I am a singer, songwriter, composer, record producer, music director, arranger, and conductor. I'm a Indian composer: I did the music for Slumdog Millionaire, 127 Hours, and my latest soundtrack is for Million Dollar Arm. My upcoming projects include The Hundred-Foot Journey, being released this August.

I am here with Victoria from reddit to take your questions, ask me anything.

Well thank you for being here with me. I hope you enjoy the music of Million Dollar Arm, and ella pughazhum iraivanukke.


Comments: 500 • Responses: 43  • Date: 

Myrat88mph293 karma

No questions. I just want to say your song 'Mumbai Theme Tune' from 'Bombay' is very popular in Turkey. That song is my life's music. Thanks for Mumbai Theme Tune, sir.

ARRahman184 karma

Thank you! I am so honored!

i_am_not_sam161 karma

Hello sir, thank you for doing the AMA. Regards from /r/india :)

Do you have special time of the day when you feel more creative? And/or a certain place?

Will the Indian audience see anything to the scale of Bombay Dreams, but completely homegrown anytime soon?

edit: For our friends across the world, the /r/India mods have put together a primer thread about AR Rehman here including a sampling of the great variety of music over the years.

ARRahman130 karma

Actually, in the starting years, I used to work a lot at night. The first 10-15 years. Then once the traveling started, 16 hours of travel, 10 hours of travel, mostly it depends on my jet lag and my body clock. Mostly in my studio, where that is, I go in alone and kind of meditate and do something.

It's very very new, I think after opening my music conservatory, that talent which I witness every year and the performance on the annual day is stunning. Every time I have said that I feel like the music is so, so new. And when it is going to happen, it could happen next year, it could happen 3 years from now. And witnessing that, they have been performing a lot of scenes from famous musicals for the past 4 years and it is fairly early in the process.

iMoh146 karma

Avid fan here, just a simple question...

What does A. R. Rahman listen to everyday?

ARRahman223 karma

Good question. I mostly listen to classical music. Because I think it is very refreshing, classical music always has tonality and depth and you get refreshed listening to it. So much not pop. Maybe in the car when I travel, I listen to pop music on the radio.

Frajer121 karma

Did you anticipate Jai Ho's success at all?

ARRahman157 karma

No! Haha. Not at all. I think sometimes you just do stuff, honestly, and the rest is taken care of I guess. But we did really really work hard to make it to the schedule and the pressure to finish it all so quickly. So we didn't think about all this.

Rahmaniac00196 karma

Hello Rahman Sir, Hans Zimmer thanked you on the soundtrack CD of "The Dark Knight Rises" What was your work on it ? Any future collaboration with him ? :)

ARRahman137 karma

No, he did express that he was open to collaboration. I am still trying to find time to meet him in person. One day I must meet him for coffee. He is a great friend.

Iama91482 karma

Hello Mr. Rahman. I am an ardent fan of your work and was wondering who was your inspiration for getting into this business. Thank you!

ARRahman110 karma

My father. I think my father was such an ideal to me, and I had to live up to his legacy. Not only as a musician but as a human being and he had so much respect from people. When he passed away, that was a very high thing to keep up with.

sunnydelish57 karma

Hello, I've been a fan since I was a child. Movies like rangeela and roja formed the sound track to my teenage life. Your International work has been exemplary and I'm glad you've won two oscars!

Few questions:

How closely do you work with the movie director while scoring the soundtrack? What is your creative process like?

Is it true that you work best at night and do most of the composing and recording after midnight?

Thank you for doing this AMA, and please stop by /r/India sometime!

EDIT: For our friends across the world, the /r/India mods have put together a primer thread about AR Rehman here.

ARRahman75 karma

Mostly I work on multiple projects, because of the way movies are done in India, where we do 2 songs, they go for shooting, then we do another movie's two songs, and then they go for shooting, it's cyclic, and then it comes together in the end. So the director of a movie has their undivided attention on the project, so I respect their vision a lot, so we have a lot of discussions, a lot of energy is given to the director. He is mirroring the vision, for me he is the mirror of the people's taste and what he does is trusted. So sometimes he takes things along beautifully, but there are always creative risks we all take. Sometimes there are projects where a director will say what goes on the recording.

In the 90s I used to work at night. Yes, I will stop by /r/India to say hello!

sunnydelish28 karma

Thank you so much for the reply.

I heard that your studio in LA was vandalised yesterday, I hope everyone is okay, and the damage is just to property. Please be safe.

We, the mods of /r/India also put together an AR Rehman Primer thread, highlighting some of the awesome music you have scored.

ARRahman37 karma

Oh thank you. I think it is some kids who were trying to be smart. But it is worrying. We have just been getting the security services to look after it. Thank you for your concern.

wootshire40 karma

First of all, thanks for making the music of my childhood. My dad can peg every moment in his childhood to a M. S. Vishwanathan composition, and I can do the same for your music as well.

Two questions:

1) What do you think it will take to release the score (background music) to an Indian movie? With the exception of a few of your Indian releases (most notably, Bose), soundtracks are largely just the original songs composed for the movie. Do you think this is an issue of a lack of audience, and economic issue, or just laziness on the part of music labels?

2) You've composed a number of songs with a heavy Indian classical base. Do you have a favorite raga that you tend to favor or do compose to fit the situation?

Thanks again (and thanks for using 'Thirakkadha Kaattukkulle' and sharing that fantastic song to a wider audience through 'Million Dollar Arm')!

ARRahman47 karma

1) The reason for that was at least until the last decade was piracy. If they released that, they would use it without crediting on TV serials and many other things. But right now, the way we produce soundtracks is high quality and very expensive, so I think it could all be released and we are trying to do our best to release as many soundtracks as possible in the future.

2) I normally compose the situation. And there are amazing amounts of ragas, very few people master the way to make it as melodic as possible for a particular situation. Because now of the whole generation change and how most of the movies are catered to the youth audience, it's becoming more difficult to even attempt doing the more unusual ragas. This is one of the reasons I started my own movie company for the future, we want to be as close, doing more music-oriented things, going to the depths of music in a very entertaining way.

EmKay1839 karma

Hello ARR.

First of all, I saw the movie Million Dollar Arm yesterday and loved it absolutely. Being an Indian, this was an inspirational movie for me and will go into my all time favorites. Thanks for the score - so peppy and fitting the story. Was so proud to hear the old Tamil track play at the end in the theatre. I stood all the while till the song lasted, cos I thought it was disgraceful to walk out while it was playing. Only I was there at the end in the theatre.

Three questions to you if I may.

  1. I heard your place in LA was vandalized (I'm in LA too). Hope things are ok now. Any details?
  2. Why do you repeat first two words in most of your hits? (Ex: Urvashi Urvashi, Chaiyya Chaiyya etc?) What is the name of this type of pattern called if any?
  3. I wish I could hear all your songs in studio quality. Online streaming CDs are just not doing justice to your songs I feel. Is there a way I can buy studio quality songs so I can play it on my Bose 5.1 home theater at home? (Especially old songs)

I love you. You are truly an inspiration for me. First the quality of your work. Every song of yours is like a painting. I study its texture and colors even though I don't have any base in music, apart form listening a lot. Second, the part where you stay humble even at the heights of success. I wish I can also one day succeed like you and stay humble and respectful for every other living being in this world.

God bless - Lots of love and prayers.

எல்லா புகழும் இரவைனுக்கே. (All praise to the God almighty!)

ARRahman39 karma

1) It's all okay, Just some kid trying to do a graffiti on my inner wall. And it's all okay now, thanks for your concern.

2) In some of the songs I do that because we all have a child within us, and it evokes that. And some of the songs are lyrical and they don't need that thing, but when you want a peppy song, if you do a search, most of the songs have it repeated again and again, until it gets really annoying.

3) We are trying to have most of the songs remastered and put into iTunes mastering. It is a work in progress, we don't know when it will go out.

Thank you. God bless you too.

ilovearr132 karma


Got to watch Million Dollar Arm recently, great film and great soundtrack. Loved the 'We could be Kings' track, is that your Nusrat saab influence in all it's glory? (I bet I heard him somewhere in the track!)

ARRahman35 karma

Yes, I think so! It was done in such a hurry, they had something else there and it had to be that energetic, so I think I took that kind of root, I guess, which matched very well.

andypandy34232 karma

Are you a vanilla or chocolate ice cream fan?

ARRahman56 karma

Ha ha! Actually I am not a fan of chocolate. Somebody taught me that we have acidity, and because of my unusual sleeping hours I get more acidity, and vanilla kind of heals it immediately. It's a strange coincidence. So it kind of heals the acidic when you have strange working hours and sleeping hours. So vanilla.

smallJacket31 karma

Hi AR! Huge fan. Hoping to catch you in concert on the west coast soon. My question is - in your opinion, what is your best work since Roja?

ARRahman60 karma

I don't have any opinions at all. You work very hard on soundtracks and sometimes it falls into place and the whole team is excited and it is a great thing, sometimes it's okay, but we put the same amount of passion in every movie. I am not in the judging mode yet, I am just carrying on my journey.

Huntorbehunted27 karma

Thank you for doing this AMA! As an avid listener of music I wanted to know which headphones do you prefer currently?

ARRahman40 karma

Right now I am using AKG headphones which have been given to me by Harmon kindly. And JBL headphones.

devil2king25 karma

Would ever work with Pharrell Williams? That would possibly be the best thing in the world!

ARRahman38 karma

We got very close to working for Million Dollar Arm, but I think what happened is Pharrell was doing his promotions for the pre-Oscar thing and the director preferred more rappers than musician-like fellows. So unfortunately even though we had a great meeting, and I tweeted the picture too, we are mutual admirers and we played together with Hans Zimmer a few years back. But maybe someday.

rackgen25 karma

Hello Rahman, Vanakkam. Hongkong-il irundhu oru Tamilan! (Hello Rahman, good day. Question from a Tamilian in HK)

How do you create more magic with ManiRatnam vs others?

There is some criticism that you rehash / copy your old tunes.. would you be happy to help understand?

Do you still have people threaten you for the "Bombay" movie music ?

You introduce new singers almost every film... that is a great gesture.

Nandri! (thanks)

ARRahman46 karma

Mani Ratnam is my mentor. When I work with him, it is beyond money, so we try to communicate in another plane totally. And it's unfortunate that some of his movies don't do well, but he is creative a genius and I respect him a lot.

I re-use some of the songs. In the west, it is a natural habit, because most of the songs are done in another time. I am proud of my work, and sometimes I re-use it.

No. Nandri!

goreadandlearn24 karma

Are there any western musicals pieces that have shaped your musical talent?

ARRahman52 karma

Interestingly, yes, but strangely when I started my movie soundtracks, what it taught me was to put my passion and perfection in things, and i would say I was really awestruck by Freddy Mercury, Queen, Peter Gabriel, Michael Jackson, and the classical masters like Beethoven, Mozart, Bach, those were all great influences. All these things, in a way, they shaped my musicality. And Hindustani music, singles, and Bade Ghulam Ali Khan.

__ks__23 karma

AR: Namaskaram Sir! For someone that's been following every bit of music to come out of your studio since Roja, it is an honor to be able to talk to you today.

I kinda view your sound as belonging to three different phases - The Panchathan analog sound, digital and the AM sound. I'm a big fan of your digital Panchathan sound (Iruvar, Kandukondein, Alaipayuthey, Pukar, etc.) that emphasized the high end quite a bit and yet, I thought, didn't go over the top for the most part; Which you since seem to have moved away from.

Could you tell us what your digital setup in Panchathan used to be? From videos of your interviews it looks like a Mackie D8B and Logic 7? but what was the complete signal chain? What Microphone, mic pres, converters, Mixer, DAW and Outboard gear did you use to engineer those records?

Also, during those days, what was your mastering workflow? Was it done in Logic too?

ARRahman39 karma

OK, the very beginning of my career, Roja, was done on a Frostex 16 track with an 18 channel mixer. And then for Boys, I used a Euphonix recorder, System 5 with ProTools hardware. And right now, we are using Manley compression with Logic and ProTools HDX.

Beowoof22 karma

Thanks for doing this AMA! What is your process when you go about creating a new film score?

Also, who are some artists that you look up to and have learned from?

ARRahman43 karma

My process of creating a song is actually multiple things. If I am writing for a movie, it depends on the character and what kind of background it is set, and what they are are wishing to convey, I want to take an approach that is exciting. And some of the artist, I am actually working with a lot of exciting artists. Some of the collaborations are confidential, and some of them I have already done on Million Dollar Arm, I worked with a lot the upcoming new talent from America. In India, I still keep looking up to Lata Mangeshkar, and there are just so many. And sometimes you feel so humbled when you look at the world of great artists.

PlsDontBraidMyBeard20 karma

I'm a big fan of your contribution to Bollywood. Thank you so much for sharing your talent with the world.

Question: How do you feel about the fact that the respective movie industries(Bollywood, Tollywood, etc) seem to be the default source of music in our country? There aren't many successful pop artists who create albums anymore. Do you see this trend returning?

ARRahman26 karma

It's already returning in a way, actually, in different forms. For Coke studio, people are creating things that bridge cultures and make musicians perform their own songs. The trend is already changing, and songs from Coke studio and some of the MTV programs are becoming very popular. So that's a good sign. I am sure that it is going to go further.

i_n19 karma

What do people close to you call you? Any nicknames?

ARRahman28 karma

I don't like any nicknames. People just call me A.R. My mom calls me Rahman. My wife calls me A.R. So it depends, I guess.

Chattery18 karma

Hello Mr Rahman! I have a couple of questions!

1) What do you think the reception of Kochadaiiyaan will be like worldwide? 2) Do you have a certain genre you prefer to score (romance, comedy, action etc)?

Not much of a question but I'm waiting for the gold disc edition of the Kochadaiiyaan soundtrack, really excited for it! All the best for that film and your films in the future!

ARRahman22 karma

Well, that's an interesting question. Since I've been there from the beginning of the process, I think it's a good idea to have the character and animation thing. Though the budgets of this is not 1/10 of what Hollywood spends, I still feel it has a lot of good things that people are going to enjoy, amazingly. I think (mostly because of the high expectations of music) I naturally tend towards more music-dominated movies, so people get more bang for the buck, so I take it as a a platform to challenge myself most of the time. So for me it's all about love songs, and dances, it's entertainment. But in the west I am also doing some interesting movies, which you guys will know very soon.

axyjo16 karma

Huge fan here. What's your typical day like? Do you draw most of your inspiration from within your studio? Also, what's your favorite food?

ARRahman28 karma

I think the more I live my life, I feel so blessed to be in music and not in anything else, because if you work, and the work is pleasure, and you are giving pleasure to the listeners, and that is the inspiration that we are in something good. And so how do you make it greater is only the challenge, how do you fight the fatigue and complacency and those kind of things. And inspiration comes from, initially when you write, you are challenged to write for a scene or a song, but it becomes a larger perspective where I do projects which have a kind of undertone of trying to say what i am saying in a scene. Right now i am just enjoying my life doing work in Hollywood and back in India, taking it easy. My favorite? I think after 40, food becomes like a burden. I am not into the spiciest food I used to have before, I've toned it down a lot. I have sometimes vegetarian, sometimes fish, sometimes home-cooked food.

simpat1zq16 karma

My wife's a huge fan of yours. Who would you consider your most promising up and coming artist from India that most people haven't heard of?

ARRahman31 karma

Oh there are SO many people. India is just buzzing with amazing, amazing talent. I am working with a guy called Hriday Gattani, we worked with the Nooran sisters, and they are amazing, and then another guy from Tamil Nadu, Adi. Most of them are in the soundtrack for i. They will release it all very soon.

ishyherts15 karma

Hello Rahman sir! This question in on every fans' behalf. Can you please re-produce some of your old songs as an album? When we hear these songs unplugged and sung, performed by others on reality shows, it makes us yearn 'What if Rahman sir re-made these?'. It will enable you to show how much has changed in the way you composed those songs then and how you would now? Try a test run and you will see the reception as overwhelming (as always) p.s. I love the song Khalifa so much now!!!

ARRahman23 karma

Oh thank you! It's very flattering when you have the younger generation embrace your songs. So it's not a bad thing, it's a good thing. When I see some of those young people perform, they also take it further in the way they perform it. So me performing the old songs could only be in a concert, because I want to move on and do new things, maybe someday I might have a concert version of my songs going on. You never know.

jonemillard14 karma

Do you have any memorable moments while working on Slumdog Millionaire?

ARRahman26 karma

Yes. There are so many actually. It was all under pressure, good and bad. The good moments, I had a holiday when I was working on Slumdog, when I was working all my family was there, I would work 9-5 and then evenings would be going out to the park, so it was more like a holiday scoring for me. And the bad memories were actually mixing the soundtrack, my sound engineer passed away at the end after giving the masters, he had a heart attack. So that was a bad experience.

amdavad14 karma

Mr Rahman, Thank you for your awesome music, Especially from Saathiya. I wanted to ask you, What do you wish you knew when you started your career?

ARRahman21 karma

When I started my career, I was under no ambition to succeed as a composer. I thought I would do one movie and disappear. I did not think I had enough to sustain for so many years as a composer. But I think life is all about evolving oneself and growing and evoking and discovering, and that is what I have discovered over the course of life.

frightenedinmate_213 karma

Vanakkam ARR! I'm a huge fan of your work especially with Mani Ratnam. Could you describe what was it like in the early 90s when you started composing a few jingles for advertisement companies and eventually, Roja?

ARRahman15 karma

I think that's the most fascinating time, when you discover things which are so new to you but most the exciting time of your life. I would say it is almost like first love.

Bartimus_Prine13 karma

If you could redo the score to any classic film, which film would it be and why?

ARRahman22 karma

No plans like that! But it may happen, you may never know. I respect people's work a lot, so I feel people would get offended if somebody else started tampering with their work. So I will refrain.

_Master_Chief_13 karma

Wow I'm a huge fan of dil se, the song in it was amazing until this day. What was it like working with actors like SRK? wad there a bond after the movie?

ARRahman18 karma

No, I usually never meet the actors, since I stay in South India and I only met them during the music release, but he really loved the music and expressed the music. Mostly I don't get to see the actors or anything, except in very rare situations, except in rare situations like Amil producing Lagaan, when I got to go to Chennai and work on the music.

EmKay1813 karma

Also, ARR, Which are the most used music related apps on your phone/tab right now?

ARRahman18 karma

I use iTablaPro. I use the normal voice memo. And that's it.

hariharihari13 karma

First, I'd like to say thank you for all of your amazing compositions. As far as I am concerned, you are one of the greatest composers of our time. As an NRI, your music has definitely helped me get in touch with my roots.

My question is - do you think your productions have been more influenced by South Indian culture, or North Indian culture? Or Both?

ARRahman21 karma

For me I don't have a border for anything. I create India as a whole being, a whole entity. I think that's why, the lines keep blurring for me always. If the music is interesting, I think people don't even mind it, it's something exciting for them to listen to. Music has to stand on its own merit, not whether it is North or South. Many things have surprised me, i was fearing back in the day when a Hindi audience would do when I did a Malayalam chant. I think that sometimes music surpasses all the borders, people feel the language that it's giving.

ilovearr113 karma

Tell us the most interesting titbit of a song, that we haven't heard anywhere before, of a song you produced!

ARRahman26 karma

There are many stories like this. Actually most of the song ideas come so instantly you don't even think twice, are the best songs. The ones you try hard it always shows, and sometimes these - in the car I will have an idea, come back to the studio and flesh it out, or on a flight i will go in a catering area and sing on the phone secretly so not to wake everybody up, sometimes when I am walking that happens. Ideas keep coming at vague times actually. And it's become so handy to have a phone that has everything in it. It's much easier to be spontaneously capturing things, unlike before when you had to have a huge tape cassette recorder.

ulti_khopdi11 karma

A R Rahman, Sir! Big time fan here from India!

Always wanted to know about your work ethic. What makes you produce excellence after excellence persistently?

ARRahman14 karma

I think that's the only form I can do. You cannot do less, because people have placed such amazing respect. And I take that very seriously. It makes me and my team work really hard, as much as we can, considering all the limitations of time and other things. And thank you for your compliment.

idip11 karma

Avid fan here. Just one question...

Which of the contemporary music directors' works do you enjoy?

ARRahman21 karma

There are many now, actually. I do like some of Preetam Mithun's work, and a new composer named Santhosh Narayanan.

ididntsignup4this10 karma


Just one question, do you dance? :)

ARRahman35 karma

No! Thank god!

arrfan39 karma

Do you still hold the recordings of every song you've done since 1992? I want to be in that storeroom :D

ARRahman10 karma

Funny! Yes, we have most of the recording tapes I guess. Most of them. We might have lost something, because I think when we did the first few movies we didn't have money to buy new tapes, so I had to erase the old tapes to make new masters.

ZephyrusWP8 karma

Hey, love all your music. Appreciate your doing this AMA. Got a question here though.

What is the best piece of advice you can give to young aspiring musicians- whether as professional musicians or composers or what have you- but are afraid that it won't work out in the end? Or to better put it, what's the best thing to keep in mind when pursuing a musical career?

ARRahman17 karma

Oh, I think the key factor is to be really original. And you have the warmth of emotion embedded in your character for music. Music is all about transporting people, speaking a language which languages fail to express. So when you do that, do the reality check, you can do it if you put your energy in it, don't expect to do it in a day, it is a field you have to plant in your heart for it to really blossom into this extraordinary character which you define to achieve since the very beginning. As simple as that.

mitwa19877 karma

So humbled to see you here! What music moves you the most?

Best wishes from a very awed fun!

ARRahman10 karma

Music is like a banyan for me. It is not one aspect which moves. Many different forms of music have a very different character. You can't say one kind of music is superior. I take from each music. Suppose you have a choir it has its own charm, classical music has its own charm, folk music has its own charm. Me being me, I am so open and I think I derive inspiration for all kinds of music and have respect for all musicians.

ulti_khopdi7 karma

What's your very best advice for life?

ARRahman29 karma

I'm just waiting for somebody to give that to me!

sk4di7 karma


Hangout places (in Mumbai) when you were not famous yet?

And your favourite food(s)?!

Thank you for doing the AMA!

ARRahman17 karma

I never had the time to hang out. But the first memory of me in Mumbai was in the Sun and Fans Hotel, and then the President Hotel, and of course, the famous landmark, the Haji Ali Dargah.

idip6 karma

I recently heard your song Jagao Mera Desh on MTV Coke Studio. I truly enjoy the sound of each instrument in the music you create. Some of my favorite works by you are tracks from Rangeela, Roja, Bombay and Taal. It's an honour being able to listen to the timeless music that you've given us. Thank you, sir!

ARRahman7 karma

Thank you!

victoire_3 karma

Salaam Rahman-ji, thank you for making music for the heart and soul.

1) What does music mean to you?

2) Which album of yours do you hold closest to your heart?

3) What are some of your favorite songs?

ARRahman13 karma

1) Oh my god. Music is everything to me.

2) Oh my god! It's hard to choose.

3) My favorite songs... my favorites keep changing every week.