Page last updated at 08:17 GMT, Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Talking Shop: AR Rahman

With more than a hundred movies to his credit and countless hit songs in his native India, it is no surprise that composer AR Rahman has been dubbed "the Mozart of Madras".

A R Rahman with Danny Boyle (right)
Rahman (left) took just three weeks to complete the Slumdog score

The Chennai-born 42-year-old is earning yet more plaudits as the man behind the soundtrack for Danny Boyle's hit movie Slumdog Millionaire.

Having won a Bafta film award on Sunday for best original score, he is now waiting to see if he will receive the same accolade when the Academy Awards are held in Los Angeles on 22 February.

He also has two nominations in the best song category for his exhilarating anthems Jai Ho and O Saya - the latter featuring British hip-hop artist MIA.


How has it been to be part of Slumdog Millionaire's remarkable awards success?

It's been a great two months.

Right after all the tragedies in Mumbai (Bombay), I lost my sound engineer who was very close to me - it all happened in the same week.

Then the Golden Globe nominations were announced and all those good things happened, to cheer me up I guess. It's a dream come true.

Protestors in Mumbai
Some slum dwellers in Mumbai have taken issue with the film's title
MIA didn't let her pregnancy stop her appearing at the Grammys on Sunday. Will she perform at the Oscars?

That's the million dollar question. She wants to. In fact, she said she'll do it with a hologram. She has all these ideas.

I don't know how it's going to be possible, though. Having a baby is such an important thing in your life - more important than winning an Oscar.

How surprised were you to have two of your songs nominated?

It was really surprising - I had very low expectations.

I thought Jai Ho would get probably one. It was great to get two. We were surprised Bruce Springsteen's song from The Wrestler wasn't there after it won the Golden Globe.

O Saya and Jai Ho appear at opposite ends of Danny Boyle's film. What were your intentions with the two tracks?

Unlike conventional scores, which go underneath certain scenes, Danny wanted every piece of music to be a highlight and to drive the film.

With O Saya, we wanted to kick-start the film - to tell the audience, "this is the ride you're going to take, here we come".

Jai Ho, which means "be victorious", is almost like an encore. It's amazing - when you go to America they get up and cheer.

Preeya Kalidas and Raza Jaffrey in Bombay Dreams
Rahman is best known in the UK for his West End musical Bombay Dreams
Not everyone has been so delighted with Slumdog's success. Haven't there been objections in India to the title?

There are a couple of cases, saying it shows the country in a poor light. But being an ambassador for fighting poverty for the UN, I believe this film will make a greater statement than any politician or lobbyist.

I hope this will be a positive step towards eradicating poverty. In Mumbai, you have the richest man in the world and the poorest person in the world co-existing side by side, which is a shame. You can't accept that.

We understand you're not keen on "Bollywood" either...

I hate the word. I think it's derivative and it doesn't represent the entire film community in India.

There's the eastern film industry, four industries in the south - they all make extraordinary films. It's like saying the whole of the West is Hollywood.

Kylie Minogue presented you with your Bafta. Isn't she set to appear in a film you're working on?

Yes, we're doing a song together which she'll perform in the movie. The film is called Blue and is being shot in Hawaii and a lot of other places.

AR Rahman was speaking to BBC News Entertainment reporter Neil Smith.

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