Rahman’s life story is somewhat similar to a Bollywood movie. It is clear that not every person can face life’s tragedies like him. He says it is mainly because of music, that he is alive today. Since childhood he has been into music. It was his mother, who inspired him by telling stories of his father. Thus when composing for the first time, his first inspiration was his father.As a child he had noticed many musicians around drink and smoke to get inspired. But for the child, it was Ilaiyaraja, who proved one can make good music without indulging in bad habits. Ilaiyaraja is a very religious person, who made good music without taking alcohol or smoking.
Since Ilaiyaraja had worked for Rahman’s father in the past, he regarded Rahman as his own son. Speaking about his inspirations, Rahman states, “Personally, I would say that a sense of spirituality helps a great deal. And it is important that you study life as well. Both these things will make a better human being, and therefore, a better composer out of you. Life teaches you what real pain and happiness are, and these things help in creating better compositions. It works like this: if the film demands happy music the composer only has to tap into the wellspring of happy experiences from his own life to create the right ambience for that tune. I think this is more important than learning all the technical gymnastics of music.”
When he composes music, his mind needs to be in vacuum state. Perhaps that is why he prefers to compose at night. He prays, and then composes. He says music comes to him directly from God. He believes that God has helped him a lot in stabilizing himself, and has given him everything. Never one to boast or brag about his accomplishments, he credits all his inspiration and success to God.
Explaining why he does so, Rahman says, “The problem is, you can create only as long as you have the gift, only as long as the Almighty wishes. After that, even if you stand upside down.you are not likely to compose. If God wills it may happen to me too. I can take that. I believe that every individual, even an atom, can move only with the will of God. I don’t want to take the credit for doing all this. If I do, then I would fall flat. And talking about myself, the destiny has been the biggest influence in my existence. Without the will of God, how would I have reached where I am today? That’s why I believe I am like a boat in a river without a sail and a firm destination”. The skillful prodigy credits all his inspiration and success to the Almighty.The man behind the music is still much of an enigma.
“If a music artiste wants to blossom into a full-fledged person, it’s not enough if he knows only classical music; nor is it enough if he’s well-versed only in Raagas and techniques. Instead, he should be a knowledgeable person interested in life and philosophy. In his personal life there should be, at least in some corner of his heart, a tinge of lingering sorrow,” he says.
“Music is God’s gift and every note should be blessed. Otherwise music becomes noise if it is not blessed. I am influenced by Sufism, which is also connected with music. Before composing I pray and beg to God to give me something. I believe every song should have a pure soul in it to reach people.” He states.
At the age of 39, when many others are just starting out, Rahman has garnered achievements that many others cannot in a lifetime. He started out as a film music composer in 1992, and in this short span of 13 years, has changed the very face of film music in India and with touching heights that no music director ever had previously. He has built up a repertoire of scintillating scores that anybody would kill for. He has become a national icon. He is also arguably the most well known Indian composer of popular music internationally. He has successfully taken popular Indian music international. He has fans not just among expatriate Indians but also among natives of places like Brazil , Sweden and Australia . He took Tamil music global and established the universal appeal of his music, whatever the language the lyrics are in. He set the standards by which music came to be rated in India .
The benchmarks set by him were what others aimed to achieve. The soundtracks of his unsuccessful scores sold more than the successful soundtracks of the other composers. Every director of repute yearns to work with him and every actor hopes to dance to his tunes, literally.For Rahman, who eats music, thinks music, breathes music and lives music, the bottom-line is that his music should reach out to the soul of humankind. A very low profile in public life, credits all his success to the Almighty, and apart from the Almighty, to his mother- who encouraged him to take up music when his interest lay in electronics.
His maxim is that only total dedication and concentration to one’s profession can help in producing good work. Rahman is certain that this dedication must increase with fame. All this success has not uprooted him from his roots. Amidst all this heady success, Rahman still remains unchanged. He is as humble, modest, shy, silent, low profile, unassuming, self-effacing, devout and down-to-earth as he was at the beginning of his career.A man of few words he believes in letting his work do all the talking.
He prefers to save his energies for his work instead of fighting out numerous controversies. His personality is summed up in his favorite prayer which goes thus “O God, if I worship thee for fear of hell, burn me in hell, and if I worship thee in hope of Paradise , exclude me from Paradise , but if I worship thee for thy own sake, grudge me not thy everlasting beauty.” The man has given immense pleasure to millions of music lovers worldwide with his compositions, music that brings a cheer to one’s face and helps in forgetting one’s troubles. It is probably these very divine qualities that made him the great man he is today and the same will hopefully help him touch greater heights tomorrow.