the Tamil Nadu film industry and across the world for his stylistic versatality in his pieces including in Western classical, Carnatic, Tamil traditional/folk, jazz, reggae and rock music. The Bombay Theme—from Ratnam's Bombay,—would later reappear in Deepa Mehta's Fire and various compilations and media. Rangeela, directed by Ram Gopal Varma, marked Rahman's debut for Hindi-language films made in the Mumbai film industry. Many successful scores for films including Dil Se and the percussive Taal followed. Sufi mysticism would form the basis of Chaiyya Chaiyya from the former and the composition "Zikr" from his score of the film Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose: The Forgotten Hero for which he created large orchestral and choral arrangements. Musical cues in scores for Sangamam and Iruvar employed Carnatic vocals and instruments such as the veena with leads of rock guitar and jazz. In the 2000s Rahman created hit scores for Rajiv Menon's Kandukondain Kandukondain, Alaipayuthey, Ashutosh Gowariker's Swades and Rang De Basanti. The Rang De Basanti soundtrack had two of its tracks considered for an Academy Award for Best Original Song nomination. He also composed songs with Hindustani motifs for Water (2005).

Rahman has worked with Indian poets and lyricists such as Gulzar, Mehboob, Vairamuthu and T. S. Rangarajan (Vaalli). His collaborations with some film directors have always resulted in successful soundtracks, particularly with the director Mani Ratnam who he has worked with since Roja, all of which have been hits, and the director S. Shankar in the films Gentleman, Kadhalan, Indian, Jeans, Mudhalvan, Nayak, Boys and Sivaji.

Rahman is the 1995 recipient of the Mauritius National Award and the Malaysian Award for contributions to music. He was nominated for a Laurence Olivier Award for his first West-End production. A four time National Film Award winner and conferred the Padma Shri from the Government of India, Rahman has received six awards for Best Music at the Tamil Nadu State Film Awards and eleven awards for his scores at the Filmfare and Filmfare Awards South each. In 2006, he received an honorary award from Stanford University for contributions to global music. For his score of Slumdog Millionaire, Rahman won the 2008 Critics' Choice Award, the Golden Globe and the British Academy Award. He has also received three Academy Award nominations in 2009—Best Original Score and two different Best Original Songs. He won two of those Oscars, one for Best Original Song, "Jai Ho", and the other for Best Original Score.

Yet another Indian, Resul Pookutty, won an Oscar for Sound Mixing in the film Slumdog Millionaire. Finally, wonderful technicians like him, the real people who work behind the scenes in Indian movies, have some recognition.

Pookutty moved to Mumbai after his graduation. He termed it as "a natural immigration as a graduate of the institute." He pointed out that "Ninety-five per cent of the technicians of the Mumbai film industry are alumni of FTII, Pune." Pookutty made his debut in sound design with the 1997 film Private Detective: Two Plus Two Plus One, directed by Rajat Kapoor. He got his big break with the critically acclaimed 2005 film Black, directed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali. He subsequently engineered sound for major productions like Musafir (2004), Zinda (2006), Traffic Signal (2007), Gandhi, My Father (2007), Saawariya (2007) and Dus Kahaniyaan (2007). In an interview in February 2008, he named Gandhi, My Father as one of his "most emotionally troubled film". He said "I got emotional. I wept. I was emotionally troubled while mixing the film. There is lot of me in the film. I tried to get a particular texture, its kind of ageing in Gandhi's voice from his young to old days. We worked on that with actors, in the mixing stages, to get a particular texture which involved lot of multi-micro phoning and multi-track recording and effectively used that." He described working with Danny Boyle, whom he describes as one of his favourite directors for Slumdog Millionaire as a "completely new experience". He said "The format was never a concern. Let it be film, let it be video, let it be still camera, the sequence has to be shot. The film was demanding a particular format and not the format was deciding the film. So we shot on many kinds of film cameras, more than fifty percent in digital camera." He expressed his disappointment on the dearth of recognition for technical work in Bollywood films in the same interview: "Everything is technical excellence, it's all related to commercial success of the film. That is very, very sad. That only happens in Hindi cinema. Whereas abroad and in Europe, it's not that. If you have technically fine job, whether the film is a success or not, it is acknowledged by the community and the guild."

He designed sound for the 2008 blockbuster Ghajini, starring Aamir Khan and directed by Murugadoss. His first major international project Slumdog Millionaire won him an Academy award. His work on the film also won him nation-wide acclaim.


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