A.R. Rahman’s Story every struggling artist needs to know

He may seem to have it all right now but only a few know how he got through the phase of contemplating suicide everyday till the age of 25.


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Allahrakka Rahman (now 51, born as Dileep Kumar) now known professionally as A. R. Rahman, was born in Madras, India.  In his early days Rahman would assist his father R.K Shekhar, then a film-score composer and conductor for Tamil and Malayalam films, in the studio, playing the keyboard. 

After his fathers death when Rahman was 9 years old, the rental of his father’s musical equipment provided his family’s income. 

Raised by his mother Kareema, his musical journey began when he was 11 years old when he started working with several composers with whom he went on several world tours and obtained a scholarship in Music from Trinity College of London. Studying in Madras, Rahman graduated with a diploma in Western classical music from the school. Rahman was introduced to Qaadiri Tariqa when his younger sister was seriously ill in 1984. His mother was a practicing Hindu. At the age of 23, he converted to Islam with other members of his family in 1989, changing his name to Allahrakka Rahman (A. R. Rahman) 

Up until 25, I used to think about suicide. Most of us feel they are not good enough. Because I lost my father, there was this void… There were so many things happening. (But) that in a way made me more fearless. Death is a permanent thing for everyone. Since everything created has an expiry date, so why be afraid of anything?”

                        – Rahman

“I finished everything between the age of 12 to 22. It was boring for me to do all the normal stuff. I didn’t want to do it” he said. In his 20s, before he made his debut as a composer with Mani Ratnam’s Roja (1992), Rahman along with his family embraced Sufi Islam.

Rahman never liked his name. He never even knew why he hated it. He reinvented himself by letting go not only of the baggage from his past, but also his birth name – Dileep Kumar.

You manifest who you are and let it out. So when you are ideating on your mental drawing book, you need a lot of self-analysis and you have to dive deep within you. You need to listen to yourself. It’s hard to listen to your inner side. But once you do, you have to let lose and forget yourself,” he added

It was for this reason, Rahman said, that he works only during late nights or early  mornings. He continued his work for the screen, scoring films for Bollywood and, increasingly, Hollywood. His true breakthrough to Western audiences came with the rags-to-riches saga Slumdog Millionaire (2008). 

The 2000, Padma Shri winner and the 2008 Padma Bhushan winner has won way too many awards in singing and is now recognised as one of the best singers globally. Success didnt come easy to him, however, he never stopped believing in his dreams and made it to the top. He proves to be a true inspiritation for the young minds of this generation that are hesitant in pursuing their dreams becuase of the obstacles lying in their way. Rahman is a living example that you can achieve what you believe in no matter what the odds.


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