Oscar success for the 'Mozart of Madras' | india | Hindustan Times
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Oscar success for the 'Mozart of Madras'

Indian composer AR Rahman's double Oscar win for Slumdog Millionaire is his highest accolade yet in a career that has taken him from provincial Indian cinema to the Hollywood red carpet.

india Updated: Feb 23, 2009 10:03 IST

Indian composer AR Rahman's double Oscar win for Slumdog Millionaire is his highest accolade yet in a career that has taken him from provincial Indian cinema to the Hollywood red carpet.

In doing so, the 43-year-old once called "the Mozart of Madras" becomes only the third Indian to be honored by the Academy, just weeks after becoming the first person from the sub-continent to win a coveted Golden Globe.

Born A.S. Dileep Kumar in the southern city of Madras (now Chennai) on January 6, 1966, Allah Rakha Rahman's father, RK Shekhar, was a musical director for movies in the Indian language of Malayalam.

The young Dileep's father died when he was nine, prompting his mother to convert from Hindu to Islam and forcing Rahman into playing music to support his family.

Rahman, who also switched faiths, went on to write jingles and scores for Indian television and eventually set up a high-tech recording studio in his home city where he still lives and works.

His break into the Hindi-language film industry of Bollywood came in 1991 when he composed the music for the movie Roja. Its box office success won him plaudits among audiences and peers.

Leading Bollywood lyricist Javed Akhtar described Rahman's composition as a "masterpiece."

Rahman has never looked back and is responsible for music on some of the biggest hits in Indian cinema in recent years and is thought to have sold more than 100 million albums.

The legendary Indian film singer Asha Bhosle once said he had "brought about a freshness, a new sound to film music."

Rahman's move onto the world stage began in 2001, when British composer Andrew Lloyd-Webber asked him to compose the music for the musical Bombay Dreams. Work on the stage version of Lord of the Rings followed.

Slumdog Millionaire brought him even wider acclaim, with its versatile soundtrack fusing hip-hop and pulsing electronica, haunting ballads, instrumentals and upbeat Bollywood-style numbers.

Hard-working Rahman, a devout Muslim who composes only at night, is not one to court the limelight, preferring instead a simple life with his wife Saira and three children and working on charitable projects.

He even missed the wild celebrations with the cast and crew at the Indian premiere of Slumdog just after the film was nominated for 10 Oscars. He was putting the finished touches to music for a new movie.

The composer's Golden Globes win, which he dedicated to India, was greeted with drums and dancing in movie-mad India. His Oscar win assures him of immortality.