The new millenium, that is the year 2000, began with the release of the video of the ‘Vandemataram’ song ‘Masoom’ featuring Rahman. The video was telecast by India’s National Television Network, Doordarshan at the stroke of midnight between 31st December 1999 and 1st January 2000. At the Millenium Concert held in Cairo, Egypt with the pyramids as a background, on New Year’s Eve, Jean-Michel Jarre played the ‘Bombay Theme’ to a spellbound international audience. In the first week of January he received as many as four nominations for the Screen Awards 1999.

He was nominated in the Best Music Director category for ‘Taal’, in the Best Male Playback Singer category for ‘Ishq Bina’ from ‘Taal’ and twice in the Best Background Music category for ‘Taal’ and ‘1947-Earth’. After a long hiatus he signed his first Tamil film in a year, for director Praveenkanth. The film titled ‘Star’ had Prashanth, Simran and Aishwarya Rai in lead roles and was Rahman’s third film with the director. In an interview to India’s leading English newsmagazine, India Today, during a short visit to India, leading world music group ‘Deep Forest’ said that they were talking to Rahman about working in collaboration.

He won the first award of the new millenium when he bagged the award for Best Music Director for ‘Taal’ at the Stardust Cine Honours on the 7th of January. In January Rahman went on an unprecedented award winning spree . He followed up the Stardust Cine Honours by winning the Filmgoers Award for Best Music Director for ‘Taal’ and then on January 23rd he bagged the Screen Award for the music of ‘Taal’. The same day he was declared the winner of the Dinakaran Cine Award for Best Composer for the music of ‘Kadhalar Dhinam’ and ‘Mudhalvan’.

But the crowning glory was when, on January 26th 2000, on the occasion of the 50th Anniversary of the Indian Republic, the Government of India bestowed the prestigious title of ‘Padmashri’ on Rahman, for his outstanding contribution to music. The ‘Padmashri’ is India’s fourth highest civilian honour and is conferred on only a select few. Reacting to his receiving the award Rahman said “I am extremely happy and surprised at receiving this award. I hope I can justify my receiving this award. Till now I have been receiving mainly film awards. This is the first time that I have received such an award. I thank God, my mother, all the people and the Govt for this award.”

On January 26th, 2000, the Golden Jubilee of the Indian nation becoming a republic, ‘Desh Ka Salaam’ was finally released as ‘Jana Gana Mana’. Billed as a tribute to those who struggled to establish the Indian republic the music was arranged and produced by Rahman and featured vocal and instrumental reinterpretations of India’s National Anthem, ‘Jana Gana Mana’.

It contained exclusive renditions of the national anthem, both vocal and instrumental, by more than 65 musical maestros from all over the country.The pieces were performed by numerous luminaries of Indian music from playback singers to classical vocalists and instrumentalists. The original composition by Rabindranath Tagore was recreated into magnificent arrangement and production by A. R. Rahman. From classical to the contemporary, artists crossing generations, harmonised into a powerful and soulful rendition of the National Anthem.

The vocalists on ‘Jana Gana Mana’ were D.K Pattamal,Pt. Bhimsen Joshi,Lata Mangeshkar, Pt. Jasraj, Dr. Balamuralikrishna, Jagjit Singh , Pt. Ajay Chakravarty , Smt Shobha Gurtu, Begum Parveena Sultana, Dr. Bhupen Hazarika, Ustad Rashid Khan, Ustad Ghulam Mustafa Khan, Smt Shruti Sadolikar, Dr. S P Balasubramanium, Sudha Raghunathan, Asha Bhosle, Hariharan, Kavitha Krishnamurthy, P.Unnikrishnan, Nityashree, Sadiq Khan, Kaushiki Chakravarty and A. R. Rahman. The instrumentalists were Pt. Hari Prasad Chaurasia, Ustad Amjad Ali Khan, Amaan Ali Bangash, Ayaan Ali Bangash, Pt. Shiv Kumar Sharma, Rahul Sharma, Vikku Vinayakram, Uma Shankar, Pt. Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, Kadri Gopalnath, Ravikiran, E. Gayathri, Ustad Sultan Khan, Pt. Kartick Kumar, Niladri Kumar, Kumaresh, Ganesh and A. R. Rahman.

The album “Jana Gana Mana’ was formally released at a formal function on the morning of January 27th in the hallowed Central Hall of the Indian Parliament House in New Delhi by none other than the Indian President Mr. K. R. Narayanan and the Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee in the presence of a very distinguished audience. Mr Narayanan expressed happiness that so many artistes had come together on the project.

This particular tryst with nationalism for Rahman began during the Golden Jubilee celebrations of India’s Independence in 1997 with ‘Vandemataram’ and came a full circle in the Golden Jubilee Year of the Indian Republic in 2000 with ‘Jana Gana Mana’. This was the result of an endeavour that began three years ago to give India back to the Indians through music and films that touch the emotions of all Indians. “Jana Gana Mana’ was an extension of ‘Desh ka Salaam’ that was broadcast the previous year.

Said Pandit Jasraj of the venture, “Bharat, Kanika and Rahman have done a great job. We all know how difficult it is to get even two artistes to do a duet and they have managed to bring together 65 of us. They are really and truly the three musketeers.” Said rahman of the venture “Though it was difficult to bring together artistes from varying streams to work together, the spirit of nationalism in every heart made it very easy.

Rejecting the definition of this album and ‘Vandemataram’ as ‘pop-patriotism’ Rahman said ‘We have made more people listen to the National Song and Anthem more often. I wish to take patriotic music to the poeple. That is why I lent music to Vandemataram and aroused the emotions of the people. Likewise I felt I should do it with Jana Gana Mana also. I feel people sing the national anthem out of a sense of duty and not out of a sense of joy. I want them to sing it with emotion. That’s why I have taken up this project. Because we were working with the National Anthem we could not change the tune. All we have done is make it a bit slower and give it more rhythm and soul.”

“The album is an attempt to bring out the inherent soul in both the vocal and instrumental renditions of the national anthem. The music is totally unlike Vande Mataram which had been adapted to modern beats. While Vande Mataram was a popular album, this one is a completely non-commercial venture. After all, it is our national anthem and we didn’t change its music or try to give it a modern touch. Its rendition was made slower, though, purely to give it soul. And it is meant for the people, as the album is not my property. The idea behind Jana Gana Mana and Vande Mataram, was to direct latent nationalism towards the mainstream. “, added Rahman.

In the evening of January 27th , Rahman participated in a special cultural show titled ‘Bharat Gaurav Gyan’ in commemoration of the Golden Jubilee of the Indian Republic, in New Delhi. In front of of an audience comprising of the Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee Rahman sang ‘Maa Tujhe Salaam’ and ‘Jana Gana Mana’. In late January, Rahman was nominated for the Best Music Director Award for ‘Taal’ in the Filmfare Awards 1999 and the Best Music Director Award for ‘Taal’ and Best Male Playback Singer for ‘Ishq Bina’ from ‘Taal’ in the Zee Cine Awards 1999. In early February rumours abounded about Rahman turning down all new offers for films and concerts as he was shifting base to London where he was to score the music for Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber’s play ‘Bombay Dreams’.

On 13th February he won the Filmfare Award for Best Music for ‘Taal’. This was his 11th Filmfare Award and his fourth for Hindi films. Rahman signed up Bharatiraaja’s next film ‘Alli Arjuna’ to be directed by Saran. On February 22nd, the music of the much awaited Mani Ratnam movie ‘Alai Payuthey’ was released along with its Telugu version ‘Sakhi’. The music was of a subdued nature but nevertheless like always sold in huge numbers. This was Rahman’s sixth film with his mentor. One of India’s leading film magazines “Stardust’, in its annual ranking of the 50 most powerful people in Bollywood, published in its March 2000 issue placed him at number 38 , eight notches above the previous year’s. Rahman turned down an offer from Subhash Ghai to work on his next film ‘Yaadein’ as he wanted to concentrate on ‘Bombay Dreams’.

In early March Sony Music released the concert recordings of Rahman’s 1998 Dubai concert in a 3 cassette pack. On 7th march, Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber flew down to Mumbai to formally launch ‘Bombay Dreams’. A musical to feature Asian performers and to be staged worldwide he musical was to be in English and the characters to be based on the city of Mumbai. It was to be produced jointly by Shekhar kapoor and Really Useful Group, Webber’s production company. Speaking at the launch Shekhar Kapur said “A.R. Rahman’s a genius. When Cate Blanchett visited India last year, she took back several Indian sounds, and since then, she’s been badgering me to get Rahman to score music for Hollywood films.” Webber heard A R Rahman’s score for Mani Ratnam’s Dil Se. So impressed was he with Chaiyya chaiyya — the song, the choreography, the visualisation — for the composer, it was love at first sound. The sound of Rahman’s music. that Sir Webber asked Kapur to introduce him to Rahman.

Rahman is the first composer to be invited by Webber to work in a musical. Bombay Dreams will have Webber as the producer and Kapur as the collaborator. Said Sir Andrew at the launch, “Four or five years ago, people didn’t have the same access to Hindi film or Indian music as they have today. I became incredibly impressed by Rahman’s music. I asked him if he would come to London, and he did. I also asked him if he would be interested in doing a stage show. At that point when he said “Maybe”, I thought I better come here and ask him. I am very happy to say that he has just said yes. I saw a very exciting Hindi film dance sequence on Channel 4 and asked Shekhar to give me more such music. And that’s how I met the amazing Rahman.

He is the most extraordinary melodic composer who is still true to his cultural roots, and deserves to be heard by an international public. I am not writing the music for Bombay Dreams. It will be entirely by the maestro here. Dil Se’s music was great and amazingly contemporary. This is for the first time that I have invited another composer to write a musical for the stage. I am very excited to be able to explore this possibility with A R Rahman. My production company has produced several plays by writers other than myself, but this is for the first time I will be working with another composer. I regard A R Rahman as one of the most exciting young composers of our time. I am grateful to Kapoor for bringing us together.

This man is a fabulous composer, one of the most exciting today. he is simply brilliant. What you might possibly call the best. His work is very different, very unusual and he himself is such a simple and humble guy that it would be a pleasure for us to work with him. He will bring a different kind of flavour to a musical production in the West.” He decided to hear more of Rahman, from Bombay and Roja to Taal and Rangeela. ldquo;Without being told who the composer was, I would identify that it was Rahman,” he says. Waxing eloquent about Rahman’s work Webber said “The time has come in the West (I believe) for Asian music to make a strong presence and Indian music is going to be at the centre of this new movement. For it is strong on both melody and percussions. Someone like Rahman could provide the leadership. Yes, I feel very strongly about his music.”

Rahman said that though he was heavily pre-occupied with music assignments in India, he would devote considerable time for the new project, which would not only be an extension of his career but also showcase Indian culture to the West. In turn he said, “I am happy to be associated with my friend Shekhar Kapur and the legend Andrew Lloyd Webber,God willing, it will be successful, an extension of my career and Indian culture abroad. I am a great fan of the legendary musical theatre composer. I loved some of his songs like Don’t cry for me, Argentina. It is indeed flaterring to realise that that my talent has been spotted amidst so many talented artistes. That certain aspect of insecurity of whether I will be able to live upto people’s expectations is also there.” He also added that he would be shuttling between London, Chennai and Mumbai for the project.

Rahman signed up for director Rajkumar Santoshi’s next film ‘Lajja’ which was to be made ahead of his other film ‘Rashq’ which was also to have music by Rahman. Not surprisingly rahman opted out of ‘Lajja’ when Santoshi decided to make it a quickie. On March 11th Rahman completed a clean sweep of the year’s major awards by bagging the Zee Cine Award for Best Music Director for ‘Taal’. It looked like Bollywood had finally accepted that Rahman was here to stay. On 15th March the music of Rajeev Menon’s ‘Kandukonden Kandukonden’ was released along with its Telugu version ‘Priyaralu Pilichindi’. The music was a stunner.

All the songs had a classical base and was an instant chartbuster. Encomiums were heaped on Rahman at the release function. Speakers like Kamalhaasan said “‘All these people go on and on about his music look at him, he’s as cool as ever, I think he’s composing some tune even now in his mind that he’s least bothered about all these praises! Be like this Rahman, its a great new high!’ But an innocuous remark by lyricist Vairamuthu, “I agree wholeheartedly that Rahman is a great composer. But I do wish his music would not totally swamp my lyrics to the extent that nobody can make them out”, sparked off a whale of controversy. Rumours of a rift between the two took flight. But Vairamuthu hastily clarified that all was well between them and it was just a friendly advice. But stories persisted that Rahman had totally broken off with Vairamuthu and had begun to promote an upcoming lyricist IlayaKamban.

On March 23, Kamalhaasan’s next film ‘Tenaali’, a full length comedy to be directed by K.S.Ravikumar was launched. This was K.S.Ravikumar’s third film with Rahman after ‘Muthu’ and ‘Padayappa’ and was his first home production. Rahman returned, after ‘Indian’, to work for Kamalhaasan with this film scotching persistent rumours of bad blood between the two. This would be the first time that Rahman would be working in a film of this genre.

On March 30th, Rahman was conferred the Padmashri by the President of India, K. R. Narayanan in the Durbar hall of the Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi. On the 14th of April the Filmfare South Awards for 2000 were announced. Rahman bagged the Best Music Director Award for ‘Mudhalvan’. This was the 8th year in succession that he was winning the Filmfare Awards for Tamil and it was his twelfth Filmfare award overall. He was also nominated under the Best Music Director Category for ‘Taal’ in the Zee Gold Bollywood International Awards 2000, awarded for popularity of Hindi films in the USA.

Following his nod to movies like Star and Alli Arjuna which would feature Rahman’s earlier tracks from another language, a wave of criticism was unleashed against him. Rahman justified his move thus – ‘It is the question of time. Since I am going off abroad people don’t want to lose the frequncy of my releases. I can’t do everyhting at the same time. So I pick up the best tracks and give them those. Its not my fault. They ask for it. If I am not in a position to do a film for them they ask me to atleast let them reuse my tracks from other movies.” When asked if he Bombay Dreams would be a channel to Hollywood, “I am not interested in Hollywood.

There is more fun in what I am into already. Right now what I need to do is learn a lot of things and spend time to create music rather than shuttling between here and there.” On being told that his chances to latch on to the international pop scene were bright “I don’t think I’ll fit into that scene becasue I am more of a composer than a pop performer. That needs a different kind of energy which I don’t think I have. You need to be more of an extrovert for that.” He also at this time explained his move towards more offbeat films like ‘Lagaan’,’Zubeida’,’ Fizaa’,’ Water’ thus “When you take up a big movie people expect big things and want to hear big things. If you are doing a non-commercial film with an international spectrum but a small budget like ‘Earth’ the songs are of a different genre. I did not want to get typecasted as a commercial music director. This is why I am doing more alternative films.” The website indiainfo.com rated Rahman as one of the 10 most powerful people in Bollywood.

Rahman made his first movie appearance, albeit in a clipping, when he was shown receiving a Filmfare Award from K. Balachander for the film ‘Minsara Kanavu’ in the film ‘Kandukondain Kandukondain’. In May he was nominated in the Best Music Director category at the India International Film Awards. On May 27th he bagged the Zee Gold Bollywood International Award for Best Composer for “Taal’ making its his sixth straight award for ‘Taal’. On this visit he was honoured by the United Tamil Foundation of New York for his outstanding contribution to music.

Meanwhile director Sanjay Gupta was in hot pursuit of Rahman trying to get him to compose for his next film ‘Kaante’. HMV re-released the soundtrack of Alai Payuthey with 3 new songs, ‘Endrendrum Punnagai’, ‘Mangalyam’ and the Sultan Khan version of ‘Snehidhane’. Sony Music released ‘Jana Gana Mana’ on cassette and CD in retail shops finally but intriguingly enough there was not a shred of publicity regarding the release. Rahman took his award winning spree to newer heights when he bagged the award for Best Composer for ‘Taal’ at the International India Film Awards in London on June 24th. This was his seventh award for ‘Taal’. The rumours regarding the split between Vairamuthu and Rahman and Vairamuthu having lured away Rahman’s keyboardist gained more credence when his long time keyboardist, Harris Jayaraj signed up as composer for two movies, ‘Minnaley’ and ‘Majnu’ with Vairamuthu as lyricist. After making a clean sweep of all the other awards Rahman lost the National Award for Best Music Director which went to Ismail Darbar for ‘Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam’. It was announced that Rahman would hold two concerts in North America, in New York City on September 23rd and at the Skydome in Toronto on September 30th.

For a shy and reticent person who always shied away from controversies, people seemed keen to drag him into more and more of them. After the earlier instances when he was a victim of bizarre and baseless accusations ranging from converting his associates to funding terrorists, he came in for more of a similar nature in July 2000. First, on a milder note, people seemed to be in a hurry to label him copycat and were unearthing the original songs, from which Rahman had supposedly copied, at an incredible pace. But most of the allegations were either totally false or there were only some coincidental or passing resemblances. But to be fair there were a couple of songs composed by Rahman with striking resemblances to other numbers. After this he was accused of delaying the release of ‘Rhythm’.

The story was that Pyramid Natarajan, producer of ‘Sangamam’, ‘Rhythm’ and ‘Udaya’ had not paid Rahman for ‘Sangamam’. And therefore he was dragging his feet on completing the work for ‘Rhythm’. The producer supposedly toyed with the idea of replacing Rahman with another music director in both ‘Rhythm’ and ‘Udaya’ but ran out of money to even complete the shooting of ‘Rhythm’. Then the producer supposedly approached Rahman and begged him to complete work on the music of ‘Rhythm’ so that he could make money from music sales and complete the movie. But the most serious allegation was from the internet portal indiainfo.com which alleged that Rahman was a religious fanatic.

It reported that Rahman’s mother was stalling the telecast of the second part of an interview to Sun T.V. because the producer refused to delete Rahman’s reference to the song ‘Sankara nadasareerapara’ from the movie ‘Shankarabharanam’ as one of his favourite songs composed by another music director. Rahman’s mother reportedly wanted it removed because she did not want her Muslim son to refer to a Hindu song as his favourite!!! The article described Rahman as a religious fanatic and condemned him for tolerating his family’s religious fanticism. It questioned how a composer who had tuned Vandemataram and Jana Gana Mana could do such a thing. Indiainfo.com stood by its article and claimed that it had thouroughly investigated the whole issue before publishing the piece and the journalist in question was one Kalyan Kumar, formerly with the Tamil edition of India Today.

Added to the above was the continued stories about Rahman’s split with Vairamuthu. If some magazines were to be believed the whole thing started when director of ‘Udaya’ Azhagu Perumal introduced upcoming lyricist Ilayakamban to Rahman. Pleased with his work Rahman asked him to do a song for ‘Udaya’. This apparently miffed Vairamuthu who till then was sole lyricist to Rahman. Presently a whole host of lyricists like Piraisudai, Arivumudhan, Ilayakamban, Pazhani Bharathi and Vaali are slated to work with Rahman.

In July Rahman signed Shankar’s next film ‘Nayak’ starring Anil Kapoor, a remake of ‘Mudhalvan’. In addition to reusing some songs from the Tamil original Rahman would compose three new songs for the film. This would be Rahman’s sixth film with Shankar. On July 14th Rahman deposed as a prosecution witness in the bevy of corruption cases against former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalitha. Deposing before judge A C Arumugaperumal Adityan, Rehman said that in July 1995 Jayalalitha’s secretary Jawahar Babu had called him up saying that she wanted to see him. Rahman and his mother went to see the then chief minister at the secretariat. Jayalalitha requested him to perform at the wedding of her foster son, Sudhakaran, whom she has since disowned. Sudhakaran, a co-accused in a corruption case against Jayalalitha, is one of the three nephews of Sasikala Natarajan, Jayalalitha’s close friend.

Rahman said that 10 days before the function, Bhaskaran (Sasikala’s nephew) and his wife came to his house to invite him to the wedding on behalf of the groom. As is the custom in Tamil Nadu, they invited him with the card placed on a silver plate holding a ‘kumkum’ (vermilion) container and two silk saris. It is common practice at Hindu weddings to present vermilion and clothing to friends and relatives on behalf of the bride and groom. From the bride’s side, legendary actor Sivaji Ganesan’s son Prabhu invited him. A reception was held on September 6, 1995, a day before the marriage, and Rahman and his troupe performed for an hour. The ace music director told the court that he had performed free of charge.

In early August the music of Khaled Mohammed’s ‘Fiza’ was released. For the first time Rahman took on the mantle of Guest Composer and scored his first full length qawwalli song ‘Piya Haji Ali’ for this film. The song was greatly appreciated by critics and received reviews like ‘the best song of the year’ putting to shade the equally appreciable score of Anu Malik for the film. Rahman finally said yes to Sanjay Gupta’s ‘Kaante’, work on which would start only in late-2001. Around this time some rounds of the popular quiz show Mastermind was shot in Chennai. Among the participants were the actress Kasthuri who had chosen ‘The music of A. R. Rahman’ as her area of specialisation for the quiz. On August 10th the much delayed and much awaited score of ‘Rhythm’ finally made it to the stores. Though the score was above average even by Rahman’s standards it did not live up to the massive expectations from it.

But the score sold more than 3 lakh cassettes and CDs in just 2 days. On August 14th Rahman appeared at the Planet M store in Mumbai to promote Jana Gana Mana and followed it up with a visit to Music World in Chennai. At both places he was mobbed by huge crowds. Amidst all this came the news that Maniratnam had signed up an upcoming composer by name Dina to score the music for his next two productions , one to be directed by himself and one by his assistant Azhagam Perumal. There were contradictory reports that Dina would only be doing the Perumal film while Mani himself had put off his next film so that Rahman would become a little free and also try to bring about a patch up between him and Vairamuthu. All the reports appeared to be speculation and nothing was concrete. Around this time Rahman also trimmed his hair and returned to his pre-Vandemataram days look.

A further two concerts were added to his North American tour – one in Los Angeles on October 6th and another in San Franscisco on October 8th to make it the first ever concert tour for Rahman and a mammoth one at that. Rahman appeared in ads on Indian channels in the US endorsing the Raaga music megastore chains and encouraging people to avoid buying pirated goods. Though all the shooting was completed for ‘Tenaali’ the movie was on hold since Rahman was yet to compose 3 songs for the movie and director K.S.Ravikumar opted to put off the release of the movie to October from August than settling for below par compositions from Rahman. Rahman had reached such a position that getting his ‘dates’ for a movie were proving to be more difficult than that of top-of-the-league actors like Kamalhassan.

In early September ‘Rhythm’ was released in Telugu as well. Rahman signed yet another movie with director Rajkumar Santoshi. Titled, ‘The Legend of Bhagat Singh’, it was to be a Hindi-English bilingual featuring Indian and International performers. One of India’s leading newsmagazines, ‘The Week’ published a survey it had conducted to determine the most admired Indians. Rahman was placed at No. 12 just behind Kamalhaasan and ahead of the likes of Shahrukh Khan and Pandit Ravishankar. Further signifying his shift to Bollywood, Rahman signed a movie for the Amitabh Bachchan promoted AB Corp(formerly ABCL) to be directed by ad-man turned director Rakesh Mehra, starring Abhishek Bachchan. Rahman followed this up by giving the nod to Shankar for his next mega film, ‘Robot’, starring Kamalhassan and Priety Zinta. The movie, a science fiction film was to be produced by Media Dreams the new production house floated by Pentafour and would be Rahman’s seventh film with Shankar. In September the media carried reports that Rahman had been signed by the UK based Shakespeare Foundation to score the music for a new play on Shakespeare’s life. He was supposedly offered an astounding Rs 300 crores for it.

In a reader poll conducted by Stardust Magazine for the year 1999-2000 Rahman was adjudged Best Composer for ‘Taal’ by an overwhelming 48% of the respondents. On September 23rd, the first of the four concerts of Rahman’s North American tour was held at the New York Colloseum in New York City. Rahman previewed a song from ‘Bombay Dreams'(sung by new singer Karen) and one from ‘Zubeida’ to a massive audience of 20,000 which was treated to an array of songs, mostly restricted to the very recent films, by singers like S.P.Balasubramaniam, Hariharan, Udit Narayan, Kavitha Krishnamurthy, Sukhvinder Singh etc. Rahman came armed with a 82-member strong troupe. Academy award winning British lyricist Don Black, best known for writing the songs for James Bond movies, said as a special guest at the event that Rahman’s genius was in his originality and skillful improvisation, the “richness and diversity” he could bring to Indian notes. Black, who was working with Rahman on Andrew Lloyd Webber’s dance musical ‘Bombay Dreams’ received a special award for promoting world music.

The audience was treated to another surprise by the introduction of percussionist Vikku Vinayagam on the Ghattam. This was quickly followed by an equally successful one in the Toronto Skydome on September 30th which was graced by Hollywood superstar Steven Seagal who was reportedly interested in hiring the services of Rahman for one of his forthcoming films. Here the audience strength was at 40,000. Responding prehaps to widespead criticism over his use of pre-recorded pieces in the New York concert Rahman emphasised that the entire Toronto concert was being performed completely live and no recorded CD music was being used. The third concert was staged in Los Angeles on October 6th and the final one on October 8th in San Francisco. The most jarring feature of the concerts was the open expression of displeasure at the choice of songs by the public at the conert. It appeared that Rahman had misread the composition of the crowd and played tamil songs where there was a predominantly Hindi crowd and vice-versa. That apart the concerts were a resounding success.

In an uncharacteristic interview to Junior Vikatan magazine Rahman alleged that some vested interests had tried to sabotage his US concert tour by influencing the American Consulate to deny visas to key members of his troupe. He said that they had to run from pillar to post to get the visas and many of them landed in New York only on the day of the concert and since they had no time for rehearsals they ended up using lot of recorded music in the concert. In early-October the music of Tenaali was released in Tamil and Telugu. In mid-October trailors of ‘Zubeidaa’ broke on air riding on Rahman’s name with the line ‘A.R.Rahman is back scoring music for the story of a princess’. The music released on 16th of October .

It was an unconventional album for Rahman, featuring mellow songs. ‘Muthu’ was taken up for dubbing in Hindi. The grapevine reported that Kamal Haasan was trying to persuade Shankar to drop Rahman from their next project ‘Robot’. In an interview to Ananda Vikatan magazine Rahman clarified a whole host of rumours, firstly that nothing was wrong between Vairamuthu and him and they would certainly work together in the future. He also confirmed that he was doing Shankar’s ‘Robot’ and denied that he was doing any musical in association with the Shakespeare Foundation.

On November 1st he presented himself in the Chennai High Court once again to testify that he had not received any gifts from Jayalalitha for her foster son’s wedding and had only performed out of respect for the bride’s grandfather Sivaji Ganesan. The grapevine reported that Rahman would perform with Jennifer Lopez at a football tournament scheduled in India in 2001. It seemed like Rahman would never stop winning awards in 2000. On November 12th he added two Bollywood Music Awards, for Best Composer and Best Song to his ever-burgeoning kitty. Rahman returned to work with mentor and veteran Tamil director K.Balachandar with ‘Paarthale Paravasam’.

The film to be launched in early January 2001 would star Madhavan and would be completed in five months. In November the Birmingham Film Fest paid tribute to Rahman by organising a showcase of movies with his music titled ‘Sound on the Screen:A.R.Rahman’. Rahman also appeared at the festival. In an interview to India Abroad News Service director Deepa Mehta said that she had more or less shelved ‘Water’ in view of the protests against the movie. The news was a big disappointment for Rahman fans since since Rahman had himself rated his music for the film as 10 on 10. The ABCL film was tentatively titled ‘Awaaz’.

In early December Rahman signed up for one of Indian cinema’s most ambitious project. The project was ‘Taj Mahal-The Great Indian Experience’, India’s first film on IMAX that was to be made by none other than Bharatbala. In the last week of December the state govt. of Tamil Nadu bestowed his sixth Best Composer State Award for ‘Sangamam’. He received two nominations for the IMI-Zee Sangeet Awards for Thakshak but didn’t win any.

The year 2000 proved to be a very subdued year for Rahman in terms of output but was unparalleled for the awards and honours that he received and his public performances. He had only 6 releases viz. Alai Payuthey, Kandukondain Kandukondain, Rhythm, Thenali, Zubeidaa and Jana Gana Mana. Apart from this he donned the role of Guest Composer for the first time in ‘Fiza’. While Jana Gana Mana was a milestone in terms of the acclaimed names he worked with, 2000 did not see him break any new ground with regard to creative output. Alai Payuthey will probably rank at the bottom among his six movies with Mani Ratnam.

Kandukondain Kandukondain saw him go more classical than usual but failed to be pathbreaking. Rhythm disappointed while Tenali was as lacklustre as a Rahman score could get. The saving grace was Zubeidaa where he managed to a great extent in recreating a period score that was mellow. It appeared that Rahman seemed to have hit a plateau. The most significant development was his teaming up with Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber and Shekar Kapoor for ‘Bombay Dreams’. 2000 was most fruitful in terms of the recognition he received. Except for the National Award he pocketed every other award that was given. In all he bagged he close to two dozen awards. The crowning glory was the bestowing of the Padma Shri by the Government of India.