How could A R Rahman become the first Indian musician to hold an Oscar? This rhetorical question arises from the signs, over the years, that if the genius from Chennai found his way to global recognition, it would be through the Grammies.

That was the international award I thought he’d win first, this restless pop-rock explorer whose far-flung voyages of musical introspection have consistently reshaped the landscape of the film song. There was the unmatched finish in his albums, for instance — the kind of sonic spit-polish we’ve encountered only in international records.

Then there were the influences that shaped Rahman — Osibisa, Jim Reeves, Switched-On Bach, Chick Corea, Vangelis and Dave Grusin, none of which appear, at least at first glance, capable of being co-opted into the traditional five-minute film song.

Vangelis Music was always an inspiration to Rahman. This is what Rahman has to say, when he met Vangelis in Greece.

“I was visiting the late L Vaidyanathan, composer brother of L Subramaniam in 1987 when he first played me the music of Vangelis and explained to me his ability to bring soul into synthesizers.

My memories of listening to his music on headphones on the way from Bangalore to Chennai after finishing arranging work for music composer Vijay Anand while travelling in third class due to delayed bookings are still fresh.

Vangelis’ music used to transport me to another planet, releasing me from those inevitable noises in a train. It was such a surprise when one of my friends took me to Vangelis’ house last week in Greece. He is very philosophical and a great lover of art and science. He still plays the keyboard with a child-like interest.

I asked him if he is interested in doing an Indian project with talent in India. His response was, ‘Why not?’

Here is the picture of him and I”

– A R Rahman, Aug 24, 2009