It’s been a  little over 5 years since I wrote this post. Glad to know that this post has been shared and circulated all over helping inspire and touch many lives. Thanks for all the love and appreciation for this article.


Prashant Pillai 


Today, A.R.Rahman is a name known world over, thanks to Slumdog Millionaire and the awards and nominations its bagged. Like everyone here in India, I have known him and his music right from the time Roja was released in 1992.. thats a good 17 years.

Everyone speaks of his music, and what he eats, sleeps, drinks and what he does when he is free and so on so forth. But really, there are things much beyond that that one needs to know and learn from the legend that A.R.Rahman is. With so many many people who speak so high of him at all times, there are some things that are unsaid and certain things that we so easily ignore about Rahman, that makes him stand apart from the clutter.

The musical genius that Rahman is, most of that comes from his being and principles. Rahman’s success presents some valuable tips every person can apply to his professional life in an effort to help him achieve his goals.

And on that note, with the little that I know of him, I would share some of the learnings from A.R.Rahman

1. Respect your parents

It might be very easy to brush this fact aside, but the truth is Rahman has always loved, respected and adored his parents. With his father R.K.Shekar leaving for heavenly abode when Rahman was nine years old, Rahman’s mother Kareema Begum, gave Rahman a new ray of hope and fresh lease of life. She painstakingly raised the family, and is one of the driving factors of why Rahman’s a legend today.

By the way, this relationship is not one-sided, Rahman’s love and affection towards his mom is immense. One instance where I got to know about his profound respect for his mother was, when I met Rahman for the first time at his residence in Chennai. After previewing him my work on a Audio Disc, and after realising my dream, when I was about to leave, I asked to myself “Why not live this dream? Why not work with the legend?” This sporadic thought made me ask him, If I could work with him, to which his reply was “I will have to ask my mother, I will talk to her and get back to you.” Now where on earth will you get an answer like that. And I guess Rahman talked to his mother and I was soon on my way from Pune to Chennai to work with the legend. This is the greatness and gratitude shown by the man, who loves, believes, respects and adores his mother.

And all my confrontations/meetings with Rahman’s mother have been memorable. She made me feel homely and asked about my family and my well-being.

If you look at most of the music launch functions, Rahmans mother usually launches the music album, and that’s the way its been. Which other music composer or for that matter which other media/entertainment personality do you know who follows this principle.


2. Be spiritually inclined

A.R.Rahman believes in god and spiritualism. Its not about the fact that he follows Islam, and offers prayers 5 times a day…its much more than that. There is a huge difference between being religious and being spiritual, of which the latter is what Rahman is made of.

In a recent interview Rahman revealed that, “Religious sounds rather vulgar these days, I am more of a spiritual person. And I believe in being consistent with my spirituality. As one grows in life, one realises the magnitude of spirituality. It is the most beautiful passion. It raises you above all the negativities. For me and my music, spirituality is the most important element and I don’t think I can create the kind of music I do, if I don’t practice spirituality.”

Rahman says “I have been particular about prayers for the last 15 years. With success and acknowledgement my faith and conviction in the strength of prayers has only increased ten folds.”

Spirituality has not only made him connect to his music, but has also made him connect to humanity. His association with various social causes/initiatives and his charitable foundation by the name of A.R.Rahman Foundation, proves it. There are many instances where Rahman and his mother have helped needy,deserving people in ways too many, which fortunately have not come under the media scanner, or else by now the Rahman would have been made a “superhuman” by the media. Somethings are good when they are untold.

Today many music composers try to ape Rahman’s music and follow his style of music making. They end up being commented how close they are to creating Rahman’s sound, which might give those composers an ego-drive and hype which is shortlived. For the legend that Rahman is, may it be known that it is his devotion to constantly bow down to the almighty and in the process finding peace and solace in oneself that makes his music so special and timeless.


3. Don’t leave your soul

Mumbai the mecca of Indian films and the entertainment industry, a place where any and every musician will find a way out to survive and earn enough to feed him for the day. It would have been so easy for a musician like Rahman to come down and settle in Mumbai and work for acclaimed filmmakers post Roja and Bombay. But the man preferred not leaving his home, his roots to a place where instant fame, recognition and money was assured.

Of the many ignored facts, Rahman’s major success lies in working from his home. Home is where your heart, mind, body and soul is. Rahman being in Chennai at his home, has made him unscathed of the many negatives associated with being in [Mumbai. Mumbai, a place where anyone can get carried away by its humongous larger than life, plastic coated emotional people, and a place where hate daggers fly in public and in private.

With Rahman opting to work from Chennai, made only the cream of filmmakers approach him. Or else by now, there would have been a dozen of Yash Raj, Karan Johar, Sooraj Bharjatiya etc. films that would have Rahman’s music. Goodness gracious, Rahman saved himself from the torture of running in and out of the same rat hole that the Mumbai entertainment industry is.
In Mumbai, musicians spend a lot of time outside the studio, whereas they should be spending most of their time in the studio. Example this, a music composer ’scores music’ for a film and the music is out. He will now go on to spend the next 2/3 months attending various music parties, launches, 15 day record breaking sales party, singer being nominated for a sidey-shady award party, press interviews, television shows, etc… And then that music composer vanishes into thin air….sample these music composers and try to track their whereabouts….Anu Malik, Jatin, Lalit, Sameer Sen, Dileep Sen, Himesh Reshammaiyya..and so on…what have these guys achieved, some of them are getting work on their previous works goodwill, some are retired coz of their arbid soundscape, and some are busy acting…Fortunately Rahman has been far away from all these social PR protocols, located in one of the serene narrow lanes in Kodambakkam, Chennai. With no distraction whatsoever, he has all his energies focused on doing quality work from the comfort of his home.

My father once said “Look at Rahman, he has not left his home to work on any project. Did he move to Mumbai after so many Bollywood hits under his belt…” And his words striked a chord in me, its so true. It means a lot to be based out of the place where your family is, where your soul is..your home, your hometown.


4. Let your work speak for itself

Yes, let your work speak for itself. Many a times, there are instances where one will be criticised for the way he is, his dressing, his upbringing, his economic background. One will be made fun off, and will be called names. One will not get the support he expects to receive from his seniors and so on….But at the end of all this, if you have a strong will power you can overcome all these, and prove yourself with your work.

I had a very bad patch in my life, where I had to leave my dream halfway through and come back to Pune. I had no clue what I would do here in Pune, because the music scene here was bad. I got to share my experiences that I had in Chennai with Rahman, to which he was taken aback..and he advised, there will be many obstacles that one may have to overcome to achieve their goals, but it should not stand in the way and pull you down. He gave an example, where he was being humiliated by some directors and producers over the kind of music he had scored, and all this when Rahman was at his peak. He could do nothing about it, and preferred to remain calm and unmoved. And when his work was released, it got an outstanding response and was embraced by the masses. This overwhelming response and success he says was a slap on the face of those producers and directors. These words gave me the courage to stand up and face life afresh.

I started off as a brand new piece of particle on this planet and gathered my resources, knowledge and love and affection from my parents and sister to reach where I am today. Not that I have achieved something great in life, but what I have achieved today is purely because people have appreciated my work. And that’s helped me move on, and overcome the toughest phases in my life.


5. Be Humble. Be Honest. Be Simple.

With all the above in place, being humble, simple and honest is all that one needs to do to ensure a great life. With so much of stardom and attention after the Golden Globe, he could have so easily attended the grand premiere of Slumdog Millionaire in Mumbai, however he chose work over publicity. Oscars nominations were announced on the same day and Danny Boyle mentioned, “Can you believe AR getting 3 nominations that’s mind boggling, and that man is there working down south on Delhi 6…truly what a great musician.”

One instance of his humbleness is when I started to work with him, I was put on a software that I did not know to work on. I was told what I was supposed to do by him, but when he understood that I didn’t know the software, he sat down next to me and taught me how to work on it, and ensured that I knew exactly what I was doing, before I could start of the task..and that was a big learning for me.

Couple of months later one more such instance which I witnessed was, when there was a new pitching software that he ordered got delivered. Whilst unwrapping the software pack his excitement levels rose to that of a kid who would love to unpack the wrapper of his favourite chocolate. He could have so easily asked one of his assistants to get hands on the software and teach him the same, but he chose to learn it by himself. He inserted the software disc and started reading the manual, to know in and out of the software.

One thing that I learnt from the instances above is that, he makes it point that before designating a task to anyone before hand he wants to be sure that he himself knows how to do the task. He prefers not being an alien to any task assigned to someone by him. This shows his honesty, humbleness and simplicity. He carries no weight around him, and that makes him completely approachable and genuine.His childlike smile can pacify ones fear and anxiety of meeting him in person. Its like his smile speaks a thousand words. It depicts the purity of his heart and soul.

Today, Rahman has his inner circle populated by few people whose skills, and creativity can serve and benefit him and his music — people who professionally complement their own skillset and creativity(like, the music arranger, asst. sound engineers, sound engineers, etc.). He trusts this circle of people, has faith in them and believes in them and stands by them come whatsoever.

Being A.R.Rahman

Through his eternal values and simple living he presents us with opportunities for professional success provided we learn from them, adapt them to our own situations and implement them appropriately.

5 Things to learn from A.R.Rahman by Prashant Pillai

Prashant Pillai
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Prashant Pillai

Music Producer, Keynote Speaker, Author at Future Bourn
Prashant is a strong believer of ‘chance’ – music, food, life, love and friends have been his faithful companions in his journey so far. Music and Life Happens!
Prashant Pillai
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