Golden Globe icing on A.R. Rahman's career
MUMBAI (Reuters) - A.R. Rahman, who won a Golden Globe award on Sunday for best musical score with "Slumdog Millionaire", is one of India's most famous Bollywood composers and has sold nearly as many albums as Madonna.
His scores for a host of Indian language movies have fused global influences from hip-hop and rap to Broadway musicals and Indian folk music in a way that critics believe could help Bollywood music become more global.
Rahman, 43, wrote the music for the rags-to-riches romance of a Mumbai slum boy. The film also bagged three more Golden Globe honours for best drama, best director and best screenwriter.
It is the first time an Indian has won a Golden Globe for composing in a country whose rich classical traditions have inspired oeuvres of global music. Yet, Indian film music is mostly popular only with lovers of Bollywood.
"This means so much for Indian music," said Gulzar, acclaimed filmmaker and Bollywood lyricist, who wrote one of the "Slumdog" songs.
"Not just classical (Indian) music, for which you can credit Pandit Ravi Shankar and all the other musicians, but when it comes to cinema and its music, Rahman has really brought it to the global stage."
Known as the "Mozart of Madras", the reticent composer was born A.S. Dileep Kumar, a Hindu, before his family converted to Sufi Islam and gave him the name Allah Rakha Rahman.
He studied music at Oxford and wrote advertisement jingles before getting a break in 1992 for the film "Roja". The film paved the way for a career that has seen him sell around 200 million albums.
While his tunes for Hindi films such as "Bombay", "Dil Se", "Taal" and "Guru" and other Indian films redefined contemporary Indian music, global acclaim came with his score for Andrew Llyod Webber's musical "Bombay Dreams" and the theatre production for "The Lord of the Rings".
"His confluence of Indian and Western sounds is sure to go global now," said Vishal Dadlani, a Bollywood composer and a contemporary of Rahman.
"The world had to wake up to the talent that this man has. It was inevitable."
While Bollywood films are seen globally as splashy but naive, their music hardly has managed to overcome the language barrier for a foreign listener.
But in Rahman, Bollywood experts say, anyone with half an ear would not miss the vibrant, varied melody that is universal.
"To have what are essentially Indian songs and sounds in an English film speaks volumes of the confluence in Rahman's music," said Dadlani.
"When you see it in the film, it dawns that the music is neither Indian nor Western, and that I think is the key to making it global. He has managed to merge the two without losing out on the magic."
Bollywood experts hailed Rahman's Golden Globe as a watershed in Indian music history.
"There are crossover films, and awards and mentions abroad, but to win a Golden Globe is a true global honour," said Shankar Mahadevan, another top composer and singer.
"The music industry in India has not even realised how huge this honour is."
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