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AR Rahman Biography: Birth, Age, Real Name, Family, Education, Career, Religion, Net Worth, Oscars, and More

AR Rahman Biography

AR Rahman Biography: AR Rahman is an Indian composer, singer, songwriter, music producer, musician, multi-instrumentalist, and philanthropist. As the Mozart of Madras turned 55 today, we take a look at his life. 

AR Rahman Biography

Birth6 January 1967
Real NameAS Dileep Kumar
Full NameAllah Rakha Rahman (A.R. Rahman)
Age55 years
ReligionIslam (converted from Hinduism in his early 20s)
FamilyMusician RK Shekhar (Father)Kareema Begum (Mother, born as Kashturi)
EducationPadma Seshadri Bala BhavanMadras Christian College, ChennaiMadras Christian College Higher Secondary SchoolTrinity College of Music, Oxford University, UK
WifeSaira Banu
ChildrenKhateeja Rahman (daughter)Rahima Rahman (daughter)A.R. Ameen (son)
Net Worth$24 million USD
AwardsPadma ShriPadma Bhushan2 OscarsNational Awards

AR Rahman Biography: Birth, Age, Real Name, Family, and Education

When Rahman was nine, his father passed away. Rahman who was then studying in Padma Seshadri Bala Bhavan started working to support his family. Furthermore, the family rented out his father’s musical instruments to earn a living. As Rahman was working hard to make the ends meet, he failed the exams. Mrs. YGP, the then principal of the school summoned his mother and told her to take him to the streets of  Kodambakkam to beg and not to send him to the school anymore.

Post this incident, Rahman attended MCN for a year and then Madras Christian College Higher Secondary School. However, Rahman dropped out of school with the permission of his mother to pursue a career in music. He later earned a scholarship from Trinity College London to the Trinity College of Music and graduated with a diploma in Western classical music from the music school in Madras. 

Rahman is a practicing Muslim who converted from Hinduism in his 20s along with his family and changed his name to Allah Rakha Rahman (A.R. Rahman) from AS Dileep Kumar. 

AR Rahman Wife and Children

AR Rahman married Saira Banu in 1995 and the couple gave birth to three children– Khateeja Rahman (daughter), Rahima Rahman (daughter), and A.R. Ameen (son). 

AR Rahman Religion

After the untimely death of his father, the family went through difficult times. AR Rahman who was a practicing Hindu converted to Islam in his 20s along with his family. 

Sufism attracted the family and before the release of Rahman’s first major project, Roja, the family converted to Islam. His mother Kareema Begum even insisted on changing Rahman’s name in the film’s credits at the last minute and was very particular about it. She would’ve rather not had his name appear at all, than not have his new name appear on the credits.

A lot of people ask AR Rahman if they can become successful after converting to Islam but he prefers to keep quiet. He once said, “It’s not about converting to Islam, it’s about finding the spot and seeing whether it presses the button in you. The spiritual teachers, the Sufi teachers, taught me and my mom things that are very, very special. There are special things in every faith, and this is the one we chose. And we stand by it.”

AR Rahman Music Career

At the age of nine, AR Rahman accidentally played a tune on the piano when he was with his father in the studio, which was later developed by R.K. Shekhar into a complete song. 

Initially, Rahman was trained under Master Dhanraj, and at the age of 11, he started playing the orchestra of M.K. Arjunan who was a Malayalam music composer and his father’s close friend. Soon after this, he began working with several composers including M. S. Viswanathan, Vijaya Bhaskar, Ilaiyaraaja, Ramesh Naidu, Vijay Anand, Hamsalekha, and Raj–Koti. 

Initially, AR Rahman composed scores for documentaries and jingles for TV ads and got the much-awaited break in 1992 when director Mani Ratnam approached him to compose the score and soundtrack for Roja, a Tamil film. He was later signed by Cinematographer Santosh Sivan for Yoddha, a Malayalam film. 

The following year, AR Rahman won his first National Award for the best music director for Roja. He followed this with successful scores and songs for Tamil Cinema. Rahman later collaborated with director Bharathiraaja and successfully produced songs for Tamil rural folk-inspired films. 

He attracted a Japanese audience with the Tamil film Muthu. His soundtracks started gaining recognition at the International level too as they were a combination of Western classical music, Carnatic and Tamil traditional and folk-music traditions, jazz, reggae, and rock music.

His soundtrack album for Minsaara Kanavu, the Chennai production, won him his second National Film Award for Best Music Direction and a South Filmfare Award for Best Music Direction in a Tamil film in 1997. He has won six South Filmfare Awards for Best Music Direction. 

He went on working with Indian poets and lyricists such as Javed Akhtar, Gulzar, Vairamuthu, and Vaali, and has produced commercially successful soundtracks with directors Mani Ratnam and S. Shankar. 

In 2005, AR Rahman expanded his Panchathan Record Inn studio, a recording and mixing studio that he started in his backyard in 1992. In 2006, he launched his own music label, KM Music. 

He scored for the Mandarin-language film Warriors of Heaven and Earth in 2003, and co-scored with Shekhar Kapur for the British film, Elizabeth: The Golden Age, in 2007. 

His first Hollywood film score was that for 2009 comedy, Couples Retreat. He won the BMI London Award for Best Score. The turning point in his life came when he composed music for the 2008 British film, Slumdog Millionaire, winning two Oscars. The songs “Jai Ho” and “O… Saya” from its soundtrack were an international hit.

By the end of 2012, Rahman’s music for Mani Ratnam’s Kadal topped the iTunes India chart for December. 

His background scores are a combination of subtle orchestration and ambient sounds. Some of the films which fetched him an appreciation for background scores include Roja, Bombay, Iruvar, Minsara Kanavu, Dil Se.., Taal, Lagaan, The Legend of Bhagat Singh, Swades, Rang De Basanti, Bose: The Forgotten Hero, Guru, Jodhaa Akbar, Raavanan, Vinnaithaandi Varuvaayaa, Rockstar, Enthiran, Kadal, Kochadaiiyaan, and I.

A. R. Rahman received two Academy Awards for Slumdog Millionaire and two Academy Award nominations for 127 Hours. In 2018, Rahman received his third National Award for the background score of Mom.

AR Rahman Non-film Projects

Along with composing songs and scores for films and documentaries in various languages, Rahman has also been involved in non-film projects. 

In 1997, on the occasion of India’s 50th Independence Day, Rahman released his album Vande Mataram. It is Sony Music India’s largest-selling non-film album to date.

In 1999, AR Rahman partnered with choreographers Shobana and Prabhu Deva and a Tamil film-dancing troupe to perform with Michael Jackson at his Michael Jackson and Friends concert in Munich, Germany. 

In 2002, he composed the music for his first stage production, Bombay Dreams. The music was commissioned by Andrew Lloyd Webber.

Rahman also collaborated with the Finnish folk music band  Värttinä for the Toronto production of The Lord of the Rings. 

Since 2004, Rahman has performed before audiences in Singapore, Australia, Malaysia, Dubai, the United Kingdom, Canada, the United States, and India.

On 24 November 2009, AR Rahman performed at a White House state dinner arranged by US President Barack Obama during an official visit by the then Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. 

In 2010, he composed “Jai Jai Garvi Gujarat” on the 50th anniversary of the formation of Gujarat State. He also composed “Semmozhiyaana Thamizh Mozhiyaam” as part of the World Classical Tamil Conference 2010.

He even composed the theme song, Jiyo Utho Bado Jeeto, for the 2010 Commonwealth Games. 

In 2012, Rahman composed a Punjabi song for the London Olympics opening ceremony, directed by Danny Boyle. The song was a part of a medley showcasing Indian influence in the UK.

The same year, he along with Shekhar Kapoor launched Qyuki, a networking site that is a platform for story writers to exchange their thoughts. 

In 2017, he released a 19-minute orchestral composition The Flying Lotus. It features demonetization and includes Narendra Modi’s speech. 

The following year, he appeared as the host in the 5-episode series of Amazon Prime Video titled “Harmony”. The same year, he launched India’s first YouTube Original, ARRived. The series with 13 episodes aimed to find the best singing talent from across the country. Rahman is accompanied by Shaan, Vidya Vox, and Clinton Cerejo as the judges.

On 16 January 2019, Maruti Suzuki India Limited launched NEXA Music. 24 artists were picked and mentored by Rahman and Clinton Cerejo to create international music in India. 

He collaborated with the Irish rock band to release a single, Ahimsa, in December 2019. The song was intended to celebrate the ethnic and spiritual diversity across India. 

AR Rahman’s Philanthropic Work

AR Rahman is involved in a number of charitable causes. We are listing some of them below:

He was the global ambassador of the Stop TB Partnership, a WHO project. In 2008, he opened the KM Music Conservatory with an audio-media education facility to train aspiring musicians in vocals, instruments, music technology, and sound design. 

He founded Sunshine Orchestra with a vision to introduce India’s first symphony orchestra where economically backward children can get free music education from the KM Music Conservatory. 
In 2019, Rahman performed a Sufi Benefit Concert at the annual New York gala of Pratham, which focuses on imparting quality education to India’s underprivileged children. It is one of the largest non-governmental organizations in India. 

Biographies on AR Rahman

1- A. R. Rahman: The Spirit of Music by Nasreen Munni Kabir in 2011.

2- A. R. Rahman: The Musical Storm by Mathai Kamini in 2009. 

AR Rahman Awards

AR Rahman has won several awards at the national and international levels. Some of them are listed below: 

Awards by the Government of India

2000Padma Shri
2010Padma Bhushan

State Government Awards

YearAwardAwarded ByAwarded For
1995KalaimamaniGovernment of Tamil NaduAwarded for contributions to music
2001Awadh SammanGovernment of Uttar PradeshAwarded for exceptional and meritorious contribution to music
2004National Lata Mangeshkar AwardGovernment of Madhya PradeshAwarded for Contributions to music

Academy Awards or Oscars

2009Slumdog MillionaireBest Original Score
Best Original Song (Shared with Gulzar for “Jai Ho”)

BAFTA Awards

2009Slumdog MillionaireBest Original Score

Golden Globe Awards

2009Slumdog MillionaireBest Original Score

Grammy Awards

2009Slumdog MillionaireBest Compilation Soundtrack Album for a Motion Picture, Television, or Other Visual Media
Best Song Written for a Motion Picture, Television, or Other Visual Media (For “Jai Ho”)

World Soundtrack Awards

2009Slumdog MillionaireBest Original Song Written Directly for a Film
2011127 HoursThe Public Choice Award
2017Viceroy’s HouseThe Public Choice Award

National Film Awards

1992RojaBest Music Direction
1996Minsara Kanavu
2002Kannathil Muthamittal
2017Kaatru Veliyidai
2017MomBest Background Score

Tamil Nadu State Film Awards

1992RojaBest Music Direction
1996Minsaara Kanavu
2014Kaaviya Thalaivan

Filmfare Awards


1996RangeelaBest Music Director
1999Dil Se..
2007Rang de Basanti
2009Jaane Tu… Ya Jaane Na
2010Delhi 6

Background Score

2003The Legend of Bhagat SinghBest Background Score
2009Jodhaa Akbar

Special Awards

1995Filmfare RD Burman Award for New Music Talent

Filmfare Awards South


1993RojaBest Music Director
1997Kadhal Desam
1998Minsaara Kanavu
2006Sillunu Oru Kadhal
2007Sivaji: The Boss
2011Vinnaithaandi Varuvaayaa
2017Achcham Yenbadhu Madamaiyada


2011Ye Maaya ChesaveBest Music Director

IIFA Awards

Best Music Director

2007Rang De Basanti
2009Jodhaa Akbar

Best Background Score

2009Jodhaa Akbar

Special Awards

2008Outstanding Contribution by an Indian in International Cinema
2009IIFA Music Director of the Decade

Honorary Doctorate

YearHonoring body
2009Anna University]
2009Aligarh University
2009Middlesex University
2014Royal Conservatoire of Scotland
2014Berklee College of Music

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