He is not only a trendsetter but a path breaker. His music gave a new definition to Bollywood and, in recent years, he’s had a big hand at putting Indian cinema and its glory on the international stage. AR Rahman, as a person, remains as humble as when he first started composing music. Today, as the legendary composer celebrates his birthday, BizAsia is taking a look back at some of the most popular albums he has given to Bollywood including tunes we are still humming and tapping our feet to even today. They are in no particular order and the list is in no way resembling the full depth of Rahman’s talents but merely a drop in the ocean of his unbelievable and celebrated talent in music.
Although a Tamil movie, the soundtrack of ‘Roja’ was what defined Rahman’s unmatchable talents. Having been composed and then re-worked for a Hindi album, the music of ‘Roja’ was extremely popular and soulful. There is no doubt that his teaming up with the Mani Ratman style of cinema did wonders and this was the first outing of their team-up which started it all.
In Ratnam’s second offering with a political backdrop and, once again, for Tamil cinema, Rahman’s compositions did wonders. It was dubbed in Hindi and received much acclaim in India and also on an international platform. Whether it be the magic of Kehna Hi Kya, the soothing and yearning of Tu Hi Re or the catchy Humma Humma, Rahman’s amazing talents were showcased and achieved almost unfathomable success.
‘Rangeela’, starring Aamir Khan, Jackie Shroff and Urmila Matondkar, was Rahman’s debut in Indian cinema as a music composer. The soundtrack saw the return of Asha Bhosle who sang Tanha Tanha and also the title track Rangeela Re. The album saw much success and was hugely popular at the time of release.
‘Dil Se…’ (1998)
‘Dil Se…’ completed Ratnam’s trilogy of movies with politics as the background. His unforgettable compositions for the album include Chaiyya Chaiyya and Jiya Jale. Chaiyya Chaiyya also went on to feature in many English and Hollywood productions. Some said, at the time, that the soundtrack featured some of Rahman’s best ever work.
Marking the beginning of yet another collaboration – this time with Subhash Ghai – Rahman’s music got commercial as well as critical acclaim for the soundtrack of ‘Taal’. The soulful tracks right from Ishq Bina right through to Taal Se Taal were one better than the other. Ghai’s confidence was heightened with Rahman’s presence as music director and he has gone on record to say that that is why he named the film ‘Taal’. No doubt the beautiful Aishwarya Rai Bachchan also added to the songs’ beauty.
‘Lagaan’ gives yet another brilliantly composed soundtrack which perfectly compliments the film’s moving storyline. Encapturing the emotions of the plot as well as creating apt situational musical moments, Rahman shows that Bollywood’s songs weren’t there purely for entertainment. The songs were composed as if made from Indian soil and this is only Rahman’s unmatchable magic.
The album of ‘Saathiya’ was mostly taken from a Tamil soundtrack by Rahman. It won many awards and helped the film gain popularity. Who can forget the beautiful lyrics and voice of Sonu Nigam in the title track? The other songs were also very true to Rahman’s style and gave the film the much-needed push it required.
‘Rang De Basanti’ (2006)
With integral and refreshing Punjabi influences, Rahman composed the hugely successful and cult soundtrack of ‘Rang De Basanti’. However, his incorporation if contemporary sound coupled with the traditional is what gave this album its USP and was representative of the youth culture portrayed in its storyline. Although each song is very different from the other, the album comes together as one beautifully.
Once again, Rahman teamed up with Mani Ratnam for ‘Guru’ which starred Abhishek and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan. The soundtrack was and still remains very popular and, once again, compliments the story in a way on Rahman’s music can do. The much loved Tere Bina which was sung by him too went on to see much love because of the engagement of the two leads during the premiere.
‘Jodhaa Akbar’ (2008)
Rahman collaborated with Ashutosh Gowariker for the third time in his career and it resulted in a much acclaimed soundtrack. Once again his unbelievably heart-touching and soulful melodies depicted everything the story needed and almost lifted the aura of the film to a level which would not have been achieved otherwise. Rahman composed another album which, when put together, was simply mesmerising.
‘Slumdog Millionaire’ (2008)
Although clearly not belonging to the Bollywood genre, this one had to be included because it is the album that won Rahman so many international awards. In a self-confessed fusion attempt between a traditional and modern-day India, Rahman very firmly put Indian music and his talents on the map with Jai Ho and the other songs in the soundtrack.
The album of ‘Rockstar’ is perhaps one of the ones that stand-out the most in recent times in Indian cinema as a whole. Rahman stayed away from his Sufi-esque inspirations to create a sound not explored so much before in Bollywood. Whether it be the youth anthem Sadda Haq or the soul-touching qawwali Kun Faaya Kun, Rahman once again outdid himself. Choosing Mohit Chauhan to give his melodies life, the album was indeed one of the film’s most treasured parts.
‘Jab Tak Hai Jaan’ (2012)
Rahman came together with the late Yash Chopra for the first and last time with ‘Jab Tak Hai Jaan’. Although the two can be described as a chalk and cheese duo, their togetherness wasn’t readily accepted by the masses very early on. However, with the sad demise of Chopra and Rahman’s compositions slowly striking a chord, ‘Jab Tak Hai Jaan’ has to be a part of the list because of the sheer popularity the soundtrack gained upto and after the film’s release. Whereas an Ishq Shavaand Heer have the Rahman stamp all over them, Saans is perhaps a little hatke. Rahman created a fresh take on his own music yet again.
On his birthday, BizAsia would like to extend a huge thanks to Rahman for giving us such wonderful music in the years he has been composing and still remaining true to himself and his talent. He may well be a man of few words but he sure gives music that resonates. Happy birthday to the legendary AR Rahman!