Says Gangai Amaran, well known South-Indian composer-singer and brother of Ilaiyaraja, “Rahman’s music is of the computer age. It is digital but intelligent, not just noise. He concentrates on his melodies and has not totally deviated from Carnatic traditions”. Noted director and lyricist Gulzar says “He is a milestone in Hindi film music. He has single-handedly changed the sound of music in the movies. He has broken the mukhda-antara-mukhda scheme of composition and replaced the traditional patterns of tuning. He can tune to a near identical rhythm in two different songs. But these songs will still catch the listener off guard even when played immediately after each other. Instead of having the fixed format, the song can also run like free verse with his kind of music.”
One very interesting aspect of Rahman is his preference for untrained voices. Rahman says “.. a defect in the singing adds a human touch.” His close friend and arranger-composer Ranjit Barot adds “In the Hindi music industry, if Kumar Sanu or Udit Narayan don’t turn up, the music director starts panicking. But Rahman would probably look around the studio and experiment with some unknown and untrained voice.” He goes on to add, “The man is a whiz coz he eats, breathes and sleeps music. AR Rahman has revolutionised the Hindi film music.
Before we did Humma Humma for Bombay, the two of us composed jingles together. Rahman’s USP is his ability to combine slickness with melody. The songs from Roja still haunt me. Few can make a successful transition from doing 30-sec jingles to 5 min songs. He’s a genius.” Bollywood movie mogul Subhash Ghai says of Rahman “Rahman is the biggest representative of Indian music. He is an example for future generations. He is the best fusion of art and science in music”. One of his favourite directors Ramgopal Varma says,” It is a challenge to picturise songs set to Rahman’s music.” His erstwhile competitors Nadeem-Shravan say, “The most amazing quality about Rahman is that he has been able to create a ‘national sound’ which in spite of his strong south-Indian feel appeals to a pan-Indian audience”. Composers Jatin-Lalit say, “He totally changed the sound of Indian film music.”
Internationally acclaimed Indian Tabalchi Ustad Zakir Hussain reminiscing about the time when Rahman played the keyboard along with violinist Kunnakudi Vaidyanathan and drummer Sivamani, on the album ‘Colours’ says, “He was barely 19 years old then but had mastered many different styles of music – western classical, jazz, rock and Carnatic. Even after his work was done he would stay in the studio, sitting through other musicians’ pieces, eyes and ears tuned in, constantly imbibing. Very intelligent, smart and creative.
He started as a young boy working with great composers like K V Mahadevan, for example. He knows the public pulse and has given the public a very intelligent combination package. This reminds me of R D Burman. These guys made it possible to bring together all elements of world music.”
Singer Lata Mangeshkar, known as the ‘Nightingale of India’ with whom Rahman worked for the first time in Maniratnam’s ‘Dil Se’ and later in ‘Pukar’, ‘Zubeidaa’, ‘Lagaan’, ‘Water’ and ‘1 2 ka 4’, is all praise for him, ” Rahman is known to record only during the night time. But he records with me during the daytime… when my voice is fresh. I don’t like recording at night. And I’ve heard that Rahman records mostly in the night.
But he made an exception for me. When an artiste shows such consideration for another artiste, it feels good. Aur kaam bhi achha hota hai. (Even the work done is good), Rahman doesn’t take long over his recordings. Jiya jale was recorded in 40 minutes.” Singer Srinivas, whose career best numbers have been with Rahman is totally impressed with Rahman’s dedication to music and says, ” He’s totally absorbed in his music and there’s nothing else that affects him. For him music is God. And he gets the best out of a singer.” Says classical turned film singer P. Unnikrishnan who made his debut with the song ‘Ennavale’ from ‘Kadhalan’ and went on to win the National Award for his very first song, “I have sung more than 500 songs till date but this first song of mine is something I will remember and cherish all my life.
The most wonderful thing is that today ARR is the most sought after Music Director in the whole country but as a person he has not changed and even today he is the same calm, composed, humble, committed, unperturbed ARR. Thanks to Rajiv Menon for having introduced me to such a wonderful artist.” At one time an assistant to Rahman and today an independent composer in his own right, Harris Jayaraj remarks “I have learnt many things from many music directors. If you single out A.R.Rahman, I can quote his relentless labour, high enthusiasm, and commitment to the tasks at hand. He would never compromise on the quality of a song. He is quality-conscious and individualistic.”
Singer Srinivas, whose career best numbers have been with Rahman is totally impressed with Rahman’s dedication to music and says, ” He’s totally absorbed in his music and there’s nothing else that affects him. For him music is God. And he gets the best out of a singer.” Reocunting his experiences he says, “In 1992, in Coimbatore, was when I went to see Maniratnam’s Roja because it was a Maniratnam movie. Dreams of playback singing had taken a back seat; I was in Coimbatore and travelling and didn’t know how to approach it now. I was just taken aback by the freshness of Roja’s music.
After a long time, I had bought a tamil film audio cassette. This new person, Rahman, had introduced so many singers; the re-entry of Sujatha, Hariharan , Minmini and Unnimenon. Immediately, I realized that this person has an attitude towards introducing new artists, his music sounds fresh and he was definitely here to stay! On one of my official trips to Chennai, I got hold of Rahman’s address and went to see him directly. At that time, he was very accessible (he had just started working on Pudhiya Mugam). He conducted a voice test; I sang a Mehdi Hassan ghazal and he liked it. I mentioned that I lived in Coimbatore and he said that if I moved to Chennai, he might be able to work with me. By the time I came to Chennai in 1994-95, he had shot through the roof! The gates had become bigger at Rahman’s place .
It was difficult to even get through to his office. With persistance and a little bit of luck, I was finally able to see him again. As soon as he saw me, he remembered. That’s Rahman!.. He’s human… and he’s got GOD inside him as well! He slowly started giving me singing assignments. Rahman’s approach is totally different which now many people have started following. For example, Raja Sir has the whole thing in his mind from the very beginning.
You don’t have a doubt about what you should sing and you better not! (laughs). Two totally different schools of music. With Rahman, when you go in, nothing is ready. He just feeds in some basic chords. When you listen to them on your headphones, you are transported to some other world. Within two minutes, he creates a masterpiece of a loop. Those chords are just magic. You feel like singing so much! He incredibly motivates you when singing, which is also the reason why artists (singers and instrumentalists alike) give him the very best.
Vairamuthu, the lyricist, with whom Rahman shares a special bond remarks “I am considered to be a great poet, but I don’t have any words to describe his genius. A.R.Rahman is not a normal music director. He has some God given gift in him. Otherwise, how can he compose such soul-stirring numbers? He is a rare pearl in an ocean of music.When one composes a song he is always worried as to whether the song will click or not.
But Rahman is one composer who does not care about the commercial success of the song. He is always confident that if a number is composed wth a good heart and self-confidence it will be a big hit. He is like a younger brother to me. The total submission of his (A.R.Rahman) life for the cause of music; his thirst for creating not any chaff but only grains appeals to me the most!”
Another veteran lyricist Vaali says “I have been in this field for decades and have seen a lot of music directors come and go.. But this young boy has held me spellbound! His talent, energy, enthusiasm is a lesson to all youngsters. He is always experimenting and is always open to new ideas.” Grammy Award winning instumentalist Pandit Vishwa Mohan Bhatt says “Rahman has a good understanding of both Western and Indian classical music. I was asked to play for Mani Rathnam’s film Anandam (renamed “Iruvar”) which Rahman has scored. He has high regard for others, and gives due respect to other forms of music. I find Rahman very innovative, and wouldn’t mind doing more films with him.”
“Rahman’s amazing,” drools upcoming composer Vishal Dadlani, “I’ve listened to the music of Dil Se.. a hundred times and, each time, I learn something new. It is like an encyclopaedia on production.” Director Suresh Krissna with whom he worked on ‘Sangamam’ and then the Indian version of ‘The Return of the thief of Baghdad’, calls him a ‘die-hard perfectionist’ and said “Rahman’s manner of working sounds very unusual.
Generally music is composed, lyrics are readied and the recording is done. But with Rahman it is not so. Far from it, Rahman composes and mixes the voice with a basic rhythm track. Then he goes on adding the music making innovations, inclusions and improvisations till the very last minute, or rather till the cassette stage itself. At every point the workaholic in him keeps goading him to feel that ‘there should be something more to it.’
The singer, under Rahman’s direction, is given incredible scope to delve into every conceivable variation and the whole of it is recorded. This system of working was a revelation for me.” Upcoming lyricist Ilayakamban who is working with Rahman in ‘Tenali’ says “His musical ability to confine the whole world’s air in his flute; his glowing inner peace; the simplicity of a mother is what I saw in him.”
Singer Harini, who was discovered by Rahman in a talent search competition says, “The best part about singing for Rahman is the freedom he gives the singer. Even for my first song he let me sing the way I was comfortable with, eventhough I was a nobody then.” “Singing for Rahman was a wonderful experience. I really enjoyed the song. A R Rahman is a wonderful, humble person to work with. A complete workaholic and very involved with his music. He is very creative and undoubtedly talented,” says singer Roopkumar Rathod.
Singer Abhijeet echoes his thoughts, “It is every singer’s dream to work with A R Rahman because he makes you feel like God. I worked with Rahman for a beautiful song called E Nazneen suno and for Nayak. Of course, I did get nervous when I had to record with him, especially since he records at an unearthly hour like three in the night. But he makes you feel as if you are AR Rahman and he is just an ordinary fellow. Other music directors should learn to be humble like him. Today’s music directors do not respect their singers. If one singer is not around they replace them with another. Also, they demoralise you when you are in front of the mike.”
Director Shankar, again a favourite with Rahman – having worked with him on on some of his earliest films like ‘Gentleman’ ‘Kadhalan’ and later ‘Indian’ ‘Jeans’, ‘Mudhalvan’ ‘Nayak’ and ‘Robot’, has only praises for him, “A.R.Rahman – the name speaks for itself. He knows what clicks and what does not. He composes music according to the demand of the situation. He slogs so much to see that a song is good. He does not want to give anyone in the world the chance to tell him that his compositions are bad. What I like best in Rahman is his fighting spirit and ‘never say die attitude’ .”
World famous guitarist, Jeremy Spencer ,formerly of Fleetwood Mac says ‘The only contemporary Indian composer I know of and like is A.R.Rahman. His ‘Vandemataram’ was brilliant’. Lyricist Mehboob, who made his debut in ‘Rangeela’ and later penned Maa Tujhe Salaam cannot stop singing the praises of Rahman, “If there is one person whom I revere after God, our prophet, and my family then it is Mr. AR Rahman. He is like a brother to me. I adore him so much that I have no words to describe my feelings for this gentleman.”
The veteran director Shyam Benegal who shifted from his long time regular, the equally veteran Vanraj Bhatia, to Rahman, for the film Zubeidaa says, ‘, I admire three things about Rahman. Among the young composers he probably is the most original. He has a strong sense of melody and his harmony is unbeatable. Finally he gives his music a rich tonal color, richness through his combination of instruments, a character to the music.’
Shankar, Ehsaan and Loy, the composer trio can’t stop raving about Rahman. Says Loy Mendonsa, “Rahman is a great musician, a great human being, his music is fresh, and honest. That’s very important, writing something from the heart”. Adds Ehsaan Noorani, “A R Rahman is my favorite, he’s a genius, his personality reflects in his music, it’s fantastic, his music is so pure, it’s from the soul.” And finally Shankar Mahadevan, “A R Rahman is my favourite because he’s a genius, he knows exactly what he’s doing, he’s very well versed in classical as well as western jazz, all kinds of stuff. And he’s open minded.”
Director Bharathiraaja, known for his movies with rural themes – the ones with Rahman being ‘Kizhakku Cheemayile’, ‘Karuthamma’, ‘Anthimanthaarai’ and ‘Taj Mahal’ – and once an Illaiyaraja regular remarks “Illaiyaraja is a born genius. I wanted a change and that’s why I shifted to Rahman. There is something in his music that intoxicates you. You work with him once and you will never want to work with anyone else after that.” Veteran singer Chitra says “I have worked with all the music directors in the south before Rahman came in.
When I sang for him the first time I found that I was doing something really different from what I had done before. I like Rahman, the music director. But I like Rahman the person even more. I don’t how he manages to keep his feet firmly on the ground even after tasting so much success in this field. He is the only Indian composer whose stuff stands out.” Says director Rajeev Menon “He’ll remain my only choice and preference. He’s part of my family. We’ve been working together for the past 14 years. In fact he was the one who got me into filmmaking, while I called him for a lot of my advertising assignments.” Acclaimed singer Yesudas says, ‘He is a genius musician knowing the psychology of youth.’ Veteran singer Manna Dey remarks “I do not think too much of today’s melodies. I do admire A.R.Rahman, for he is a master of rhythm. He is extremely experimental, and leaves no stone unturned in trying out new things.”
Composer Vishal Bharadwaj opines “A. R. Rahman has elevated the quality of film music to an international level. When you hear Michael Jackson and Rahman at one go, you can’t tell the difference in sound quality. Rahman is a terrific composer. He is a genius.” Says old friend and singer Suresh Peters, “I was a drummer, not a singer and Rahman was a keyboard player. Both of us were working in a band called `Nemesis Avenue’. He was a very talented composer earlier itself, but everything happens only when the time comes. He started composing jingles and they started clicking. He was then signed on by Mani Ratnam and then there has been no looking back. I appreciate Rahman’s sense of arrangement.
No one can teach Rahman how a song should be composed. He is aware of all the latest in sound techniques. He knows what will appeal to people and what will not. He is very versatile and different from one film to the other. As long as he does not repeat himself, nothing can stop him from reaching the top .” Independent composer, rhythm programmer and close associate of Rahman, Pravin mani says, “…Rahman gives a lot of freedom to his technicians and all those-involved with him, while working. Moreover, he is extraordinarily creative. Rahman is the greatest person i have ever-seen in my life. He is really a humble person. though he has risen to very high levels, yet he is the same person and behaves the same way as he used to do in his earlier days, mingles freely …, and that shows his greatness.”
Singer Kavita Krishnamurthy, a Rahman favourite says “It’s such a pleasure to sing for A. R. Rahman. He’s such a simple guy. He has no ego hang-ups.” Singer Sadhana Sargam, another Hindi singer whom Rahman prefers over many established singers, says “When Rehman calls you go without asking questions because you know it’s going to be worth it.He’s a reserved person and talks very little but he makes you give your best. He keeps a cassette ready wherein he has sung the song himself and listening to it makes your work so much easier, he allows any number of retakes. If you’ve sung half a line beautifully and haven’t sustained that in the other half, he’ll retain that half and make you work on the other half. The result is magnificent. . And Rehman makes his pleasure very evident when he likes something you’ve done… then he won’t even be shy.”
Veteran singer Asha Bhonsle whose career got a revival when she sang for Rahman in ‘Rangeela’, says, “He understands the youth of today, he has brought about a freshness, a new sound to film music. He’s always experimenting, doing something different which is very inspiring for the playback singer.” New age Singer-Composer and a close friend of Rahman, Shankar Mahadevan says “I think A.R.Rahman is an absolute genius and is one of the few music directors who completely knows what he is doing. It’s an absolute pleasure working with him as he is a cool and modest guy.” Noted Sarod maestro Amjad Ali Khan says, “Wonderful! He has a new approach, he has given a new direction to film music. I think even the established music directors want to sound like him.
Perhaps all his songs won’t be remembered and hummed after decades. But for the time being, Rahman’s tunes are extremely enjoyable.” Veteran singer S. P. Balasubramanium says “The man responsible for the variety in today’s music is A. R. Rahman.” Hema Sardesai who shot into fame when she sang Aawara Bhanwre in ‘Sapnay’ is effusive in her praise for Rahman, “When Rajiv Menon recommended me to A.R. Rahman, he never gave a second thought and called me over the phone to be in Madras the next day for the recording. Even though I was on cloud nine, deep down I was feeling as if somebody had pulled a trick on me.
God has been great! He came into my life as Rahman sir.” ONe of his blue eyed boys, singer Sukhvinder Singh says “A R Rahman not only gave me the break (in Dil Se), he taught me a lot of techniques in composing music arrangement and recording. He was the one to impress upon the need to be technically perfect before any producer could be expected to invest in you.” Composers Anand-Milind say, “He is the only composer to have brought in something new all by himself in a long long time.” Says Ehsaan of the Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy trio “”A. R. Rahman is the best! He is a genius and a wonderful human being and it translates in his music.”
Popular drummer Sivamani, a childhood friend of Rahman and a professional regular with him, says “Our association began when we both were really young. We had this band called Roots. We just make very good music together. He is a master of laya(melody) and taala(beat). The recognition that I enjoy today is because of Rahman. There are so many talented people behind a film music score. I played for Illayaraja for very long, but my name never figured on the screen or the cassette cover. Rahman changed it all. He gives credit to every single member of his team for whatever part they play, big or small. That makes him really special.
People came to know about me only because of him. I thank him for that.” Javed Akhtar, noted lyricist, says “I think he is an all rounder, I mean his grounding is very very solid. He knows Indian classical music, he is in touch with Indian folk music, he knows about western music and he has really studied western classical also. He knows about Middle Eastern music. So there is no wonder you see different colours in his songs. But Indian music has borrowed albeit being influenced by Middle Eastern music in past also. But, you see, when Rahman takes a raag or if he takes a folk tune, or if he takes notes of say Arabian music or South American music.
When this music comes to Rahman, it becomes Rahman’s music his influences are beyond film music and he has a kind of courage where he is not afraid to experiment, he is not afraid to fail and that is why he succeeds. We remember only those people who were not only successful but they have brought something to the arena that is new. Now this is a another leap, a quantum leap that Rahman has taken and he has given a kind of new sensibility to Indian music listener and the music maker. The sound, the orchestration, the very structure of the song. He has challenged the basic structure of Indian film song and he has altered it, changed it.
And, I think his contribution is totally unprecedented. Successful people come and go. Ultimately it’s the pathbreakers who’re remembered with the passage of time. People who have walked on untrodden roads. Success is worshipped momentarily, and then forgotten. It’s not enough to be successful. It’s important to attempt something new. Rahman’s contribution to film music will never be forgotten. He has given a new dimension and understanding to sound. Working with him is definitely a great pleasure. I get along very well with him. He is one person who is only interested in his work. Inspite of his stupendous success, he is so humble and down-to-earth.”
Says composer and former Rahman associate Sandeep Chowta, known as ‘The poor man’s Rahman’, “Rahman revolutionised sound. He’s a trend-setter in more ways than one. The only thing common between us is the fact that we started out in advertising and moved on to films. There’s just no comparison otherwise. Rahman is a legend of sorts. Rahman is unique. He doesn’t have set ragas. Yet his chord progressions are beautiful. People sometimes compare me to A R Rahman, it happens. People like Lata Mangeshkar, Asha Bhosle and even Andrew Lloyd Webber have paid tribute to him and called him a legend.
I can’t even begin to fathom the reasons for the comparison. He’s in another zone altogether, he is amazingly brilliant. If people compare me to him, I’d take it as a compliment. ” Bhupen Hazarika, the legendary Assamese composer with whom Rahman worked on ‘Desh Ka Salaam’, opines, “People become immediately entranced by whatever Rahman composes. He is a phenomenon. He’s young and talented. And he has his fingers on the pulse of the new generation. Like Salil Chowdhary he knows both western and Indian music styles.
He’s a great talent but his talent shouldn’t be overutilised.” Many other noted personalities like lyricist Javed Akhtar, actress-parlimentarian-social worker Shabana Azmi, actress Sridevi, singer Shubha Mudgal, classical instrumentalist-composer Pandit Vishwa Mohan Bhatt(worked with Rahman on Iruvar and Alai Paayuthe) have repeatedly expressed their liking for the Rahman brand of music. Says Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber, the reknowned composer of musicals, who picked Rahman to score for his musical Bombay Dreams, the first time an outsider worked on the compositions of an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, ” I think he has an incredible tone of voice.
I have seen many Bollywood films, but what he manages to do is quite unique–he keeps it very much Indian. For me as a Westerner, I can always recognize his music because it has got a rule tone of voice of its own. It’s very definitely Indian, yet it has an appeal which will go right across the world. He will hit the West in an amazing kind of way; that is, if he is led in the right way. He is the most extraordinary’ composer who is still true to his cultural roots, ‘ and deserves to be heard by an international public”
Choreographer Chinni Prakash throws up his hand in mock frustration and says, “Its challenging to choreograph Rahman’s songs. He does not stick to the conventional four-eight-twelve-sixteen beats. He’s unpredictable. Sometimes, he gives you a two and three-quarters beat. What do you do with that?” Ramgopal Varma , who worked with Rahman on Rangeela and Daud says “There is a bigness in Rahman’s music. Every note reflects the mood of the song. When I used to hear his music for my film I used to wonder if I was feeling my story as deeply as he was”.
“His music has that international quality which is absolutely stunning,” says international director Douchan Gersi for whose film ‘The Return of the Thief of Baghdad’, Rahman scored the music. Says Pune based music critic Jayanth Deshpande, “The unique brand of classicism brought into Bollywood music by A.R.Rahman mirrors not only the variegated tapestry that is India, but also the global musical culture. Rahman borrows ever so subtly from American soul or Gospel. He draws generously from rap, disco, folk, reggae, qawaali, Hindustani and Carnatic in his rhythms. And the vocal ornaments of Carnatic music or ever present. Orchestral textures and harmonies typical of Western music often grace the background.
His is a truly international music with a distinctly Indian feel. He has experimented as perhaps no other Indian composer has before him or does now. Some may be tempted to call it Indian fusion music of a highorder. I’ve heard his music being used as background in a German TV feature unrelated to music or India.”
Govind Nihalani who was the first Bollywood director to sign Rahman says ” I am a lover of music. Some years ago a friend of mine gave me a cassette of ‘Roja’. I was amazed after I listened to the songs. I decided right away that A.R.Rahman will give the music for atleast one of my films. Immediately I came to Chennai and spoke to him. He is an absolute genius. Very Modern! His range of imagination is expansive. He doesn’t treat his profession as just composing music for films.
He is able to lift a film to a new level with his music. Just as a painter is identified by his artistic style he is identified by his tunes. Even If i say I am satisfied he does not stop. Uncompromising spirit!! I am not saying this just to praise him. A. R. Rahman is the only composer in India upto international standards today. In fact I will go so far as to say that he is a composer of the next millennium. He is not a person who merely makes tunes. He is someone who creates music. He is constantly observing the trends and developments in his profession.
I believe that is also a reason for his success. First , he reads the script and takes detailed notes of the situations, the mood, and the characterisations. Sitting before his keyboard in the studio at night he would say, “Give me a word!Give me a phrase.” And he would work out a rough tune on the spot. Then he records it with a singer. But the real magic starts when once he has the song before him on his computer screen. He plays with it, takes a phrase from here and puts it there. Block by block, verse by verse he builds up his song. YOu can see the coloured bits forming fascinating patterns.” He paid the ultimate compliment when he said ” Its like watching a master sculptor in action.”
Ace director Subhash Ghai, with whom he worked on ‘Taal’ is all praise for him, “Rahman is the rhythm of ‘Taal – The Rhythm’. I wouldn’t be able to make Taal without this remarkable musician, this great soul who was born to give Hindi music a new life. I am privileged to work with a man who has been inspired and blessed by God above. I don’t mind changing all my nights into days to work with him. You know this great man only creates fresh tunes in the night and sleeps during the day. Rare man, rare way of working. That’s how all great men are.
He creates according to the director’s need. He is a widely knowledgeable composer, with knowledge of all kinds of music of the world. He can play Western Symphony with as much ease as Hindustani or Carnatic classical which is a very rare quality in composers. Rahman has a strange kind of spirituality within which he lives. He knows technique, has a rare sense of sound and a great ear. He can make any besura (tuneless) voice sing well. This is obvious from singers who have sung beautifully for his albums but have not done well later. I love him both as a composer and as a friend. He is very sweet to talk to. The only thing is you talk and he listens.
He has a sharp intellect and understands not just the sound of music and quality of voice but also the market forces and how to move from post to post. Rahman is undoubtedly a genius. He’s divine and simple. ” Rahman’s favourite singer Hariharan says, “His strength is the way he designs sound. He has revolutionised film music. He is perpetually on a quest to get the best out of you and makes you feel at ease which is important. I have sung some of my best songs for him.”
Indian-born Canadian director Deepa Mehta with whom Rahman has worked on 3 films – ‘Fire’, ‘Earth’ and ‘Water’ – says, “Brilliant, I think he is the most consummate composer that I know of in the world. His music comes from the characters and is an extension of them. I think he is the best.He is the most brilliant film composer in India today and is in such demand that he has altered his normal working day to begin at six in the evening and go through the night, so that he can compose undisturbed by producers’ calls. A.R.R. is a very young man of prodigious talent with an immense sensitivity to the film’s context and characters.
Whatever I say about his genius will be stating the obvious. He finds the sound for every character in the film. He finds the character’s sur. Raag, rhythm, reggae, folk, classical, he’s got it on his finger tips. He’s so cinema literate. He can discuss Ingmar Bergman’s Autumn Sonata and he can talk about Subhash Ghai’s Taal, all in one breath.” Singer Alka Yagnik opines “He’s a one-man-show. Once he’s taught you the song, he gives you a free hand. He lets you sing it the way you want to.”
Noted Qawwal, The late Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, who worked with Rahman on ‘Vandemataram’ said ldquo;The young boy Rahman is the only person with humility in this entire industryrdquo;. Up and coming composer Ismail Darbar who pipped Rahman’s ‘Taal’ to the National Award in 2000 with his score in ‘Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam’ is an ardent admirer of Rahman. He says, “His work speaks volumes. There’s no one like him. Which is why I didn’t mind when he walked away with all the awards for Taal. He’s just so good. When it comes to making electronic music he’s the best. I know I can’t even compete with him there.” Says another leading Bollywood composer Anu Malik, “I appreciate A.R’s work. He has a penchant for being international. I think he is talented. A.R. has taught me the value and meaning of sound in my recording and thanks to him, today I am my own arranger.”
One of his closest associates, long time friend and sound engineer H. Sridhar reveals some little known facts of Rahman,”I had known Rahman many years before I started working with him on Roja. While he was doing jingles, we would often meet and compare notes on music trends and synthesisers. Rahman’s biggest asset is that he treats each song as his first song. He prays before each session. I believe there is some power in his God, faith and religion.
I can give you countless examples when he became so inspired after his prayers. He is very open-minded about what a song needs and gives each song a completely individual taste. It is the way he soothes you into a song that I call his signature. There is a visual texture in his mind when he composes music. When you see the song picturised you can immediately connect. Rahman allows musicians to be themselves. He understands their soul. He also has a fabulous way of getting notes out of a musician without telling them in so many words.
Rahman never ceases to amaze me. He is such a fine musician apart from being a music director; his strength is fusion. He is also a techno-junkie. If you give him a set of headphones he will most probably rip it apart to understand why it works so well! I sometimes say that we are techno-brats. But Rahman knows that a song shouldn’t speak the technical language but should have soul. Rahman is humble and very generous with money. He hates to see people suffer. I think his philosophy is that people should derive happiness from his music, even if it is a sad tune. He has this tremendous need to be perfect.” Hot shot director of the bubblegum generation, Karan Johar says “The only music composer from the current lot who will be remembered for a long time is A.R.Rahman.”
Comments British-based international chart star Apache Indian, who worked with Rahman on a track for the film ‘Love Birds’, “He’s very talented as a songwriter and singer. I think he can do great things.” His mentor and favourite director Mani Ratnam says, “I have found that Rahman is a favourite because he is new and above all different.
He knows the pulse of the audience. He has a very good sense of tune. He knows what kind of orchestration is necessary for a scene and what music suits the mood of the scene.He has the music in his mind, and uses every musician as an artiste, probably because he has been an instrumentalist himself. He tries to extract something extra from every one of his musicians as well as his playback singers. He believes in their additional input. Rahman improvises. I found in him a new and different composer who never compromises on quality. Rahman is every director’s dream.” He has no ego problems and tries to come out with a new number with the same kind of passion with which he did the earlier one.
But he is best summed up, perhaps, in the words of Cinematographer-director Rajeev Menon who worked on many ads and the films ‘Minsara Kanavu’ and ‘Kandukonden Kandukonden’ with him, ” Music comes to him instinctively. When you see him play, his skill is such that you really believe God exists in his work.”
India’s leading newspaper ‘The Times of India’ carried a feature titled “Men we regard: Our tribute to the men without whom this world would be quite, quite insipid” in which it picked Rahman as one of them and wrote “Music maker A.R.Rahman has given these raucous and raunchy times melody and mood. His style is individual to the extent of sounding repetitive sometimes, but when you hear his work, you feel at last the kind of involvement with the spell of sound that was R.D.Burman’s. What is most attractive about Rahman’s music is his ability to link modern rhythms and experiments with sound with our enormous legacy of classical and folk music.”
India’s leading newsmagazine ‘India Today’ paid glowing tributes to him when it published the following lines – “Sometimes a song is just a tune for a music director, whose rhythm invades you, which you hum in front of a bathroom mirror that has a warranty never to break. Sometimes a song is just an intricately woven lacing of words that embraces you on a still, lonely night. Sometimes a song is just a voice for a music director, whose passion makes your hair stand. When A.R. Rahman takes you on a journey– and to hear it is to feel you have no choice but to journey with him…… .” India’s leading women’s magazine Femina published a feature in its July 1999 issue listing Rahman as one of the 14 “Men we’ll still want to see around in 2009”