2002 began with everyone hoping that Rahman would firmly put a dismal 2001 behind him. The first significant event of the year was Rahman receiving a double nomination for Lagaan at the annual Screen Awards. Rahman was nominated for both Best background Score and Best Score categories for ‘Lagaan’. In reaction Rahman said, “My effort was to combine classical and folk to create period music. I think what has worked about the music of Lagaan is that all the departments—lyrics, background score and vocals—connected.
Everyone gave their best. While composing, the involvement with the script, cast and director makes a lot of difference. And in Lagaan I was involved in every aspect of the film. People like Aamir Khan and director Ashutosh Gowarikar are the kind of people who live a film. You look at the script through their eyes and you know what to do, and what not to do. ” Director Pravinkanth took out a huge ad in the newspapers on Rahman’s 35th birthday on January and used the opportunity to announce his next film ‘Thullal’ supposedly with music by Rahman making one seriously question Rahman’s wisdom in continuing his association with the director. Some newer reports spoke of Rahman actually doing Nasser’s Popcorn which was supposedly based on the life of Illayaraja.
Even as Parthiban put off ‘Yelelo’ came in the news that Karunanidhi was writing a song with the Pongal festival as its theme for the film. January 11th saw Rahman taking the Zee Cine Awards for Best Composer for ‘Lagaan’, the first awards of the year. January 12th marked the first release of the year for Rahman, the much awaited Kannathil Muthamittal, his seventh outing with Mani Ratnam.
Much was expected from the combination and in keeping with the demands of the film Rahman turned out an appropriate score that went down well with his fans but not so much with the masses at large. Rahman was nominated for the music of Lagaan at the 48th Filmfare Awards on January 17th. In a strange incident the quirky Bal Thackeray announced that he was declaring a ban on synthesisers since it was spoiling Indian culture and music and vented his ire on Rahman describing his music as the sound of washing vessels. On January 18th, Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy bagged the Screen Award for their peppy score in Dil Chahta Hai beating Rahman who was nominated for Lagaan.
Several tamil newsmagazines reported that Rahman had signed K.Balachander’s next to be directed by his assistant Selva inspite of the debacle of Paarthale Paravasam. The Times of India also reported that Pakistani Sufi singer Abida Parveen was supposed to record a song for ‘Saathiya’ but was unable to make it to Chennai for the recording because of the prevailing political climate between India and Pakistan. Kamal Hassan also announced plans for his next film with K.S.Ravikumar now titled ‘Panchatantram’.
There were reports that he was planning to approach Rahman to score for the movie. Outlook magazine published a snippet that the Delhi based health products company Morepen Labs was in the final stages of negotiations with Rahman to compose a ‘Health Anthem’ for their upcoming ad campaign. Dinmani newspaper reported that Rahman had asked for gists of a few important prose/ poetry from classical tamil literature. Lyricist Ilayakamban had given such a collection to Rahman. Rahman planned to use them in subsequent movies.
Rahman dashed to London to be present at the official launch of Bombay Dreams on February 7th. The glittering function was attended by several dignitaries and several encomiums were showered on Rahman. Remarked Webber, ” In Rahman I met someone who I believe could carry the torch of musical theatre into a new dimension”. IN a question by the BBC on what the he felt the difference was in composing in India and London, Rahman remarked that back in India he got Mom’s food while in London he had to live on tinned food. The musical would premiere in London’s Apollo Victoria theatre on May 31 and have regular shows from June 19.
Rahman apparently met director S.J.Surya on a flight from Mumbai to Chennai and gave the nod to compose for his next film ‘New’. Meanwhile Kamal Hassan put his project with Rahman, Naran, on hold and went ahead with ‘Panchatantram’ for which he signed Deva. Rahman gave the green signal to the makers of a T.V. serial based on noted Tamil literateur Kalki’s epic Ponniyin Selvan. To be produced by a Singapore based company Hebron Image Makers the serial was to be directed by T.V.Raja starring M.N.Nambiar, Vijayakumar and K.R.Vijaya among others. The serial was to be screened on Sun T.V. Vairamuthu is to pen the lyrics.
Meanwhile it was also clarified that Kannathil Muthamittal was held up only because of censor issues and not any delay on the part of Rahman. Several critics praised Kannathil Muthamittal’s music as reflecting a ‘new found maturity’ in his music. Rahman’s films for Vashu Bhagnani and Ahmed Khan converged with Vashu Bhagnani launching his next production starring Kareena Kapoor, Tusshar Kapoor and Abhishek Bachchan directed by Ahmed Khan. Rahman hit back by bagging his 14th Filmfare Award for ‘Lagaan’ which he received at a glittering ceremony in Mumbai on February 16th. Women’s magazine Femina once again named Rahman in a list of men women like – “The small, humble man for his soul-stirring music and for making us sing ‘Vande Mataram’ again.
On February 12th Lagaan became only the third Indian film to be nominated to the Oscars thus providing Rahman another platform to deliver his music from. Sony made plans to promote the music of the film as well. Says Shreedhar Subramanium, managing director, Sony Music: “Internationally the album is being released as a mainstream album. We’ve modified the product, included the song book and made it multilingual. We’re also tying up with Columbia Tristar and selling the music at the venue, retailing at theatres.”
Being a period film, the music has been marketed differently. The background score has also been added to the album. Though the main target is the Indian community, the hype spills over to the international media.” Kannathil Muthamittal finally released on February 15th and was unanimously acclaimed as Mani Ratnam’s best movie to date. Mani had consciously diluted the importance of the songs in the movie. There was some criticism about Rahman’s background music being inadequate. The movie featured a sequence where Amudha, the lead character carries a purse with her that always contains the photograph of Rahman. Producer A.M.Rathnam widely publicised ‘Enakku 20 Unakku 18’, the Tamil dubbed version of his Telugu film ‘Nee Manasu Naaku Telusu’.
After a prolonged wait of three years Rajnikanth finally announced a new film titled ‘Baba’ scripted by himself. Rahman gave the nod to compose the music of the film. On March 12th Rahman was nominated twice in the Best Music category for ‘Zubeidaa’ and ‘Lagaan’ at the 3rd International Indian Film Academy Awards to be held in Malaysia on April 6th. The Arjun starrer ‘Ashoka’ was revived as ‘Chanakya’ and the film directed by Shaji Kailas went on the floors again. Rajnikanth’s ‘Baba’ too went on the floors on 24th March in a low profile launch.
Sony Music released a new double cassette of Lagaan with the dialogues and a new song Zin Kinak Zin which was not picturised in the film on the same day. ‘Lagaan’ failed in its quest for an Oscar when it was pipped to the post by Bosnian film ‘No Man’s Land’ but Rahman had his moment under the Hollywood sun when O Re Chhori was played during the listing of nominated films at the awards ceremony. Rahman made a tour of Landmark and Music World stores in Spencer Plaza, Chennai to interact with listeners, in March. In its April 2002 edition, Filmfare magazine wrote about Rahman thus, “A.R.Rahman was his usual humble self. After receiving his award he quietly sat with the Times of India employees in the wings so that the latecomers could get front seats. Rahman tujhe salaam!”
In a resounding testimony of Rahman’s growing stature as a global artiste, London based music group the Bollywood Brass Band announced that they were coming out with an album titled, ‘Rahmania’, a tribute to Rahman containing 16 of Rahman’s tracks mixed and played by the band. The album is to release in June. Said Mark Allen, manager of the group “A.R. Rahman is a wonderful composer, and has also led a revolution in production quality using modern digital techniques. Musically he brings in a lot of South Indian vocal and drum styles, but he seems to listen to everything from everywhere, so you could say he is a world music artist”.
On the 6th of April, Rahman was awarded the IIFA for Best Music for ‘Lagaan’ at the 3rd International Indian Film Academy Awards in Malaysia. On the 7th The Guardian newspaper of England carried an interview with Andrew Lloyd Webber in which Webber described Rahman as being in the league of Paul McCartney. In keeping with the attention that Bombay Dreams was generating, this was followed up by an article on Rahman in the London tabloid THe News of the World. The article spoke of him having sold more records than Madonna and Britney Spears put together.
For the umpteenth time reports spoke of the long-stalled ‘Engineer’ being revived. But there appeared no concrete moves on the same. Rajinikanth roped in former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Karunanidhi to write a song for his ‘Baba’ thus making it the second time Rahman was composing a song penned by the Kalaignar, the first time being in ‘Yelelo’. The Bollywood Brass Band’s Rahmania released on April 15. On April 25, Rahman appeared at the launch of ImagineAsia, an eight month long festival in London meant to showcase cinema from the Indian sub-continent. Bollywood was showcased at the Selfridges store in London with Rahman music playing in the store throughout the festival.
Speaking to the Press Trust of India, Rahman revealed that he had been offered two Hollywood projects by Sony’s Columbia Pictures but refused to divulge any more details. Director S.J.Surya confirmed that Rahman would be scoring the music for his forthcoming film ‘New’ expected to go on the floors in the latter half of the year. Rahman was nominated in the Best Music category for ‘Lagaan’ at the 3rd Annual Zee Gold Bollywood Awards. Rahman was also invited to be part of the Indian delegation at the prestigious Cannes’ Film Featival to be held in late-May. With the impending release of Bombay Dreams, the publicity for the musical was touching a feverish pitch with every mainstream publication and newspaper according extraordinary coverage to the musical. It was supposed to have 70% new compositions and the rest were reworked from Rahman’s earlier compositions.
Meanwhile an article in Dhina Bhoomi newspaper spoke of Rahman setting one of A.B.Vajpayee’s poems to tune for a compilation album planned by Director Priyadarshan. The music of ‘The Legend of Bhagat Singh’ released in early May and perhaps for the first time , a composer shared as much space on the inlay card as the lead artiste when Rahman’s mug shot got the entire bottom half of the inlay card of the film’s CDs and cassettes.
A report in the Dinamani newspaper said that Rahman would compose the music for a short film to be made by Director Priyadarshan for this year’s Independence Day and would star child artiste Keerthana and the Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee. A report in the Economic Times on the highest tax payers in the past year from the entertainment industry listed Rahman at No. 27, the highest tax paying composer/musician in the country. Rahman apparently paid taxes to the tune of Rs. 60 lakhs in 2001-2002.
The publicity for Bombay Dreams touched a feverish pitch with Webber managing to get nearly every publication of note to do a feature on Bombay Dreams. The first preview held on May 31 also received a favourable response. ‘Shakalaka Baby’ which was released as a single also became an instant chartbuster. The British press hailed Rahman as the ‘Asia Mozart’. Amidst all these glowing reports came in news that Rajanikanth’s baba was getting delayed because of Rahman. The Legend of Bhagat Singh was released on June 7th and Rahman was hailed for his music and background score while the movie itself was described as ‘close to a masterpiece’. The songs picked up with the release of the film. Sony Music announced that it had picked up the rights for the Bombay Dreams soundtrack and a forthcoming Instrumental album of Rahman. In an interview to The Hindu veteran Malayalam composer Isaac Thomas Kottukapally revealed that he had a long standing association with Rahman and Rahman’s first ever independent music composition was a jingle for an ad film made by Mr. Isaac in Cochin in 1987.
The much awaited musical Bombay Dreams has its soundtrack released on the 17th of June and two days later the show itself was premiered at the Apollo Victoria Theatre in London. Speaking about Rahman the show’s producer, Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber said “ARR is the best composer I’ve heard in my lifetime.” Lyric writer Don Black said, “Rahman is a genius. It has proved a weird, if uplifting, experience. You can’t compare Rahman to any other composer – for a start he is very religious.
He sits down and improvises for about an hour and I say ‘I love that’ and he develops those bits. In a way, I’m a song detective.” There are other benefits. Normally when you write with a composer it is hard work. But with Rahman being a spiritual person, it is very much ‘it will happen when it happens’. If you are in the middle of a song and it gets difficult he is quite happy to leave it. The other thing is he has a wholly different attitude to deadlines in the creative process from the Western one, which I’m obviously used to. His approach is the song will come when it comes, which is a bit nerve-wracking to start with, but — along with a bit of prompting from me regarding deadlines — it eventually seemed to work.”
Director Steve Plimlott says, “Rahman is a melodic genius, and I don’t use the word ‘genius’ very often. In India, people say he’s their Mozart, and it’s sort of true.” The star studded premiere show was attended by Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber, his wife Madeliene Webber, socialite Ivana Trump, director Shekhar Kapoor, pop star Bob Geldof, actor Sir Michael Caine, TV personality Sir David Frost, Shahrukh Khan, Juhi Chawla, Naseeruddin Shah, Subhash Ghai from Bollywood, musicians Talvin Singh and Nitin Sawhney, Industrialist Laxmi Mittal, former Miss World Diana Hayden among others and ended with a standing ovation being accorded to Rahman and Webber.The critics, fans and the press were almost unanimous in their praise of Rahman’s music in Bombay Dreams. The CD rose to No. 6 on Amazon’s sales charts.
Said a fan, “This album encapsulates the essence of Bollywood, from the first sweeping strings to the breath taking dance numbers. I was not a fan of asian music, but this album has certainly made me change my mind. A R Rahman’s ground breaking music fuses ethnic indian with western beats. The songs are simply stunning and lyrical. IN a review in Mid-day, South Asian film expert Naman R S wrote, “Rahman can now take his rightful place as one of the greatest living composers on the planet.
From tender ballads to rambunctious foot-stompers to a satisfyingly percussive background score, he pulls out all the musical stops and creates a work that showcases his unique talent.” The BBC wrote ” It was inevitable with any 19 track album to have a mixed bag of hit and miss songs, some were amazing others forgettable, but all in all a remarkable achievement.” Times Online opined “it’s incredibly catchy, full of soaring ballads and — when the drums stop pounding — gilded with beguiling instrumental colour.”
But there were a couple of dissenting opinions as well. The Independent wrote, “A R Rahman has written a few pleasant tunes, but the overall sound is more background than foreground, and a lot of the music is routine “oriental” stuff, the sort of thing one would hear in an old movie.” And This is London mag said, “The music by the famous Indian composer, AR Rahman, played by a tiny, 10-strong orchestra, falls blandly between two worlds. Far too often it sounds more western than Indian. The mix is dull. So the chance of hearing a fresh score scarcely materialises.”
The show itself received a mixed response with descriptions that ranged from “disappointing” to “refreshing”. Reuters summed up the reaction of the British Press as,”British critics gave theatre impresario Andrew Lloyd Webber’s latest musical adventure, an extravagant version of Bollywood love story Bombay Dreams, a qualified thumbs up on Thursday after its London premier.” The Daily Mail said “Once you enter the spirit, the show, cannily produced by Andrew Lloyd Webber, is a delight.And it brings to a mainstream audience the astounding musical talent of AR Rahman, the 36-year-old “Asian Mozart” from Madras who has sold more records than Madonna and Britney Spears combined.”
The Daily Express wrote “Great fun, great costumes, and a refreshing change from every other West End show.” But the Independent was very critical, ” It’s a shame that this potentially thrilling subject is crippled by formula and mediocrity. Bombay Dreams may have the right ingredients, but the whole samosa is less than the sum of its parts.” Back in India The Hindu said that Bombay Dreams opened to a disappointing response but added, “The only winner, according to critics, is A.R.Rahman’s music and even if Bombay Dreams fails to take off, as seems likely, his own popularity would only soar.”
On June 29th Rahman appeared at the annual Bollywood Movie Awards in New York to receive the Best Composer Award for ‘Lagaan’. Daxco Digital, a leading acoustics firm announced that it had been selected by Rahman to equip a new state-of-the-art studio that he was building in Chennai. To be spread over a area of more than 5000 sq. ft. area Rahman’s famed Panchathan Record Inn would move here on completion. Slated to be completed by end-2002 it will house a recording studio as well as a film mix stage .
The studios will not only house a full-blown Recording Suite but also a Film Mix Stage where final mix-downs will take place. The Acoustic Design & Architectural plans for the studios were made by Studio 440 , acoustic architects from CA, USA who have designed studios for Interscope/ Universal Music Group , Warner Brothers , Burbank , California and Saban Entertainment , just to name a few. The studio is expected to be one of the best in Asia.
Bombay Dreams, which had a slow start, went on to become a major hit through word-of-mouth publicity and its run was extended by more than year. A relieved Andrew Lloyd Webber announced plans to take Bombay D reams to Broadway in 2003-2004. Bombay Dreams ended up becoming the biggest West End hit of the year. The music of Bombay Dreams was released to wide spread publicity in India in mid-july with Rahman making an appearance at Planet M in Mumbai and Music World in Chennai to release the music.
The British press crowned him with the title ‘Mozart of the East’. In India too, the Bombay Dreams score turned into a chart-topper, hitting the number one spot for five continuous weeks on MTV India World Chart Express the list includes top albums from the US and Australia. And Sony Music, which had the rights to the music, said it had a hit on its hands and had already sold 150,000 copies despite the fact that it was priced at a premium like other international numbers and was in English. Webber summed up, “In Rahman, I met someone who I believe could carry the torch of musical theatre into a new dimension.”
Recounting his experience of working with Rahman on Bombay Dreams, lyricist Don Black said, “Rahman is a genius, but as he comes from such a different culture, working with him took a bit of time getting used to! You’d be chatting about a song, and suddenly he’s get up and leave the room. Before I got to know him well I thought, ‘Has he gone to the loo? Is it something I said?’ but what he actually does is just get up, go out, and pray. He’s a very spiritual man. he has a wholly different attitude to deadlines in the creative process from the Western one, which I’m obviously used to. His approach is the song will come when it comes, which is a bit nerve-wracking to start with, but along with a bit of prompting from me regarding deadlines it eventually seemed to work.”
July 27th marked a momentous day in the history of contemporary Indian music. It was ten years to the day that the music of Roja was released. In the 10 years that followed this occasion Rahman had brought about a sea change in Indian music and taken it international. And it was only rhe beginning. The icing of the cake was the announcement of the award of the National Film Awards for the year with Rahman bagging the Best Composer award for Lagaan, this being his third national award, a feat unmatched by any of his contemporaries. The much awaited music of Baba released in early August to a tepid response. The music did not have the mark of Rahman in it and was greeted by disappointment by both Rahman and Rajni fans.
The music was widely proclaimed to be the worst of the Rahman-Rajni partnerships. With the movie also flopping, Baba added to Rahman’s recent streaks of flops in Tamil cinema. Rahman signed debutant director Ranjith’s ‘Swami’ which was the Tamil version of the bilingual film titled ‘Nandanam’ in Malayalam. Rahman also signed director S.J.Suryah’s ‘New’. The movie was launched at a gala ceremony on August 15th with Rahman being prominently featured in all the publicity material. ‘New’ was to be remade in Telugu with Mahesh Babu as ‘Naani’. In an interview to Gulf News Rahman said that he was exploring the possibility of a concert in Dubai in 2003. August 15th marked the 1oth anniversary of the release of Roja, a day that heralded a metamorphosis of Indian film music. Rahman announced plans for a concert tour of the USA and Canada in early 2003.
In its edition dated August 18th, India’s leading business magazine, Business Today carried feature on India’s most Global corporate brands. one of which was Rahman. 16% of all people surveyed across the globe said that they had heard of Rahman. “The numbers tell the story of Alla Rakha Rahman’s standing in India: 107 million albums sold. International recognition has been nudging him for some time. With Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Bombay Dreams, though, Rahman may have arrived. Miramax is taking the show to New York, and the buzz in Chennai (Rahman’s base) is that he has signed on for a couple of Broadway musicals. The man himself is busy working on one of the five films he does every year”, wrote the magazine.
On August 16, it was announced that India’s leading telecom services company Bharti Teleservices had signed up Rahman as Brand Ambassador for its wireless service Airtel. The news was significant as it market the return of Rahman to where he started his career – advertisements. Rahman would not only compose the jingle for a series of ads, he would actually star in the ads promoting the Airtel brand. In addition Rahman would also compose five exclusive ringtones for Airtel customers. Of the five ring tones, two will be from the ad film itself, for which Rahman has composed the music, another two will be youth oriented while the third one will be akin to a lullaby. “We will spend Rs 100 crore as part of our marketing initiative on AirTel brand in the fiscal 2002-03 and are planning to involve Rahman in our corporate campaign for ‘Bharti’ as a mother brand,” Bharti Enterprises joint managing director Ranjan Bharti Mittal said.
He said the new brand campaign delivered AirTel’s new positioning ‘Live Every Moment’ in a simple yet real fashion. On association of the renowned music composer with the brand, Mittal said the new AirTel TV campaign celebrates a person’s inherent need to communicate simultaneously and grab that moment to live it completely. “Rahman reinforces the leader-innovator and Indian cum international dimensions of AirTel,” he said. This marked a new career move for Rahman. Rahman was reportedly paid a whopping Rs. 20 million, according to industry sources. This was the first time that Rahman has associated himself with any brand anywhere in the world although he had endorsed Filmfare in a print campaign earlier.
Said Rahman, “Just like AirTel, the concept of bridging emotions, distances and cultures is a concept that I often try to reflect through my music as well. I am pleased to feature in the AirTel ad campaign. In fact, I began my career by doing ad jingles so its like going back to my roots. The adfilm is directed by my friend Rajiv Menon and is shot both in Chennai and London. Let’s hope people like this commercial, God willing. However, I am not sure whether I will endorse other brands in the future.” “The Airtel ad actually was a true account of what once happened while I was recording I chanced upon a tune and had it played back to my studio on the mobile. So when Bharti approached me with the creative I was quite surprised. I was apprehensive about how I would look before the camera, but I think the reactions and response show that I haven’t been too bad after all.”
The ad directed by long time Rahman friend and reknowned ad-film maker and director Rajeev Menon for ad agency Rediffusion debuted on August 30th across major Television channels and became an instant success. The ad featured Rahman arriving at the airport to see a sobbing child. Rahman pulls out his harmonica and composes a tune to placate the child. He calls up his studio over the Airtel mobile phone and plays the tune for them to record. Enroute to a concert performance Rahman ropes in assorted musicians from the street and records the complete song over the mobile phone and makes it just in time for the concert.
The jingle was a major hit and was heard ringing from every mobile phone in town for several weeks. If the figures are to be believed, the ad had a sledgehammer-like impact. The company’s brand tracking research shows that top of the mind recall for the Airtel brand has gone up from 73 per cent of customers interviewed to 78 per cent.
On 17th September Mani Ratnam and the producers of Roja announced that Roja would be relaunched for an international release. Rahman appeared at the press conference. An article in Ananda Vikatan spoke of Rahman composing for director Bharatiraaja’s new venture, ‘Kangalal Kaidhu Sei’. Rumours that Subhash Ghai was wooing Rahman to compose for his next directorial venture were floating around in the press. Rahman recorded a song for Ahmed Khan’s directorial venture with girl band Viva. The Arjun starrer Chanakya was renamed yet again, as ‘Parasuram’. Rahman released the debut title of Mandolin Srinivas’ brother Anil Srinivasan, ‘Into the Light’. Reports spoke of Rahman having broken away from the traditional one-time payment system of Indian music composers to a royalty based fee system.
Business Standard, a leading Indian business newspaper carried an article on Rahman going international. The article spoke of Bombay Dreams’ success and Rahman being the only bankable star in the film industry. Amit Khanna, chairman, Reliance Entertainment and also a lyric writer: “He’s not imitative, he spaces himself out unlike other directors who sign up whatever they can get and are looking at quantity rather than quality. As a result, in 60 per cent to 70 per cent of the cases he delivers.” Harish Dayani, executive director of Saregama HMV, which released Sapney: “He is the most bankable star of all and I wouldn’t hesitate to pay a premium of as much as 50 per cent to him compared to other music directors.
“The article sang glowing praises of Rahman. “The music maestro has also cleverly marketed himself as a recognisable brand. Rahman has also played his financial cards with reasonable skill. He is one music director who prefers to be paid royalty rather than a one-off lumpsum amount.Rahman’s popularity is undoubtedly incredible especially at a time when the music market is facing hard times. “
Rahman was repeatedly asked in numerous interviews if he was quitting the Indian film industry and moving to London, following the success of Bombay Dreams. Rahman said that he had turned down offers to compose for five new musicals. He said that making music for the Indian film industry continues to be his passion. “These are the songs that made me important. I will never leave the industry for better opportunities”.
In 10 years Rahman had made a successful transformation from a shy studio composer to a suave and savvy public figure. In an interview Rahman remarked, Making music today, believes Rahman, is now more challenging. “I think there is more pressure now, the audience taste is much more elevated and they are more demanding. But it’s good for us. They are much more open to new things. I am scared of meeting people, because I can’t say no to them. I usually end up saying yes even when I want to refuse.”
The music of the delayed Kadhal Virus was finally released on October 12. The music was released by Sony Music which was venturing into regional music for the first time. The music saw some amazing new compositions from Rahman and met with a good response. The Amir Khusro Sangeet Academy conferred the title of ‘Sangeet Nawaz’ on Rahman and received the award from Ustad Bismillah Khan, the shehnai exponent at a ceremony in Chennai. Rahman signed Shyam Benegal’s ambitious bio-pic on Subhash Chandra Bose, ‘Netaji – The Last Hero’ which was to be a international project.. On October 21, Rahman recorded the first song for Subhash Ghai’s new venture and the film was formally announced on October 24. The film would be launched on December 24th. Rahman released ‘Ashtaruchi’ an album of Carnatic classical music produced by Bharat Kalachar.
On October 25th, Airtel released the five exclusive ringtones composed by Rahman. The five ringtones were ‘Dream’ – the ability to dream, the confidence to achieve; ‘Desire’ – the passion & spontaneity of the moment; ‘Buddy’ – the spirit of friendship; ‘Sizzle’ – the togetherness of fun & frolic; ‘Little One’ – the joy of the moment with your child.
With the release of these ringtones Airtel’s network was jammed for hours with customer’s rushing to download them. In an interview to India Today, Shekhar Kapur revealed that Rahman would score the music for his next film ‘Pani’ a story on water wars in India in future. The music of ‘Saathiya’ the remake of Alai Payuthey was released on October 29th. 7 songs were reused from the original while two songs were new compositions. On October 31, Queen Elizabeth II graced a special Red Cross charity show of Bombay Dreams and commended Rahman. On November 3rd it was reported that Rahman could possibly perform at an international conference for NRIs to be organised by the Government of India on January 9, 2003.
His forthcoming films include ‘New’, ‘Ashoka/Chanakya/Parasuram’, ‘Engineer’, ‘Mudhal Mudhalaaga’ , ‘Udaya’, ‘Theekul Viralai Vaithal’, ‘Prashanth’, ‘Yelelo’ , ‘Robot’, ‘Boys’, ‘9-30 to 10-00’, ‘Thullal’, ‘Swami’, ‘Kangalal Kaidhu Sei’ and Selva’s untitled next in Tamil and ‘Rashq’, ‘Ittefaq’, ‘Waqia’, ‘Neecha Aasmaan’, ‘Do Kadam Chal Ke Dekho’, ‘Dil Ne Jise Apna Kaha’, Ada’, ‘Ganga’, ‘Tehzeeb’ , ‘Awaaz/Samjhauta Express’, ‘Netaji The Last Hero’, Shekhar Kapoor’s ‘Pani’ and Subhash Ghai, Ahmed Khan, Javed Jaffrey’s untitled ventures in Hindi, A.M.Rathnam’s ‘Nee Manasu Naaku Telusu’ in Telugu and Priyadarshan’s ‘Kancheepuram’ in Malayalam, and ‘Taj Mahal-The Great Indian Experience’, ‘The Rising’, ‘The Return of the Thief of Baghdad’, ‘The Last Revolutionary’ and ‘Water’ in English and the non-film ‘Ekam Satyam’, ‘Listen’.
Besides this he also has the serial ‘Ponniyin Selvan’ and Instrumental album of his hits for Sony. He is also,reportedly, currently working on his next non-film project, where he is tuning the poems of the famous Tamil poet and freedom fighter Subramania Bharati alias ‘Bharatiyar’. His future plans include a private album with singer Asha Bhonsle.