Notes of a musical journey

An inspiring story of the musical journey of A.R. Rahman


Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement.

Not everyone has the courage to face a storm. While most of us give up during adverse situations, a few face the tide and take leaps forward. It is not surprising that these people go ahead and do the unimaginable. They accomplish things which often seem impossible. The musical maestro, Oscar-winning legendary musician A.R. Rahman’s story is one in a billion. He is an inspiration to millions in the world.

The early life:

Rahman was born to Kasthuri and R.K. Shekar, a popular musician of the Malyalam film industry. Originally named AS Dileep Kumar, Rahman used to accompany his father to work everyday. He started to learn to play the keyboard at an age of four.

Young Rahman with his mother

At the age of nine, Rahman lost his father. His family was forced to survive on the renting of his father’s musical instruments. In an interview with Times of India, he once said,

I lost my father when I was nine. My only distinct memories of him are confined to an ailing patient in the hospital. It was a mysterious disease that doctors failed to diagnose. In between, my mother sought refuge in spiritual healers. Unfortunately, he was not not destined to live long.

In this time of devastation, young Rahman took the responsibility of the family on his shoulders.

The beginning of the musical journey:

A picture of his early days

He started off as a small time keyboard player and was a part of the band ‘Roots’. He also became associated with a rock group ‘Nemesis’. Rahman went on to master the keyboard, harmonium, guitar and the synthesiser.

When he was 11, he started training under Master Dhanraj, and also worked in the group of Malyalam composer MK Arjunan. Despite dropping out of the school at an early age, Rahaman managed to get into the prestigious Trinity College of London on a scholarship. He accquired a degree in Western classical music.

A.S. Dileep Kumar to A.R. Rahman:

In 1988, Rahman’s sister felt ill, and soon after her recovery, his family converted to Islam. After embracing Islam, he changed his name from A.S. Dileep Kumar to Allah Rakha Rahman.

The take off to the mainstream:

The mainstream professional career of A.R. Rahman started with making of jingles for various advertisements. His first project with Allwyn Watches got him a decent name in the musical fraternity. Soon, he opened a studio of his own and grew in his career.

At an award function in 1991, Rahman crossed his way with Mani Ratnam, an ace film maker of South India. He convinced Rahman to work for his upcoming film ‘Roja'(1992). The film went on to become a massive success and Rahman’s music in it was an absolute magic. Rahman’s journey took off from here, and he never looked back.

The beginning of the era of rewards and recognition:

A.R. Rahman won a national award for the best music director for his debut movie ‘ Roja’. It was just the start of a golden journey. Awards and nominations quickly followed with almost every movie he worked upon. Soon, his music reached the international audience. His soundtrack from the movie ‘Muthu’ was the ‘Most popular foreign Soundtrack’ in Japan.


In 2008, Rahman reached the unimaginable heights with his music. He was awarded an Oscar for his music in Danny Boyle’s film Slumdog Millionaire.  He earned global fame after this movie. His consistency in composing  the magical melodies still amazes the world. Rahman has a list of awards in his name including the BAFTAs, Grammy, Golden Globe Oscar, and a plenty of national awards and Filmfares. He is also a recipient of the prestigious Padma Bhusan and the Padma Shri. He still works with various directors of Hollywood and is among the top choices of  the Indian film makers. For all the awards and recognitions that come his way, he says,

I think at every stage, all those things are important. But I think ,the love and blessings from the fans, that’s most important, and that’s what keeps you going. For an artist, inspiration and encouragement is very, very important. And what happens when you feel the love from the fans, is that you want to do more. You want to make it better and draw on all that you have learnt and go much further.

His journey of an international muscial icon is more than inspirational. It was his selfless hardwork, passion and grit that brought him accolades. He has made us proud with his work and we are truly blessed to have witnessed his magical musical journey.

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