My fifteen favorite AR Rahman songs

arrahman

In honor of India’s own Golden Globe winner Allah Rakha Rahman!

Since Slumdog Millionaire has been finding its feet here and people I know have seen it, I’ve been asked a lot about AR Rahman’s work (ha! all of a sudden I don’t seem so crazy to them!). As I said on my last post (in the comments) I have promised some that I’ll put together a CD of his work. I am pretty unfamiliar with his Tamil film music, so forgive the under-representation of it here; many of you have left recommendations in the comment thread of my last post and I will be looking into them (anyone reading this because they want to know more, should definitely check them out too!). I first heard his music early on in my “Bollywood” career with Lagaan, which I still consider one of his best soundtracks. I loved it so much that I went and got other movies (Taal, Roja, Kandukondain Kandukondain) solely on the basis of his having done the music.

So here is my hastily cobbled-together list (true confession: all my favorites lists are fairly hastily cobbled-together, it seems more honest that way) of my fifteen favorite songs by India’s genius composer (it started as a top ten list, but felt too incomplete and simply was not possible to stop there). And I did have to give myself one rule: only one song to represent each film, although I cheated a bit with #10.

15. “Ae Ajnabi” from Dil Se (1998) (sung by Udit Narayan and Mahalaxmi Iyer). “Chhaiyya Chhaiyya” is the more well-known song (thanks to Spike Lee and Inside Man to some extent) but I love this one. The melody is just so insidious, and gets right inside your head (well, mine, anyway).

14. “Ottagatha Kittiko” from Gentleman (1994) (sung by Janaki and SP Balasubramaniam). I know nothing about this film, but have always liked the song a lot. It makes me want to get up and dance around.

13. “Tere Bina” from Guru (2006) (sung by AR Rahman and Chinmayee). So very romantic, pictured on Aishwarya and Abhishek who were falling in love in real life too. So sweet!

12. “Kannamoochi Yenada” from Kandukondain Kandukondain (2000) (sung by Chitra). Pretty pretty song and a lovely film too. And I love the Carnatic vocal stylings in it.

11. “Khwaja Mere Khwaja” from Jodhaa Akbar (2007) (sung by the Maestro himself). I love this song, and the picturization is sublime. And I love the way AR sings it: his voice is so cool, too.

10. “Hai Naa” from Zubeidaa (2000) (sung by Udit Narayan and Alka Yagnik). All the songs from this film are beautiful, and I was torn between “Mehndi Hai Rachnewali” (sung by Alka) and this one for the spot. You decide!

9. “Endrendrum Punnagai” from Alai Payuthey (2002) (sung by Clinton, Pravin, Srinivas, Shankar Mahadevan). I love Madhavan (can’t wait to see him in 3 Idiots!) and this opening to the film with the credits has him smiling and bouncing along on his motorcycle. I need to see the film in the worst way (loved Saathiya, and the music—which is basically the same—but am pretty sure I’d really love the original even more).

8. “Chinnamma Chilakkamma” from Meenaxi: Tale of 3 Cities (2007) (sung by Sukhwinder Singh). This song just rocks, plain and simple! 

arr_meenaxi

7. “Ishq Bina” from Taal (1999) (sung by Sonu Nigam, AR Rahman, Anuradha Sriram, Sujata). I didn’t like the film that much, but loved the music, and this song in particular.

6. “Yun Hi Chala Chala” from Swades (2004) (sung by Udit Narayan and Hariharan). The best song for a road trip EVER, along with The Doors’ “Roadhouse Blues.” Not bad company to be in! (Can you imagine going on a road trip with SRK and Jim Morrison? I guess my head would probably explode). Another soundtrack without a bad song.

arr_swades

5. “Shambho Shambho” from Vishwa Vidhaata (1997) (sung by Kavita Krishnamurthy). I haven’t seen this film either, but I want to! And this song for some reason reminds me of African songs from my childhood. It’s not on YouTube so I’ve put it here for you to listen to.

4. “Theme Music” from 1947 Earth (1999). Haunting, beautiful, haunting. Haunting. As is the film. This is also not on YouTube so I’m putting it here. I love every single song from this film, besides for Lagaan I think it is his best. Listen to them all (the rest are on YouTube).

3. “Dola Dola” from Dil Hi Dil Mein (2000) (sung by Srinivas and Swarnalatha). I haven’t seen the film, but I love this song. It just makes me happy to listen to it and I can’t stop myself from twirling around the room!

2. “Chhoti Si Aasha” from Roja (1999) (sung by Minmini). I just fell head over heels for this song as soon as I heard it. Loved the movie too, and the cinematography accompanying this song is just spectactular. It is a beautiful introduction to our heroine and her world.

arr_roja

1. “O Paalanhaare” from Lagaan (2001) (sung by Lata Mangeshkar and Udit Narayan). This is maybe the most spiritual song that I’ve ever heard. It feels like a direct line to God, no matter what religion you ascribe to, or not, as the case may be.

arr_lagaan

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115 Comments to “My fifteen favorite AR Rahman songs”

  1. More power to Dileep, or as we rather know him now, ARR.

    This man’s work has an ability to make the little hairs on my body stand up and feel an excitement that I haven’t felt after listening to any other recent musician.

    Lovely list, Memsaab.

    I love the “dola dola” song from Dil Hi Dil Mein and “dil se re” has to be in top ten for sure. My favorite song he’s sung is “chale chalo”. I’ll be watching/listening to all of your songs tonight.

  2. He is so versatile with his music. I’m very happy to do my part spreading the word to my neighbors and friends (and readers, if they need my help, which most of you don’t!)…

  3. Wasnt he so adorable during the ceremony?!!!
    Im still smiling hugely every time i think about it :D

    Clappings for #8- the songs from that movie are so gr8 and underappreciated! its such a concidence that Bollyfan has also written about the movie today :)

  4. Yes, I really really wanted to run up there and hug him *so tightly* :) He really seemed a bit shell-shocked, although happy.

    Yes, the songs from Meenaxi are really really good…I haven’t gotten to Bollyfan’s site today, but will go there now!

  5. Look forward to listening to the Tamil songs recommended here and on the other thread. I love that you picked “Ae Ajnabi” from Dil Se–there was a time when I listened to it constantly :-) Another favorite is one of the most beautiful bhajans ever–“Mann Mohana” from Jodhaa Akbar. And from Swades, loved the peppy “Yeh taara woh taara”, the song, SRK, the children…. And “Yeh jo des hai mera”.

  6. If I hadn’t restricted myself to one song from each film, only about three films would be represented here!!!! :)

  7. I know this may not qualify completely as this is Rahman’s rare non-film album, but ‘Maa Tujhe Salaam’ was released at the time of India’s 50th year of Independence (1997), and is totally soul-stirring.
    This album meant a lot to him – he’s known to be very patriotic, and he released it with the help of Bharatbala productions (the video was very corny but kewl). I think it also had a song for each element in the Indian flag, or something like that.
    In the album notes, Rahman says Maa Tujhe Salaam saved him from drowning in the endless superficial sea of film music, or something to that effect.

  8. i was so happy for ar rahman’s win! it feels like someone i know — like a friend next door– has won!! :-D

    you know, i love so many of his songs, that it’s hard for me to pick. usually what happens to me, is that i listen to a particular soundtrack of his over & over again, and then i hate it the next time i put it on — because i’ve listened to it SO MANY TIMES — so i’ve to pick it up a few months later for me to fall in love with it again. it has happened so many times that it’s not even funny anymore! lol

    ROJA is a special favorite because that was the first time I was treated to his compositions. ‘Choti si Asha’ is great, but “iye haseen vadiya” is soo romantic! :-D ‘Tere Bina’ – from GURU which also made your list — is another romantic favorite. And good to see “yun hi chala” from Swades on your list — that is the ONLY hindi song my brother will listen to. lol. (his intro to AR Rahman was via Inside Men vs my Roja..) :-)

  9. Speaking of recommendations, I’ll vote for Chevalier’s “Ma Tujhe Salam” too! Also, a little known movie is the Anil Kapoor-Jackie Shroff-Pooja Bhatt starrer “Kabhi na kabhi”. Don’t remember much about the movie, but loved its soundtrack when it came out.

    One Two Ka Four’s “Khamoshiyan” is especially good. It’s one of the few times when Lata has sung for Rahman.

    I’m sure there are some more — many more!! — but can’t recall any of them that’s not on your list right now :-(

  10. Chevalier: I have heard “Vande Mataram” from that CD, and it’s a beautiful song :) Should look for the whole thing, would be very interesting to hear…

    Ranya: Me too…and Roja is special to me too, because I think behind Lagaan it was my first ARR soundtrack and I loved it SO MUCH. Still do. All the songs from Swades are great too IMO…

  11. oh how could i forget Saathiya? I’ve to listen to the songs — esp ‘chupke se’ & “aye udi udi” every once in a while!! And Pukar — “kismat se hum” &”que sera sera..”..love those!

    Oh, I should move away from your page now, otherwise I’ll keep on typing… A combination of A R Rahman & MemsaabStory is heavily distracting!! lol.

  12. Stay as long as you like! I love Saathiya, I included one from the Tamil original in my list…the music is fabulous.

    Lata sings “O Paalanhaare” of course, and also another song I love from Pukar “Ek Tu Hi Bharosa”…although it didn’t make my list because she sounds her age singing it.

  13. One 2 Ka 4, Lagaan, Dil Se & Pukar — these are the only movies where Lata has sung for Rahman, right? Do you know of any more?

  14. Also Zubeidaa, and Rang De Basanti, and maybe more!

  15. Oh yes, that RDB song is fabulous!! lol, i guess i should be paying more attention — there was an interview of Lata or ARR (i forgot of whom!) where the interviewer kind of added his own comments on how the two “legends” haven’t really worked with each other a whole lot. and that comment stayed in my head i guess. :-)

  16. @Ranya

    Luka Chupi from Rang De Basanti – It’s beautiful too, especially the taan jugalbandi between ARR and Lata.

  17. Well, they haven’t worked together that much if those six films are it :)

    Devaki: I love that song too (but what is a taan jugalbandi please?)…

  18. I didnt even realise he’d composed for all these movies! From the traditional in Mehndi hai rachne waali, Radha kaise na jale Bano rani tujhe sayaani to modern in Kay sera sera and Pappu cant dance saala (and heaven knows how many more shades in between) – the guy has done it all! I still love the Roja soundtrack, too, which was Bollywood viewers’ first intro to him!

  19. I am glad other posters picked up on Maa Tujhe Salaam, that I posted about: only he could have made a patriotic album that was not corny. He has sung most of the numbers too, and mixed Hindi and English in a way that was actually natural… Only You and Gurus of Peace I like particularly.

    As for Lata, you might like to watch this clip showing her recording the Luka Chhupi song in Rahman’s studio : I only wish the clip were longer!

    Then of course there was that wonderful time in the Mission Ustaad Millenium goal singing show, where he was judge and would never criticise anyone, only opened his mouth to praise, but once he just took 2 songs that had been composed for the episode, and just sat on the piano, and combined them into ONE much nicer song!! .. after humbly asking for permission from the relevant guys of course.

    Next episode one of those idiots actually came on the programme to “complain”, and I must say, never has anyone looked such a fool in my eyes before: made a complete ________of himself!

    The clip was on youtube, but I can’t find it now.

  20. bollyviewer: He is a genius. I guess I’ve said that already. But it’s still true :)

    bawa: I’m still trying to make my way through all the comments from my last post!!!! Am sure I will find more to mine from there. Thanks for the links :)—I love that he sings WITH her on that song.

    Gosh he is so humble too. I adore him.

  21. Yes Devaki, I *adore* that Luka Chhupi song! & Bollyviewer reminded me of another favorite — JTYJN’s “kabhi kabhi aditi” & “kahin to..” are on my repeat list currently.

    somebody should consider putting together a “complete works of ARR” — that should be fun!! :-D

  22. Taan – Musical notes rendered with speed weaving different patterns (in Hindustani classical music)

    http://www.itcsra.org/sra_glossary_index2.html

    Jugalbandi – A playful musical competition

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jugalbandi

    Of course the words together don’t mean anything special, it was just my way of putting things. :) You might have noticed it towards the end of the song – re ga re ga, sa sa sa, sa ni… I just love that part!

  23. There’s a pretty comprehensive fan site out there I think, although I think it must be exhausting to keep up with him!

    Thanks Devaki :) I have learned something new, which makes me v.v. happy. I like that part a lot too :)

  24. great post memsaab, i think my favorites are
    tu hi re from Bombay
    so gaaye from zubeidaa
    roshan hoi raat from my favorite tamil-hindi mix sapnay, with prabhu deva who rocks!

  25. I have SO got to see Prabhu Deva in a film. Might have to see Sapnay, if ARR did the music!!!

    Listening to all the songs I have while making this post revived my need for more Tamil films (not that it was that dormant to begin with)…

    He also scored some beautiful music for Shekhar Kapur’s Elizabeth: The Golden Age…

    What a genius! Okay I’ll stop saying that now :)

  26. A new honour for you Memsaab ” Most Popular Blog on Hindi Films” – looking at the comments that pour forth.

    How does it feel to be up there with legends like ARR?

    Cheers !

  27. memsaab, sapnay is one of those special movies to me coz i watched when i was around 6 or when it came out, and what an experience to be blown away by the music, prabhu’s dancing, and the sad ending which has stayed with me even today, because the music is just pounding to let you know the depth of Kajol’s decision!
    Elizabeth 2’s music was great too, very regal, he truly is the “Mozart from Madras” here’s hoping an Oscar goes to him for soundtrack and “Jai Ho”!!!
    Lol i feel like screaming again but vocal chords are swollen from sunday!

  28. Memsaab, I couldn’t resist this when you said you wanted to see Prabhu Deva…. I was reading an article on Hindi movie heroes by Mukul Kesavan, in which he wonders why South Indian heroines traditionally seem to transition very easily into Bollywood (Hema Malini, Vyjyanthimala, Sridevi, etc), but it’s not the same for the men. His take was that most South Indian films (at least till the 80’s) had fat, lipsticked heroes who wouldn’t fit the bill in Hindi cinema. The only exception, writes Kesavan, would be Prabhu Deva, “who has all the sex appeal of a stick insect”! :)

    Okay. Back to what I wanted to say in the first place: Awesome list! Am going to spend the next hour or whatever having coffee and listening to each of these. BTW, I also like `In lamhon ke daaman mein’ from Jodhaa Akbar, and the title song from The Rising: The Ballad of Mangal Pandey.

  29. Anonymous: LOL, at least half the comments are from ME so I don’t think it counts…But thanks :-)

    Rum: Noooooooooo…a sad ending? say it isn’t so :( Any other Prabhu Deva films to recommend?

    dustedoff: LOL LOL LOL @ South Indian heros being fat and lipsticked (Shammi wore lipstick too, but back when he wasn’t fat)…I love Prabhu Deva from the Benny Lava video on YouTube, I admit it. I am a philistine. And hope you enjoy the songs that I like. There are so many more, too.

    Wish ARR himself would tell us what HIS favorite songs that he’s written are!

  30. Wonderful list, memsaab! I especially like some of your choices, like Sambho Sambho — it’s one of the most playful numbers I’ve heard.

    Another Rahman album worth spending quality time with is the soundtrack of the Tamil film Duet. It’s a musical where the lead character plays the saxophone, and the sax pieces by Kadri Gopalnath in the movie are simply fantastic.

    ~r

  31. Wrong – Mohanlal and Mamooty were not fat in their younger days and are really talented guys of Malayalam cinema. The fat south indian actors the author Kesavan was referring to is perhaps more to do with tamil cinema with a rolly polly Sivaji (extremely talented though) and others.

    Hindi film makers didn’t resort to talent from regional cinema to the extent they do so now.

    Yes curiously female actors from the South have done well in hindi films ie Vyjanthimala, Rekha, Hemamalini, Meenakshi Sheshadri, Sridevi, Jayaprada, Vidya Balan etc. With the exception of Vyjanthi , Sridevi and Jayaprada – none of the others worked in regional cinema – had a straight hindi film debut. Interesting fact is both Hema Malini and Vidya Balan had a raw deal from tamil producers in the initial stages of their careers!

  32. And after all his achievement he still is as humble as ever. How can you not have even a trace of arrogance after achieving so much in life? Kudos to ARR.

    I love your choices. Aye Ajnabi from Dil Se is one of my all time favorite.

  33. Hello. You’ve got a great list there! I’m so glad you’ve included Hai Naa from Zubeidaa and O Palanhaare from Lagaan. Ruth Aa Gayi Re from 1947 Earth is another brilliant composition. What do you think about this track?

    My blog at http://www.bhargavsaikia.com

  34. That’s a tough job, actually choosing 15 favourites. Am going to go listen to them now, specially since I don’t know many of the South Indian ones.

    Could you please tell me how you post MP3 audio on to your blog? Have been going insane trying to figure it out.

  35. Really enjoyed all the picks, Memsaab, but was there an even remote likelihood that I wouldn’t? :) Really glad with the inclusion of Meenaxi, it’s often overlook. And of course, I absolutely love your #1 overall! ;) It’s integrated amazingly well in the film.

    My favorites would definitely include one from Rangeela — not only was it Rahman’s first for a Hindi film (and phenomenal), it resurrected Asha Bhosle’s career. ‘Lukka Chhuppi’ from Rang De Basanti (the entire album, really, but especially this one), as has been noted already. One from Mangal Pandey (probably Takey Takey). ‘Fanaa’ from Yuvaa. Gosh, there are so many!

    In Vande Mataram, wasn’t there a song with Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan? I don’t remember what it was called, so forgive me if it’s been mentioned. There’s also this beautiful rendition of the national anthem!

    @Bawa: There’s a lot more footage from A. R. Rahman’s studios in the Rang De Basanti soundtrack DVD release by Sony BMG, titled ‘Masti Ki Paathshaala’.

    Cheers!

  36. i watched sapnay. it was ‘meh’ for me. but, every time it played again on tv, i watched it again. simply because of the song in the middle. It was beautiful, just beautiful.

  37. and i forget..your blog is beautiful, just beautiful :-)

  38. I was so eager to add ‘Lukka Chupphi’ and saw that people other than I liike it too!!!! Loving the fact that ‘Aye Uri Uri’ got a mention in the replies.

    I’m not even suprised to read that ‘Ae Ajnabi’ hypnotised you as well – and also not suprised with any of the songs from Roja too.

    I’m not very fond of Taal soundtrack but maybe it is because I’m not really that fond of the film itself.

    Great post as usual and thanks for making me learn more!

  39. the BollywoodFan: The song with Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan was in my earlier comment on Memsaab’s previous post:
    It is called “Gurus of Peace” and I gave a link to watch it.

    Now memsaab, you have a blog where other posters interact!

  40. excellent list. variety of songs. My all- time favorite arr song –

    and the saxaphone-bit in the second half of this clip is bliss. Genius. This movie -Duet also has good songs

    i was going to stop, but wanted to add this little gem too – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ESJEtfYsix4
    a tough song to sing!

  41. I just found the part where Rahman combines 2 songs into 1 episode of Mission Ustaad.

    Watch it all for the context, the Rahman part starts at about 3:30, with Javed Akhtar explaining the whys and wherefores.

    Enjoy!

    P.S. I used to watch this show for Rahman, and Kailash Kher, whose Hindi I love (and the fact that Javed Sahib admitted he was going to need a dictionary to keep up with it!)

  42. great list!
    ur enthusiasm is so infectious!
    :-)))

  43. Ramsu: I love Shambho Shambho, it is such a great song. Wish I could find the film it’s in! And I like the songs from Duet very much too and probably should have represented the film here, but I ran out of space :(

    Anonymous: Oops, I’m sorry if my flippant comments about fat south heroes was mean…I haven’t watched enough South cinema to be any judge of it! Mujhe maf kar do :)

    Solilo: He is so down to earth. That will probably help him become even MORE famous :) Let’s hope so!

    Bhargav: I love every song from Earth. It would have taken up a great many of the fifteen spots were it not for my self-imposed one song per movie rule :) Your blog looks v. nice, will come back there for more!

    Banno: WordPress has a simple formula (FORMOOOLA! sorry) for posting mp3s which I don’t understand at all, but it’s so simple that even I can do it…if I could explain it I would, but it doesn’t look like html and I am very limited in my programming skills anyway so I can’t :(

    tBF: My number 1 overall might even be my number 1 overall favorite song of all time. It makes me feel positively like there is communication with a higher being, and I am an agnostic at best!

    zarina: Many thanks :) and I will look for songs from Sapnay, had not even heard of it before these past few days…

    Eliza: I liked the music from Taal before seeing the film, and at least it didn’t ruin them for me. It wasn’t an awful film, IMO, but not high on my list of films to see again.

    bawa: That makes me happier than you could ever know, and thanks for sharing so much of your knowledge with us!

    murali: I will def. check out those links…I’m not familiar with the songs but at first listen they are beautiful.

    bawa: Glad you found it, I was intrigued by your description of it yesterday! :)

  44. harvey: I am just so excited :) It’s really hard to be a Hindi film fan and have all your friends and family think you are just a *little* crazy, and it’s so nice to have some of that love validated without having to do anything!

  45. Shambho Shambho, if I ain’t mistaken, is from Pudhiya Mugam. Which was probably his second movie. Funnily enough, was musing upon the fact that his earlier scores, with somewhat raw voices, and offbeat films, probably were more … experimental. Some really tepid misses, but some very good stuff, even if the movies themselves didn’t break any records.

    (Am glad to see somebody mentioned Duet. There is another super-sensitive Pavithra with some good songs, probably around 1994.)

    In Hindi, Meenaxi is one example , another is Mujhe Rang De from Thakshak (plus Tabu, trying hard to dance, which always makes me sing it as mujhe rum de, mujhe rum de … Oh well).

    The Bombay theme : no takers? Pah, philistines all of you.

  46. AKM: LOL! To be fair, the Bombay theme would have likely made it to my top 20. I just ran out of steam.

    I agree re: his early work, some of it rather dull but then these moments that just leap out at you. But Roja…ah, what a gem.

  47. Hey! Hi there…

    I got the link to your blog through Beth’s, and I must tell you… I enjoyed like anything.
    I myself am mad about hindi movies. However, I never got down to regular blogging about them.
    I too wish i had such a great fimi buff circle like you. :)

    And now, after reading blogs of all of you (esp. You & Beth), I am truly inspired to start my blog from a new end.
    Hope to c ya there in my comments section.. :)

  48. Well, welcome to the club Harsh :-) The more, the merrier!!!!

  49. Oh wow!!!! What an honor—I am in illustrious company there, I see. Thanks for letting me know :)

  50. Versatile is certainly they word for ARR! Memsaab, I love your description for Ae Ajnabi b/c as soon as I saw it on your list, it very insidiously got stuck in my head. “Khwaja mere khwaja” was my favorite from Jodhaa Akbar and I love that he gave a nod to a different style of music that Bollywood doesn’t see all that often. The picturization was fantastic and not at all what you’d expect from an epic Bollywood period piece. Lastly, O Paalanhare, was sublime!

    I didn’t realize he composed for Zubeida! I have sentimental attachments to Mehndi Hai Rachnewali as it takes me back to my wedding and I usually get a little teary. :)

  51. memsaab,

    Great list! O Paalanghaare from Lagaan is my favourite from that movie as well. I’d recommend the Tamil version of the Roja song – chinna chinna aasai – over the Hindi version…also the Kabhi neem neem song from Yuva – the tamil version of that song didn’t make as much of an impression on me, probably because I preferred Abhi’s take on the role over Madhavan’s.

    M

  52. desipolitan: Same taste in music, same in style? Separated at birth? :)

    M: I have the Tamil version since I love the song so much…but the language is so unfamiliar to me that I prefer the Hindi version…isn’t that funny, since I don’t speak either! :-D

  53. To be honest I had no idea he has been around so long and has such a vast body of work.

  54. Hi there!

    So I was reading ur list and there are a few more songs that I can recommend. Some of the old movies of ARR or some Tamil zstuff which just was not as popular.

    Listen to songs in En Swasa Katre( I love all songs there). btw there is Sambo Sambo in Pudhiya Mugam, could be the same one which is in Hindi. Then there is Kannathil Muthamvittal which has a cpl of awesome songs too. Oh there is Azhage Sugama in Parthale Paravasam which is an out of the world song. Oh well I could go on and on about some of his old Tamil songs. But do check out the ones I wrote about above!
    :)

    -A

  55. My first exposure to his musics is Dil Se….but my first liking when I heard his musics in Taal.

    He has a strange name “Allah Rakha Rahman”.

    Does anyone know what “Rakha” means? In Thai language “Rakh” means “love”.

    Thanks in advance.

  56. Rakha is keep or kept. He was born A S Dileep Kumar. He had to leave school when his Dad died when he was 9 to become a session musician in order to maintain hi mum and 2 sisters. I understand that later one of his sisters fell seriously ill, and the only person who helped him in those tough times was a Muslim “pir” (holy man, hermit). He doesn’t give details about it, so I guess it is not for outsiders to know.
    In any case, when she got better, the entire family converted to Islam and he changed his first name to Allah Rakha (literally, kept by god = thru the mercy of god, could be a looser translation)

    The most complete biography giving more details is here

    http://members.tripod.com/gopalhome/arrbio.html

    You can watch his cute mum, with a young Rahman and Aamir Khan at the launch of the music of the film Rangeela here (long with Big B and Jaya B, etc)

    Enjoy!

  57. Kiran: When you consider how much work he’s done, it’s amazing that he hasn’t been around longer! :-)

    Anon: It is the same Shambho Shambho; and thanks for the additional info.

    radzi: Both Dil Se and Taal are great :)

    bawa: You are a fountain of information, thank you!

  58. Great post as usual… and loving the comments too. ARR’s made such utterly beautiful music… he’s so talented, yet so humble, as you and others have noted. I have to commend you for having the discipline to whittle your list down to 15! Long may he continue to thrill us.

  59. By the way, Khwaja mere Khwaja is my most favourite song this year, followed by Kahin to Hogi (Jaane tu…)

    Is it just a co-incidence ?? ;)

  60. DG: Truthfully, I think the comments (other people’s) are the best part of this whole blog :)

    Harsh: ARR put out a lot of music this year, and Khwaja Mere Khwaja is definitely my favorite of the bunch too!

  61. i’m so glad i stumbled on to this blog via ultrabrown. very wide-ranging list. ar rehman’s version of ‘ik onkar’ moved even irreligious me. also, only he could make daler mehndi appeal to me in his track from ‘rang de basanti.’ and boy, do i love ‘lukka chuppi.’

  62. and yeah, to M ‘kabhi neem neem’ is superb for its lyrics too. i though ‘hey khuda haafiz’ was a pretty commendable desi nod to jazz. couldn’t stop listening to ‘fanaa’ for a while. finally, a song to dance to with lyrics that make sense.

  63. Love your screen name, educate me! :) and I’m glad you found us too.

  64. I Saw Slumdog Millionaire last night, and the soundtrack is Brilliant: I loved every single moment of it, right from the first pulsating scene (both film and music)!
    Way to go AR Rahman!

  65. Yay! My brother told me last evening that he and my sister-in-law saw it too, and loved it :)

  66. i think top 15 should change to top 100.. top 15 cannot contain arr. :)

  67. I agree, but I don’t have the stamina to make a top 100 list!!!

  68. I have not heard any of his new music.
    I still remember Rahman of the Bombay, Roja, Sapnay days.
    The most recent movie of his that I would have listened to is Lagaan.
    (so you know how hopeless I am when it comes to current music and movies. ;-).

    But he is very very talented, no doubt about it.

    I am surprised nobody mentioned Bombay. I know it was a long time ago but even that had lovely music. Very nice movie as well.

  69. At least one person in this long list of comments mentioned Bombay! :-)

    He’s worth keeping up with, although I know what you mean about keeping current!

  70. I expected “maa thuje salaam” in the list .

  71. hey!

    I am a huge A.R.Rahman fan. I first heard Rahman in 1992. Interestingly it wasnt Roja that i heard first. I first heard “Chandralekha” from the movie “Thiruda Thiruda”. It was at a marriage party. Even though i dont know a word of Tamil i was hooked. SOme of the songs in that movie rocked!!! The next song i heard was “Chiku Buku Rayiley” from the movie “Gentelman” also in tamil. I brough these two cassetes pronto. Then came “Roja”, and the massive massive hit “Mukkalla Mukkalla” fromt he movie “Kadhalan”. I mean the music plus Prabhu Deva break dance was a deadly combination

    I cant explain how crazy i became of Rahman. Whatever music he produced in whatever damn language, i bought the cassetes.

    I still am a huge fan! I have just got the songs from “Delhi 6″ They are great!!!

    thanks for the wonderful article and i hope i am not boring you with this long comment….

    cheers!!! If u want me to post my Rahman top 15 email me!!!!

  72. Amazing compilation. I haven’t heard some of the Tamil numbers but I absolutely loved Zebeidaa’s music.

  73. Sajin: I couldn’t include everything :-)

    Roshan: I can’t wait to hear the Delhi 6 music :-)

    Rohini: Me too, I like the entire soundtrack for Zubeidaa. Beautiful…

  74. Work has been crazy so I haven’t had as much time to visit your blog. But wanted to thank you for the list of songs and the movies they are from, as well as the links to YouTube. Great way to sample each and to add my favorites to my DVD “to watch” list. It’s also been helpful to expand my Rahman music collection.

    Thanks again and hope you’re staying warm on this historic inauguration day!

  75. Thanks Sally, glad you enjoyed the post :-) And I am so very happy today on this inauguration day! I feel like I’m emerging into spring after a long, dark winter (even though when I look outside I see two feet of snow! ha ha). Barack Obama Zindabad!

  76. AR Rahman has proved it to the world that HE is the best! Truly a musical genius. His music is always soul stirring. After winning the Golden Globe, he has bagged three nominations for the Oscars! Keeping my fingers crossed… coz he truly truly deserves it.

  77. ARR has made the whole country proud. He’s the true musical genius. His work transcends all musical, linguistic & geographical barriers.
    Of all his work, the renditions in Rangeela remain my fav esp, ‘Kya karein..’ & ‘Tanha Tanha’

    but its just impossible to have any finite list of his melodies…

    I just love the rapturous, vagabond-like feel of ‘O Saya’ from Slumdog….

    I dont think, I KNOW ‘O Saya’ will clinch it on the 22nd Feb…

    u rock ARR!

  78. Rustic_Angel: fingers, and toes, and eyes, and everything else I can cross!

    Forbidden: He is a genius and I’m really pleased too. I’d better get cracking on that celebratory CD I’m giving my friends!

  79. Ok Folksies! He did it again! The BAFTA now… Oscars is next! Woooo! absolutely love his tracks from Slumdog Millionaire. a

  80. Hey… Awesome list!!
    How about a top 100 Rahman list? Actually I’m just being lazy. A brit friend of mine wanted me to write him a Rahman collection CD so was trying to find a list of 100 best Rahman songs and stumbled upon your page. Have you got cracking on the CD? How about a tentative track list?

  81. Aaaargghhh Anurag—you remind me that I have NOT gotten cracking on the CD. Procrastination, thy name is Memsaab!

  82. Hey this blog is one of the best I have ever read!! I haven’t stopped reading since I got here a couple of hours back. The perfect way to spend friday afternoon at work!!! Thanks for this and you have got another regular reader.

  83. Aw, thanks! :-) That is really nice to hear, please do keep coming back!

  84. i wish a r rahman for always on top

  85. Yes, as long as he is happy there! :) Bless him.

  86. Here is my list, and it is completely different from yours, although, I do believe that O Paalanhare is absolutely ethereal….

    http://www.oneknightstands.net/the-best-of-ar-rahman/

  87. he is a marvellous and amazing singer in the whole world.

  88. very nice collection!!

  89. adil: He is a great singer :)

    priya: Thanks!

  90. assalamualaikum you are a such a great,great,great music director i love the songs of all the new songs is o saya of the slumdog millionaire. keep going

  91. Nice list memsaab . But how could you forget ‘vande mataram’ ? It would top the list , according to me .

  92. I like “Vande Mataram” but it doubtless doesn’t have the same sentimental meaning for me as it does for Indians :-)

  93. Great list, memsaab and deifinitely agree with including O Paalanhare (Nr 1 for me) Yun hi Chala and kannamoochi. If I was going to list another 12 they would be, in no particular order

    radha kaise na jale http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GtDsjaMkLAA it’s just plain dandy, ya?

    pachai nirame http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BuV4xPzerRs

    uyire uyire http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QY0IlpWX3N8

    kadhal sadugudu http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ObmdW_Nuik

    chinna chinna aasai http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d50Cp2GFY98

    kadhal rojave http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FdRmy4lGr8U

    luka chuppi (special mention for being the ONLY age-appropriate use of Lata in the last decade or more)

    Azeem O Shaan Shahenshah http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MINMTGj9h0c just because its fun and has GREAT visuals

    thenmerku – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-tD06e0SycI

    wedding qawwali http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3l7K6bsElzw there’s a certain je ne sais quois about the title that makes me like this one.

    snehidhane http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKz6ZI1Ujo8 – realising how many of my favourites come from I movie I haven’t seen is embarrasssing!

    And to close one of the best item numbers ever, of course. A true item number in the utterly pointless and unconnected sense but irresistibly catchy and VERY easy on the eyes. Plus it has one of my favourite lines from any Hindi song – वो यार है जो खुशबू की तरह जिसकी ज़ुबाँ उर्दू की तरह

    chaiyya chaiyya http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RTG9Ohmzh4k

  94. Thou “Ishq Bina” was the more famous one, my personal favourite from Taal has always been “Nahin Samane”. Dil hi Dil mein has another great song “Ae Nazneen Suno Na” sung by Abhijeet and he does a fantastic job.

  95. Ah, you chose my favorite song from Dil Se!

    In response to #9: “Endrendrum Punnagai” is a great song, but all the music from the film was so good. “Pachai Nirame” is my favorite AR Rahman song/song picturization ever. You should definitely see the Tamil film if you haven’t already.

    Your music taste is similar to mine. Have you heard the music from Bombay or Jeans?

  96. hey these all arer my favorite too tse are the best of best and all way long jai ho a r rehman ki

  97. He is charming indeed! Like someone said that’s the only music which gives me goose bumps whenever I listen to!
    I love Roja, Thiruda thiruda and Alaipaayudhe.

  98. i love arrahman .his songs were so beautifulthtat i cannot sleep withot

  99. “Theme Music” from 1947 Earth (1999) – its simply awesome yaar.. dheemi dheemi from same movie is also very nice…

    “Ishq Bina” from Taal (1999) – one of my all time favorites!! composed by my fav composer, written by my fav writer and sung by my fav singer (sonu)… the ultimate combo!!! also, I recommend NAHIN SAAMNE from the same movie.. i’m sure after listening it, u’ll put it in some top 5 or so…

    “Khwaja Mere Khwaja” from Jodhaa Akbar (2007) – i liked INHIN LAMHON KE DAAMAN and JASHN-E-BAHARA more…

    “Ae Ajnabi” from Dil Se (1998) – nicely sung by UDIt.. though i liked SATRANGI RE more..

    “Chinnamma Chilakkamma” from Meenaxi: Tale of 3 Cities (2007) – hmm.. have u listened YE RISHTA?

    though musical taste of diff people are different and that may be a reason why these are your favorite 15, yet i wish to recommend you some more songs (not in ur list) composed by rahman sahab…
    1: rehna tu – delhi 6 (all time best of rahman, if i were to select only one!!)
    2: background score & sarfaroshi ki tamanna – the legend of bhagat singh
    3: tu bin bataye – rang de basanti
    4: khamoshiyan – one two ka four
    5: saathiya – saathiya

  100. Rehman ji……………………

    God has given him for us as a fabulous gift

  101. Iam a big fan of him.he is the legend.e is great musi director in the world.

  102. Excellent collection, but my best collection carries more. The most I like is his songs in the film “Water”. The music were done (seemingly) through all regular musical instruments. There are no words available for me to express about his ingenious ability.

  103. Not a fan of Rahman. I was hoping Memsaab would avoid the modern Bollywood scene. :(

  104. I have listened to almost all AR Rahman compositions in Tamil and Hindi.

    He has done music is almost all genres. There are not many versatile music composers who do ;
    Pop, Rock, Hip Hop, Rap, Folk, Melodies, Religious, Patriotic, Raggae, International and the list never ends.

    Few of my favourites are;

    Patriotic
    ————————-
    Tamizha Tamizha – Roja
    Yeh Jo Desh – Swadesh
    Luka Chupi – Rangde Basanti
    Vande Mataram

    Religious
    ———–
    Alaipayuthe – Alaipayuthe
    Haaji Ali – Fiza
    Kwaja Mere Kwaja – Jodha Akbar
    Oh Palanare – Lagaan
    Anbendra Mazhaile – Minsara Kanavu
    Arziyan – Delhi 6
    Ik Onkar – Rang De Basanti

    Fine Melodies include;

    Margazhi Poove – May Madham
    Minnalae – May Madham
    Ennavalae – Kadhalan
    Anbe Anbe – Kadhal Desam
    Kannalane – Bombay
    Kadhalae Kadhalae – Duet
    Dil Se Re – Dil Se
    Hey Ajnabi – Dil Se
    Kismat Se Tum – Pukar
    Shehidane – Alaipayuthe
    Latika’s theme – Slum Dog Millionaire
    Rehna Tu – Delhi 6
    Tu Meri dost Hain – Yuvraj

    Others i could think are;

    Roobaru – Range De Basanti
    Tanha Tanha – Rangeela
    Style – Sivaji
    Kadhalikkum Pennin – Kadhalan
    Chaiya Chaiya – Dil Se
    Wedding Qawali – Bombay Dreams
    Jai ho – Slumdog Millionaire
    Rangde Rangde – Takshak

  105. I’ve been listening again to a “90s greatest hits” compilation of ARR, with standouts like chinna chinna asai, and have enjoyed again the sensation of the pleasure of sound and music, without the burden of comprehension. His Tamil stuff does seem better some how, to my tamilliterate ears.

  106. The singers in Yun Hi Chala Chal Raahi…. from Swades were Udit Narayan and Kailash Kher.
    I think you should re-check.

  107. you’ve got to hear ‘Anbe vaa’ and ‘Newyork Nagaram’ from sillunu oru kaadhal..i’ve heard ‘anbe vaa’ is one of ARR’s personal favorite… i m posting the links here

  108. Sil undru oru kadhal has some awesome songs. Anbe vaa rendered by Shreya Goshal is haunting. Rahman rocks

  109. He has given his best in the initial days of his career.Please listen to all the Rahman Tamil songs.. you will come to a conclusion that he is not giving his best nowadays.. But still he rocks forever :) :)

  110. Just now came across this page of your blog. Love your selections for ARR songs, which has some of my favourites too. I know you wrote this blog in 2009, so can’t blame you for that. But I think, Delhi 6 is his second best album, after Dil Se (In hindi). Arziyaan, Dil Gira, Rehna Tu, Genda Phool, they are all amazing. Arziyaan is my favorite spiritual song from ARR.

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